We Hunger for the Bread of Life
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost – August 4, 2018
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
God, Bread of Life, we hunger for your Word. We thirst for your good news. Open our eyes and ears to you, and you only. In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”.
Jesus does not say, “I am the pickled pigs feet of life,” or “the cod liver oil of life.” Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”
But neither does Jesus say, “I am the rich semisweet dark chocolate of life,” or “the medium rare standing rib roast of life,” or “the fried chicken of life.” No, Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.”
Not something we’d turn our noses up at and not something fancy either. Common ordinary bread.
Every culture has bread in one or many forms. As a staple of life, bread is common and yet uncommon because it does have so many different forms. There’s white bread, wheat bread, pumpernickel, French, Italian, pita, tortilla, sour dough, and the list goes on and on. Say the word “bread” and chances are some good image, or taste, or smell, or texture is bound to pop up in our heads.
But Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life.”
All of those other breads will grow stale and inedible in a fairly short period of time. Even the manna from heaven that fed the Hebrews in the wilderness was temporary.
But Jesus came offering a new kind of bread, one that doesn’t go bad, one that isn’t temporary, one that nourishes perpetually and lasts forever, one that sustains relationships and bolsters hope.
So very many people live, or rather exist, without the food of hope. So very many people today live hope-deficient lives. They are pale and gaunt from lack of sustenance. Some search hopelessly for prince/princess charming to come with the food of romantic love that will make all their loneliness and troubles disappear. Still others gorge themselves on material goods only to discover their hunger is never satisfied. Like starving children we see in 3rd world countries with swollen bellies many people live as if they were simply waiting to die. They live lives of malnourished estrangement: estranged from themselves; estranged from family and loved ones — estranged from their parents, or children, or spouse; estranged from an old friend after an ages old argument; estranged especially from God. Hopelessness breeds such estrangement and estrangement inevitably starves the souls of human beings.
Last week Jesus fed the 5000 and now they were sticking to him like glue. The miracle of the loaves reminded the people of the manna in the wilderness. “Could this man be the new Moses? Could this guy work wonders for us?”
So they demanded that Jesus prove himself by making some bread from heaven rise up on the spot. Jesus knew they needed more than that, so he gave them himself instead .
But this wasn’t exactly what they had in mind. A relationship with this traveling preacher? No, they wanted good food and great wonders, they wanted miracles at their beck and call.
“Give us some of that bread!” the people clamored. (John 6:34)
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
This was undoubtedly confusing to the people. And maybe we’re confused too. How exactly is Jesus the Bread of Life? And how is Jesus like and not like the manna in the wilderness?
Well, for starters, Jesus is like manna in that through Jesus God reminds us that we live because God provides not what we want, necessarily, but exactly what we need: some food, some love, some breath, some water, and a relationship with the One who is the Bread from heaven. But Jesus is markedly different from the manna in the wilderness in that Jesus feeds us through a relationship.
God knows how fragile our relationships are, how fragile our very lives are, and God knows that we need to be continually fed. That’s why God sends the bread from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ. God leaves a trail of bread crumbs out of the wilderness of hopelessness and estrangement and into relationship, into community, into communion; a trail of bread crumbs to lead us Home.
You see, something inexplicable happens when we start picking up and eating those seemingly small and insignificant bread crumbs of life. We come to realize, maybe for the first time, that the very presence of this bread means that there is no disagreement, no argument, no sin big enough to keep God from loving us.
This bread is not only an invitation to life, it is life. This bread gives us life because it is our hope, it is the very life of God enfleshed in our human world. Wherever there is humility, wherever there is gentleness, wherever there is patience, wherever there is unity in the Spirit, wherever there is peace, wherever there is truth spoken in love — there we are fed on the Bread of Life (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Christ came into the world to save the world. What we fail to recognize is that Christ is still saving the world today by the giving of his body, the church, I service to the world. This is to say that you and I are central to the plan of God. If we fail to do what Christ has called us to do, if we fail to be what Christ has called us to be, then Christ’s saving action will be incomplete. Anne Lamott said in her best-selling book, “Traveling Mercies, when asked why she made her son as a young person go with her to church, said, “The main reason is that I want to give him what I found in the world, which is a path and a little light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want – purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy – are people with a deep sense of spirituality. They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith… They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful…Our little church is filled with people who are working for peace and freedom; who are out there on the streets and inside praying and they are doing good for others in so many different ways.
Wherever love triumphs over human sinfulness, estrangement, hopelessness — there is the Bread of Life, there is God’s own life given to us and for us.
And if that’s what God has done for us in Christ, if that’s how God feels about us — if God is truly unwilling to let sin and estrangement be the focus of our existence but instead chooses to feed us bread for life then what shall our response be?
How shall we live differently from the world? Just look at our world!
The smell of freshly baked bread is coming from the kitchen table. And soon a bread crumb trail will lead us out into the world.
May we all be nourished and empowered by this gift of bread, this Bread of Life.
May we rise up and live out the unconditional love God bakes within us through relationship in Jesus Christ..
We are hungry. We are hungry for so many things in life. We are impatient in our hunger, and want to satisfy our perceived needs as quickly as we can. Yet, so much of what we hunger for doesn't last. When we eat food, we are hungry again, right away. What Jesus offers us in not bread, but life.
As we turn toward Jesus in our hunger for life, we find forgiveness, we find hope and we find love. We are fed something that doesn't perish but rather something that flourishes - if we nurture it.
Each of us has a gift to be used in God’s service. In our Epistle this morning St. Paul said that Christ gave gifts to some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some pastors and teachers. The purpose of these gifts is to “equip his people, the church, for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
These gifts are gifts of ministry but all of us have gifts we are all gifted in some way – and it is when we offer our gifts to be used by God that God’s kingdom is brought closer. Are you using your gifts for the glory of God?
There is a time honored story that many of you will remember that says the angel Gabriel approached Jesus in heaven after his time was finished on earth. Gabriel asked Christ, ‘Master, did you accomplish everything you set o to do on earth?”
“No,” Jesus replied, “not yet. There is still much to be done.”
Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what’s next?”
Jesus said, ‘I’ve left it in the hands of my disciples. They will carry on the work I have begun.”
Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. He said, “Do you really think they will? What if the people somewhere along the way forget? Do you have a plan B?”
Jesus answered, “No. That’s it. I’m counting on them. There is no Plan B.
What a privilege it is to be the church. We are Christ’s own body in the world today, his hands and feet to do good works. And one day will come when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!” AMEN.