Pentecost +9b – Sunday 29th July 2012
John 6: 1-21
Eighteen months ago Oldham Council proudly announced that they had won a grant to replace every single street light in the borough with more environmentally friendly equipment, in a rolling project that would take at least three years to complete. Less electricity used and less light pollution, was the promise ahead in this bright new future (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Eight weeks ago large circles with the number 6 inside were painted on our pavements in our local area, and two days later that marked the spot of our brand new lampposts. The new lampposts were positioned against boundaries (houses or walls) as against the kerb side position of the old lampposts, so trenches were dug between old and new locations, and barriers erected to keep the elderly and the inebriated from falling into them.
A week ago, two engineers spent 30 minutes connecting the new lampposts to the mains supply. The following day the old lamppost disappeared, and at the beginning of this week the contractors filled in the trench and put fresh tarmac down. Job done, and the street is bathed in fine, white, non polluting light from approx 9.15pm to 4.30am each night.
How many street lights are there in Oldham? Now there’s a question … answers in the comment box please! But there are 11 on our street, a fairly medium sized street, so I’m guessing that it must be in the high thousands, possibly around 10,000. That’s a lot of work and a daunting task. It’s a good job they received the grant to carry out the work, as all the resources they need will be at their fingertips.
Unlike the disciples, faced with a similarly daunting task on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. When a huge crowd gathered around Jesus he asked Philip where they could buy bread for all these people. To which Philip, blowing all the air from lungs, replied, “It would be cheaper to replace all the street lighting in Tiberias than to feed this crowd.”
Andrew – one of those annoyingly glass half full kind of people – then volunteered the fact that he had discovered a little lad willing to part with his pack lunch of five loaves and two fishes. So Peter uttered the immortal question to Jesus, “Deal, or no deal?”
And Jesus said, “Deal. Make the people sit down.” And having taken the loaves, and then the fish, and having given thanks, the feast was shared, and shared, and shared, and shared, and (ok, so you get the picture!).
The point I’m making here is sometimes we can’t comprehend the scale of some tasks. I watched a documentary on the building of The Shard a couple of weeks ago (I live a sad life!) and the work of engineering and design was truly unbelievable. I can’t even get my mind replacing 11 lampposts on one street!
And sometimes with stories like the feeding of the 5000, or walking on the water, or even the resurrection of Jesus we feel likewise incredulous. And faced with empty pews and impossible mission fields life can sometimes seem pretty daunting for the modern day church.
But all over this land, throughout the world, there are incredible stories of hope and glimpses of God’s love in our midst. Can I get an Amen? A pure, vibrant, dynamic white light is shining … and I’m not talking about the new lamppost opposite our house. The light of God is shining and refuses to be dimmed. The task may be intimidating, but God has the resources for us. We need to believe, have hope and be confidant. And as Jesus assured his fearful disciples on the boat crossing the sea, so he reassures us, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.”