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"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." Rev Canon Dr Stephen Foster

 

The seven signs, or 'semeion', in St John's Gospel, are what we might normally call miracles. In St John especially, they are designed to give his readers clues to who Jesus is, that is, the Son of God. There are seven signs in the Gospel, probably symbolising the seven days of creation, but these seven are all pointing to the 8th sign on the 8th day; they are pointing to the greatest of all signs....they are pointing to today; they are pointing to The Feast of the Resurrection....where re-creation finds its ultimate focus.

Hold on, Father Stephen, this is a bit complicated to take in one hearing.
'I know!' Father says,...'but now, it gets a bit easier!

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

This text is from John's version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, his fourth sign, the only miracle which occurs in all four Gospels. Jesus is saying that the scraps of bread after the meal need collecting, and not left (say), for the birds of the air to feast on.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost".

This verse only appears in John's Gospel.

On Holy Saturday, Jesus lies dead in the tomb, with the wholeness of his ministry seeming to have fallen apart. His ministry seems to have been smashed to pieces, fragmented, and lying in ruins. Those who have listened to him, those who have learnt from him, those who have been healed by him, those who have been fed by him have largely disappeared. The disciples...well the disciples! One has betrayed him...one has denied him...and the rest have fled. Like the morsels of leftover bread they are scattered in separation. The disciples are now hoping to save their own lives at the end of what had promised so much, but seemingly had delivered so little. To them, all seems to have ended in fear and failure. The eleven just want to return to the 'fishing grounds of their past' and forget this whole sad episode.

Even the body of Jesus itself, now lying in a tomb has begun to fall apart, a cameo of his ministry... his body like his ministry is falling apart too.

This is the final phase of him 'being done to' from Maundy Thursday to last evening...on Holy Saturday, he ends up in darkness, alone, finished, failed. He is now being 'done to' even by the natural processes of post mortem.

That though is Holy Saturday.

But this is now a whole new wonderful day. In the glory of this moment...the glory of this day...the glory of Easter Day, Jesus rises from the dead, all is gathered together in the miracle of miracles, in the ultimate sign of the Resurrection. Jesus body is drawn together; in John's eyes recreated, never to die again. Jesus' ministry is not lost afterall, the disciples are restored, the final enemy of death is defeated in this most wonderful day of ultimate glory. His ministry is recollected, he lives for ever in glory, and empowered in the Spirit he fills the lives of his disciples...the beginning of the Church.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

This is the day that the Lord has made.

This is the day that the Lord has made for us.

So what does this day mean for every one of us?

Why is today the most important day of the Christian year?

Well, for us, whatever we do... in the name of Christ, the smallest deed done, the kind word spoken, the simplest thought and prayer offered, because of today, in the power of Jesus' Resurrection, like the fragments of bread scattered abroad in the Feeding, all will be drawn together and will never ever... ever... ever... be lost. Such is Jesus' victory for us today.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

I continue to be staggered by the self-giving, the self-sacrifice that the NHS and indeed many others have shown in the selfless service of others in the last twelve months. Each might be tempted to think that it is simply 'what they do', and in the grand scheme of things, it will eventually be forgotten and society will move on. But what they need to know; what they need to always remember, is that all they have done, all that folk have done, in the power of today will never be lost, never be forgotten, never be simply set aside, but in God's own power will be drawn together in glory.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

Over the last year, all of us in one way or another have led strange lives and certainly very fragmented lives. The pandemic has torn families apart to a lesser or greater degree. Our routines have been turned upside down; our leisure and social activities have been curtailed; our music has been at best socially distanced and our singing together impossible.
Thousands and thousands have become very ill, and many have lost their desperate fight to live. And especially, we may pray for their souls. We pray that they may rest in peace and rise in glory. And we pray for those who mourn them right now.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

But for all of us who share this miracle we celebrate 'today', Jesus meets us in a garden, on the seashore, on the road, in an upper room... in the supermarket, the bus queue, the take away, the local.

Just like the fishermen disciples returning to what they knew best returning to their own 'everyday activity', in the Great Catch, in the power of the Resurrection we can look for,  and we can find him in the everyday,  but now the 'new everyday' of a 'new era of humanity'.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

The invitation to the disciples to have breakfast on the seashore after the Great Catch is very poignant.

Jesus identifies with their past fishing grounds. He meets them where they are. The disciples know it is Jesus risen...a changed Jesus...a Jesus meeting them where they are and from what they have known, and leading them and empowering them into a new future, for themselves, for the Church and for the world.

Jesus gathers the fragments of their own shattered lives and refashions them into apostles...they become those who are sent... they become the foundation of the New Testament Church.

As the Pandemic recedes and hopefully is controlled, Jesus meets us where we are today and sends us out into a different world, a world which has the familiarities of the past but one which has profoundly changed.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

Many people have lost a great deal, their loved ones, their livelihoods, their place in God's world, where it is not only Covid which has decimated societies...civil wars...oppressive regimes undermining democracy.

 But the Lord can gather up our fragments however they happen, and he can recreate us to face a rather different future. But it is a future in which we can have confidence  as the Risen Lord is always with us, as he is in a special way at each Eucharist, and in his power he gives us all we need to be a risen people in a risen world.

"Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

AMEN.

 

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