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8/2/2009 - The Rev. Caron A. Gwynn - The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:38 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:38 PM by Terry Brady ]
Text: John 6:24-34

“For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6: 33)

In the name of the one holy and undivided Trinity. Amen.

Most of us have enjoyed festive meals with family and friends. I know I certainly have and most likely, these festive meals were a part of holidays, birthdays, baptisms, commencements, family reunions, or some other special occasion.

After such meals, we are full and completely satisfied. Some of us like to refer to these meals as ‘soul food:’ Meat, vegetables, dressings, gravy, bread, condiments, fruit, desserts - food stretching from one end of the table to the other!

In our Gospel today, Jesus continues a dialogue with the crowd that benefited from his miraculous feeding produced for them out of five loves of barley and two fish near the Passover celebration. We hear that the remaining people who were fed get into their own boats to look for Jesus and the disciples in Capernaum. Jesus tells this remaining crowd that he knows they are only interested in him due to the feeding and not because of signs, they could see beyond their physical need. Jesus senses they were looking for a repeat performance. They wanted another meal.

Consider this story:

A guest in a posh hotel restaurant called the headwaiter over during breakfast one morning and placed his order. He said, “I’d like one egg undercooked so it’s runny and one egg over cooked so it’s tough and hard to eat. And I’d also like grilled bacon that’s a bit on the cold side, brunt toast, butter straight from the freezer so it’s impossible to spread and a pot of very weak, lukewarm coffee.”

“That’s a complicated order, sir,” said the bewildered waiter, “It might be quite difficult to complete your order.” The guest replied sarcastically, “It can’t be that difficult---that’s exactly what you brought me yesterday!” (Homiletics, Aug.2009, p.45)

I think it was clever of Jesus in the role of a radical host to make sure everyone was fed. We readily offer our guests refreshments. Following our service, all are welcome to light refreshments in the parish hall. This is a weekly practice at St. Margaret’s and we feed the homeless four days out of every week. Jesus’ act of hospitality helped to set the stage for the crowd to see beyond a physical situation - being satisfied and full - Jesus wanted them to stretch more than their stomachs – he wanted them to be full spiritually as well.

The focus of today’s gospel is that Jesus is offering food–bread- that stays with you for more than couple of hours. This bread is the soul food that does not perish. We know the people misunderstand the meaning behind that miraculous feeding. “Our ancestors ate the bread in the wilderness…” they respond (John 6:32). However, after hearing Jesus inform them that he can give them, bread from God that gives life to the world. This bread offering is unlike the manna their ancestors ate in the wilderness. Then they ask Jesus for the bread for always.

Jesus reveals to the gathering that he is the living bread. The bread Jesus is offering is the bread we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer to God: Give us this day our daily bread. We pray with trust and faith for substance and sustenance – we feed on the nourishment of God’s presence with us daily. God’s presence does not leave us, although sometimes we may not be aware of it. This supreme presence will not leave us empty or unsatisfied. This presence is eternal.

You may recall that when Jesus was famished and tempted by Satan to turn the stones into loaves of bread. Jesus responds, “it is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4).

The Good News is that in John’s Gospel, Jesus is the Word that lives among us daily (John 1:14). Jesus is the true sign indicating the gift of God’s presence among us. God seeks us out for a relationship that grows with love, faith, and trust. This is the work we are called to do to sustain an everlasting relationship with our creator. Jesus is the healthy food source from God that nourishes the soul when our heart is an open vessel.

We are called to be a community of faith fed by the bread of life given by God for the world. We become filled with humility, patience, forbearance, love, forgiveness, and peace. (Ephesians 4: 2-3) These are the super foods that feed the soul. Additionally, these are the ingredients in the Bread of life that strengthen our minds, bodies, and souls (copied and adapted AHA, Aug.3. 2003). It is with this strength that we carry out the work that God calls us to do. Know that we are called to believe and have faith in our Creator - the source of our daily bread. There is NO expiration date!

Let us mediate on these words from one of my mother’s favorite hymns, Bread of the World:

Bread of the world, in mercy broken,
Wine of the soul, in mercy shed,
By whom the words of life were spoken,
And in whose death our sins are dead.

Look on the heart by sorrow broken,
Look on the tears by sinners shed,
And be thy feast to us the token,
That by thy grace our souls are fed.
(Bread for the World from Reginald Herber’s Hymns,written and adapted to the Weekly Service of the Church Year (London: J. Murray,1827), # 34.

Let us leave this sacred space with a renewed relationship with God having been spiritually fed, nourished, and strengthened by the bread of life for eternity.