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Pentecost 11B Sermon
John 6: 24-35
August
5, 2018

 

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John 6:24-35

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.
During a major part of the history of our world, bread was the chief form of sustenance for human beings.

During those thousands of years of history covered by our Holy Bible, whole meals often consisted of bread of some kind. Wheat mixed with water, later a little yeast, baked on ovens or even on hot rocks fill the belly and give the body the nutrients and energy it needs to function. Occasionally if someone had some wealth or access to produce or livestock, a few dates and a little meat might be added to the bread to accompany it. But there is a reason Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread … because bread was needed daily to live.

Nowadays we can go entire meals without having bread. If you go out to a sit-down restaurant, often the bread basket goes around the table when the salads are served. My usual choice is to pass that basket by when it comes, because I would prefer to save room for the main course rather than fill up on bread. Gone are the days of bread being the major part of a meal; gone are the days when my grandmother felt it was so important to our health that we have bread at dinner that she would spread butter and sprinkle sugar on top of it.

It seems that we have moved on – with protein based diets, refrigeration and more sophisticate cooking methods and seasonings, bread has been relegated to a sandwich at lunch – a vehicle upon which to put some meat, cheese, veggies and condiments, or maybe a roll with salad. Bread is an option that we can leave behind for the better stuff; we’ve moved on from bread in our society. It just isn’t as important as it used to be for our everyday health.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Hmmm. Isn’t that ironic? Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus has just fed 5,000 people with bread, mostly, along with a little bit of fish. Many of those people have tracked him down across the other side of the lake and Jesus knows why – they like their bread! They want their stomachs filled again! But as I mentioned last week in my sermon on the first part of John 6 – even though Jesus is concerned about their physical well-being, he has come primarily for their spiritual well-being. So he calls himself bread – the bread of life which, when you believe in him you will never be hungry again. It’s a wonderful gift that we have in Jesus, the one sent by God to be our bread of life from heaven. He gives of himself fully and freely so that our souls may be full, our lives filled with contentment, love, joy and peace!

The problem is, as I mentioned before, too many in society have moved on from bread to those things that we consider better … just like we might do at a restaurant or a home-cooked meal. When we have opportunities to delve into the bread of life – whether it is the literal bread of Holy Communion, or the bread of God’s word, songs, prayers, the fellowship of our gathering as the church – so many people pass it by because they want to leave room in their lives for the really good stuff that has come along. The bread basket might be grabbed once in a while, but not like God would like it to be.

It was my hope that when you all came in to worship today, that you would smell freshly baking bread – and I thank Carol for the use of her bread maker which is sitting right over by the choir seats. By now the loaf of bread in there is done and that little machine is filled with warm, rich goodness! On this tray is a few other loaves of bread – here is my favorite, zucchini nut bread, which my wife happened to make on Wednesday the way I like it – with some lemon zest mixed into the batter. I also have a couple of interesting loaves from a cool store at the corner of Henderson and Reed roads – Great Harvest Bread Company – one is a cinnamon chip bread, and the other a garlic cheddar one. I can attest that both are delicious!

Like the breads this morning, Jesus gives himself to the world and fills all of our senses with goodness – from the smell that fills the room to the sight and touch which varies from bread to bread, and from crust to the inside; from the sound of the bread knife sawing across, to the taste, those happy little endorphins are released in our bodies which literally fill our souls with joy and love. This is the gift of Jesus, the bread of life, which is offered to each and every one of us. It may not be fancy or overly special, but the communion bread which I made for this Sunday’s Eucharistic meal is for us a sign of that goodness, which we cannot pass by as we might the bread basket at dinnertime. Even when we have the wafers for communion we are reminded of the manna which God provided every day so that the Israelites might be fed for their long journey in the wilderness from slavery to the promised land. And Jesus, in our Gospel lesson, likens himself to that manna. In Hebrew the word Manna literally means, “what is it?” That is the question they asked when they first saw the white flakey substance on the ground! What or who is Jesus? He is the prophet, the Lord and the very bread which we need to experience the presence of God today and everyday.

My hope is that this morning you may have a new appreciation for Jesus as the bread of life - that you might not see this bread as a mere option for your weekly consumption, but the necessary course of your holistic healthy life. Smell the goodness present with us during this time. Take the bread of communion, and join me after worship for some of the loaves of bread on this tray and in this breadmaker. And as you do so, allow Jesus to remind you of the opportunity that you have to receive this bread for your life each and every week. Being filled with this bread, then, may we be the bread of life for the world as Christ’s body, the church – so that everyone can experience the love, joy and peace that God offers so freely in Jesus Christ; may it be so, in the name of Christ our Lord; Amen.