The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s129g15   Sunday 17  St Luke’s in the City  26/7/2015

‘the sea became rough’  John 6:18

For the first time I focus on the conjunction of these two significant incidents in Jesus’ ministry, the feeding and the calming of the storm.   It is curious that our reading includes both, when one would have thought that each, separately, would have provided sufficient material for a sermon or two.   But of the six accounts of the feeding of the multitudes in the gospels, only the one in Luke (1) does not recount an immediate subsequent sea voyage. (2)

The feeding of the multitudes, which we as ‘christians’ interpret as prefiguring the eucharist, immediately precipitates a journey elsewhere, a dangerous voyage, elsewhere, to others.

Of course this echoes the manna in the wilderness, where the nourishment of God comes on the journey and ceases immediately they arrive at their destination.  And just as the tribes doubt the provision of God through the wilderness, so the disciples in the boat fear for their very lives.

So it becomes clear that the sustenance of God initiates movement and we are sustained by God when we are moving.

It is the tribes of Israel that have to be cajoled to keep on going rather than returning to Egypt and it is the disciples who have no idea of the destination and why they are on the journey.   And I reflect how often the Church seems so confident of her mission which is mostly to return to the halcyon days of the 50’s when Sunday Schools were full.   In those days, last century, any movement expected was demanded of others, towards us and our version of truth!

Was not Jesus content with the success of the feeding of the thousands, their adulation - they even wanted to make him king - and at least these were mostly Jews?   Why immediately go elsewhere when the journey was dangerous, when those met might well be gentiles?   Why not accept the democratically appointed kingship of the people of God, but rather go to others?

Do we not get the message that the eucharist is not about us and having arrived at our personal spiritual destination, but about us as a corporate entity being moved to share the blessings we have received with others in their corporate identity?   The promised land is not for ourselves, our community, our denomination, our faith, but for others in all our diversity; by extension, all people!

It is when we posit this question that the seas become rough!

A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to hear a local politician speak about spirituality and politics.   It was obvious from the moment she began how energised she was.   She spoke of the variety of people she meets, from people in difficulties to community and faith groups of every description.   One of the listeners commented afterwards: How did she get the energy?   And I suggest that these two are vitally linked, energy comes from others, through interaction with a variety of people.

I have more than once observed that when parish clergy get together, the atmosphere is usually depressing, even deadly.   However when chaplains get together, it is always a lively party!   There is something enlivening about being freed from the constraints of talking about faith and politics in the church all the time.   I would bet my bottom dollar that for most sane clergy their closest friends actually don’t attend church!   It is amongst these different people that we get energy!   Is not God saying something here?

Recently there was this report in the local press: ‘School racial segregation disadvantaging students, report says. .. Hillmorton High principal Ann Brokenshire said her school's ethnic make-up had changed.   The decile had dropped because parents from the high-decile contributing primary schools were reluctant to enrol there, she said.   "Is there white flight?   Absolutely.”   Hillmorton High had "become browner" and it was not a bad thing, she said.   "Whether being within a diverse population increases academic results, I don't know.   What I do know is that mixing with students from diverse backgrounds is a really, really good thing.” (3)

So the question to us as the church corporate is: ‘Are we in the business of encouraging diversity within inclusivity or are we letting secular society lead the way?’   Are we part of the problem or part of the solution?

Our energised politician ended her presentation on the question of the earthquake damaged Christchurch Cathedral, so it is appropriate to repeat what I said three weeks ago, in this ‘real’ Christchurch and Anglican context:
After the shooting in Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church, (4) the governor and senators in South Carolina have decided to take down the Confederate flag on their Capitol complex.  (5)   In Christchurch there has been an acrimonious debate about the ruins of the Anglican Cathedral in the centre of the CBD.   It is like the Confederate flag, which ‘for some whites, many of whom can trace their ancestry back to the Civil War, the flag represents heritage and pride.  "It's a symbol of family and my ancestors who defended the state from invasion. It was about standing up to a central government," said Chris Sullivan, who is a member of the Sons of the Confederacy. "The things that our ancestors fought for were not novel and they really are the same issues we have today.”’  (6)
So for many Păkehă (7) in Christchurch, they can trace their ancestry to those who originally built and worshipped in the now ruined Cathedral; it represents their heritage and pride.   It is a symbol of family and ancestors and the benefits of British colonialism and indeed a justification for it.   Where is the line between elitism and racism?   Is this not inimical to belief?  (8)

And I read this verse from Luke’s account of the Last Supper, where Jesus says: ’I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ (9)  The supper was NOT the kingdom, it is what precipitates the kingdom as we affirm and include others as our guests.   And after the supper, the sea certainly got rough for Jesus and the disciples!

1.  Luke 9:10-17

7.  Those who are not of Măori descent.
9.  Luke 22:18