(God’s Cornucopia of love)
Sermon at St John the Baptist, Felixstowe – Sunday 14 May 2023
(Week 3 of Everyday Witness Course)
Text: ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.’ (from Luke 14:16-24)
God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.
It has been a frantic week at the New Vicarage!
- Our King was crowned.
- The Air Cadets renewed their promises, and in the process consuming large quantities of cake.
- Five Coronation street parties were attended – with apologise for not having been able to be at three others.
- A poignant moment of Remembering at the War Memorial for VE Day
- A marathon length zoom meeting about clergy pensions and retirement planning.
- One School Governing Body Meeting.
- Two weddings balanced by two funerals
- Preparations with the Merchant Navy Association to remember the Battle of the Atlantic and Merchant Navy Day
- The first meeting of our newly elected PCC. BTW everyone attended and the meeting was done and dusted in under 90 minutes!
And to crown it all the Annual Town Meeting where Pushchair Pitstop, Di Barnard and not one but two members of Felixstowe Air Cadets were given awards by the Mayor in recognition of their service to our community.
And it is that event about which I want to speak today. As a parish, led wonderfully down the years by Di Barnard’s rallying cry of ‘Loaves and Fishes!’, we have come to learn that if you offer to help, if you open the doors, if you are prepared to trust in God’s provision, a feast will be furnished and souls as well as bodies will find nourishment.
It never ceases to amaze me how often people in our parish refuse to, if you’ll pardon the bowdlerization of the aphorism, cut our cake to suit the contents of our cupboard. There have been countless occasions, be it hosting a community event or raising funds for a charity, when our chief problem is not ‘How will five loaves and two fish feed such a multitude?’ but what on earth are we going to do with the twelve baskets full of leftovers! (John 6.1-14).
Some may think we are profligate.
Some may think we are wasteful.
Some may think we are helping those who don’t really ‘need’ help.
But we continue because this is what we are commanded to do.
Our Lord has prepared a wedding banquet,
the table is set,
there are empty places,
and we are bidden:
‘Go out… into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’
For still to this day many of those who are in desperate need do not know where to seek succour and even if they do they often need a helping hand to bring them to the feast.
There is more.
Even after those with most need – the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame – are sat at the table there is still room.
What are we to do?
Who are we to bring as guests to make the feast complete?
This is where the rubber hits the road.
Who is there left who can fill the empty places?
Well, to be frank, there are only those who we are tempted to think don’t really ‘need’ to receive help and succour.
It is oh so easy to limit the love of God.
We eagerly help those whom we label ‘the deserving poor’ but when it comes to helping those who ‘should have manged their money better,’ or ‘shouldn’t waste what they have on tobacco and alcohol’ and especially those ‘who seem to be rich with this world’s goods’ it is tempting to draw back a little…
But the Owner of the House, our Lord and Master refuses to let us divide people into deserving and undeserving, frail or hearty, wealthy or impoverished. Instead the command to us the servants rings out again and more urgently;
‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.’
At the banquet of our King there is no hierarchy between the Great or the Good, the deserving or the undeserving poor, selfless servants and the feckless.
As my beloved friend Desmond Tutu used to say, ‘The problem is that God has got no taste. God even loves sinners!’ Which I guess, in the world’s eyes, leaves every one of us here cast into the outer darkness, but under the generous loving gaze of God we find our names at the top of the Guest List.
Jesus, in this telling a parable about a banquet, isn’t thinking about Parish Pantry, Pushchair Pitstop or our Parish Lunches. (Though I am convinced He looks on us with loving eyes and a tender heart every time we open our churches and our hearts to others). In this parable Jesus is reminding us that the work of those who follow him is not about coming to the banquet, coming to church, but instead about going ‘out into the roads and lanes, and compel[ling] people to come in, so that my house may be filled.’
This is what our calling and our purpose is. We are not here to simply feast at the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb, we are invited not to feed our own hunger alone but are invited that we might bring others with us to share God’s generosity.
Sharing the gospel, is not that difficult really.
Sharing the gospel is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.
Or as Di Barnard would say ‘Loaves and Fishes!’
The banquet of God’s love is ready
The places have been set.
The toast is about to be made.
All that is needed is for us to invite those around us to the Food Fight provided for us by our gracious generous God.
This blog ‘Food Fight!’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023. It may be reproduced free of charge on condition that the source is acknowledged.