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8/9/2009 - The Rev. Caron A. Gwynn - The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

posted May 21, 2010, 6:38 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:39 PM by Terry Brady ]
I am the bread of life. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:48-51)

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

The Jewish crowd surrounding Jesus and the disciples in Capernaum continued to speak highly of Moses for providing the manna in the wilderness for their ancestors. Jesus, however, politely corrected the crowd on their facts. He informed them that it was God who provided the manna for their ancestors during their Exodus from Egypt and not Moses.

We know that God sustained these wandering people each morning with manna from heaven in the wilderness. Manna has been described as a bread-like substance that is small, round, and resembles a fine frost on the ground. It looked like small coriander seeds and tasted like wafers made with honey (Exodus 16:14, 31). Additionally, we know that bread has a traditional place in the worship practices of Israel. Two loaves of leavened bread were sacrificed as an offering during Pentecost celebrations (Lev.23:17) and the Levite priests offered twelve unleavened loaves of bread on behalf of the people to God each week to represent God’s presence with the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 25: 30). Although he gave them bread for their bodies, Jesus had something even better for them and for us to consider.

God provided for their physical needs then. God provides our needs today. The point that Jesus wanted to press upon them and upon us is that God offers us much more than nourishment for our bodies. God offers us spiritual nourishment as well. The Israelites source for spiritual nourishment was standing right before them in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the source of our spiritual nourishment as Christians and Disciples of Christ today.

We often hear and see bread used as a metaphor in the Gospel of John. Bread is very much a part of the Jewish culture. However, Jesus, stirred up the crowd causing murmuring among them with an incomprehensible and extraordinary statement that he is true bread from heaven (John 6:32, 41) and that he is the bread of life (John 6:48-51). This notion for the Jewish crowd of Jesus being the bread from heaven was quite a stretch. Remember that they knew Jesus as the son of their neighbor, the carpenter. Therefore, Jesus was not surprised that they did not understand or realize that the ‘the bread of life’ actually stood before them.

Nevertheless, Jesus extends the offer of eternal life to them and to us today through the acceptance of this bread of life from God. Jesus is a gift of spiritual nourishment to the world. We know that Jesus is the sacrificial gift for us on the cross.

There are Eucharistic overtones in John’s Gospel and as Christians, we are
are offered a feast on the bread of life for our souls so that we may never hunger or thirst. Our Eucharist gathering binding us together as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ is a weekly celebration of the gift of Christ - the bread from heaven, the living manna, and the eternal sustainer of life.
I read a story that I would like to share with you. “A seminarian, doing his diaconal ministry in a hospital in the Bronx, was visiting an elderly Italian gentleman on a Saturday evening. He entered the man’s hospital room to ask him if he would like to receive Holy Communion on the Lord’s Day. The man’s wife was seated in a chair next to her husband’s bed. She was holding her husband’s hand. The seminarian asked, “Would you like to receive Holy Communion tomorrow, sir?” The man could not hear well as he lay in his hospital bed. So the old man looked up at his wife somewhat quizzically and said, “Eh, Mama?” His wife nodded knowingly with assurance and said to her husband, “It’s okay. It’s only God wanting to feed you.” (copied and adapted from Richard Fairchild, “Homily for 19th Sunday of the Year,” (August 13, 2000 Published on the internet, Proclaiming the Revised Common Lectionary.) We are called to be open and allow ourselves to be fed by the supernatural food from God that faithfully and eternally sustains us through the life and death of Jesus on the cross.

The Apostle Paul in today’s epistle reminds us that we are called to live and be filled with love for others as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2). We are called to offer ourselves in service to Christ who is the bread of life for the world. (http://www.predigten.uni-goettingen.de/archiv-8/060806-5-e.html). We are called to be the potter’s clay reshaped by Christ as faithful witnesses of a loving God in the world.

The daily news reports reminds us that all over the world people are broken and hungry. Jesus is the perfect offering for us. We are called to look beyond ourselves to find the meaning and purpose of what God is calling us to do in the world.
(http://www.predigten.uni-goettingen.de/archiv-8/060806-5-e.html) Daily we are filled with the yearning hunger for peace where there is war, for justice where there is in equality, for love where is hatred, and for reconciliation where is division. We are called to gather at our Eucharist table to be strengthened. When we leave the table, we are fed and refreshed in fellowship through the love of Christ. (adapted from http://www.predigten.uni-goettingen.de/archiv-8/060806-5-e.html)

In closing, I would like to read to you a poem by Brain Wren and at the conclusion please repeat after me “Thanks be to God.” (Brian Wren, “At the Eucharist Invitation to the Table printed in Let All the World, ed. Wendy Robins (London: USPG, 1990).