Once again the Bible Readings and Prayer for this week call those who consider themselves to be the people of God to live as the genuine, true and authentic people of God in holiness and righteousness of life in this world, as those whose final and true citizenship is in heaven & in the age to come.
The EPISTLE (Romans 6:19-23) is a call from the apostle Paul to Christians to be true servants (literally slaves) of God the Father, serving the Master (Jesus Christ) faithfully in righteousness and purity of life. Certainly the Church of God has been redeemed, bought with a price, the sacrificial blood of Jesus, and belongs to the Father Almighty. Thus to live in sin and without repentance and forgiveness is to be disobedient slaves and to invite the wrath of the Master/Owner. But to live by faith in faithfulness and holiness is to look for "the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
The GOSPEL (Mark 8:1-8) presents the feeding of the hungry multitude (4000) by the Lord Jesus on territory which had a mixed Jewish-Gentile population (on the eastern shore of Lake Gennesaret). Thus we may say that it points symbolically to the provision that God the Father through Jesus Christ makes for the union and unity of Jew and Gentile in the kingdom of God and in His Church and also for their spiritual nourishment unto eternal life. The fact that there were seven large baskets of food left over, when all had eaten, points to the abundance of grace within the Gospel of the Father and the Son which is addressed to all peoples, first to the Jew and then to the Gentiles till the end of time. As we learn from John 6, Jesus himself is the Bread of life upon whom we all feed and to receive bread blessed and given by him is to feed on him in our hearts by faith and with thanksgiving, unto eternal life.
Soon after New Testament times the Church, which celebrated the Eucharist each Lord's Day, developed a symbolism from the fish that Jesus blessed and magnified in this miracle and in other similar ones (cf. Mark 6:32-44). In Greek the word for fish is IXTHUS and this was seen to form an acrostic "Jesus Christ Son of God, Saviour" (from the Greek words Iesous Christos Theos Uios Soter).
The COLLECT is a free translation by Archbishop Cranmer of an original Latin Collect. Seemingly James 1:17 is much in mind --- "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." In this Prayer, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is addressed as "LORD of all power and might". He is the Almighty, omnipotent and All-Powerful Deity. And as such, and also being the Compassionate One, he is the both the origin and giver of all that is good for us and for all men. And, changing our the mental image of God's relation to us, we go on to say that, like the best farmer, God the Father plants, watches over and cares for good seed so that it grows abundantly unto harvest. So we pray that our hearts and lives shall be the field wherein God himself plants the seeds of true Faith, Hope and Charity and then brings these seeds to full fruition so that by our lives we praise and magnify his Name.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Minister of Christ Church, Biddulph Moor,
England & Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America