Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: graft in our hearts the love of thy Name; increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
A reading from the sermons of John Keble
The doings of Jesus Christ are the doings of God: of the Almighty God, Son of the Father, made Man for our sake. Therefore you may be sure there is much more in them that we can understand at once; yea more a great deal than we could understand, if we spent ever so much time in thinking of them. So in this miraculous feast there is a great deal more meaning, you may be sure, than the mere act of bounty and power, such as a great king or rich nobleman on earth might practice, by way of doing a very kind and good-natured action, making people happy for the moment, and so an end. Depend upon it, the Saviour of our souls, the great King of heaven and earth, had a deeper meaning than that, in performing this mighty work. […]
Now I want you to observe, how in all these proceedings, wonderful and divine as they were, our Lord did everything in order: in the same order whereby he provides for us in what is called the common course of nature. It is all done… through men like ourselves. Our Lord received the loaves of the disciples, and employed the hands of the disciples to distribute them; he did not give them to the multitude with his own hands, telling them to approach him one by one, but he formed the multitudes into companies, and sent the disciples, one to each company; much as he does in his Church, in respect of spiritual blessings. He might have given us his Word and Sacraments directly from himself, without any clergy to convey them; but it hath pleased him to do otherwise. And it is not the less his gift, because it comes through his ministers, neither will it do our souls the less good: even as that bread and fish was quite as effectual to nourish the persons who partook of it, given them, as it was, by some one of the Apostles, as it would have been, had our blessed Lord in each case given it with his own hand. There is the same condescension in his thus employing ministers, as in his not creating all the bread which he gave them, but making a beginning, small though it were, yet a real beginning, from those seven loaves, which he caused to go as far as they could.
Then observe that he does it all by benediction. He took the seven loaves, and blessed, and brake, and distributed. Afterwards when the few small fishes were brought forward, he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. Nothing would he give them without his blessing. Surely we must be very dull, if we do not learn hereby to ask God’s blessing on all our meals, all our pursuits, all our undertakings, whether for the good of others or for our own. If his blessing be not upon it, how can it do us good? And if even the great Lord and Creator did not account what he gave his people sufficiently sanctified by his touch, but used also word and prayer, why should we think much to say grace devoutly before and after all our principal meals?
And he teaches us in the same way not to be wasteful. ‘Gather up the fragments that remain that nothing be lost’. What was it to him, the Maker and Owner of all, him who ‘openeth his hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness’ (Ps 104:28), whether those few crumbs, which remained over and unto them that had eaten, were carefully preserved or no? To him it could make no difference: the difference is to us his reasonable creatures, whether we will deal reverently and gratefully, with the provision which his love makes for us, or whether we will waste it, as no object to us. […]
Now that which is true concerning earthly relief and nourishment, is even much more true, as concerning spiritual relief and nourishment. If it needed humble trust, and patient waiting for the men, women and children of that company to partake of Christ’s outward and visible feasts, surely he will expect us to be trustful and patient, in respect of the Bread which cometh down from heaven. What that Bread is, we know: it is ‘the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ, verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper’. That is the seven loaves, the sevenfold or perfect feast, the feast full of all the rich gifts of the Holy Ghost, which he has miraculously provided to sustain us here in the wilderness of this present world.