Bread that Lasts
10th Sunday After Pentecost
WELOME: to worship online with North Lonsdale. (Coming from A Rocha!)
I am continuing with the bread theme this week, you may notice! I hope you’ve been aware of bread this past week—maybe made some of your own. When we are back in the sanctuary this September, in continued ways of safe-protocols, we will share in God’s bread together. I wanted to share a poem that I just discovered this week by Padraig O’ Tuama:
God of the barley loaf,
God of the boy,
God of the fish,
And God of the humble brother;
When we do not have enough,
may we use what we have
to do what we can.
Because a small boy did this,
And generosity listened.
Let us worship the living God…Amen.
Scripture: John 6: 24-35
Sermon: “Bread that Lasts”
It was the day after the feeding of the five thousand. People were wowed by this Jesus. He was going places. They wanted to talk to him—they speculated where he might be going, and then they ran ahead to their boats to beat him there. They were full—their stomachs, that is. With one small meal, they had been satisfied. Jesus had fed them all. It was quite a day they had had. The five thousand, and all. And now they found him, and they began what became a conversation.
This was the first time that a conversation took place between the two: Jesus and the crowd. They pursued him—they surrounded him—they shouted out questions at him. One pastor writes “Jesus was their meal ticket. In their minds he has the potential to do something unheard of…who knows what he can do! If he can provide food through 5 loaves and 2 fish, then he just might be able to do the same with shelter and clothing…[and] protect them from the never-ending uncertainties of [life] Who can blame them? In a world of insecurity, we can understand why the crowd pursued him so diligently.
When the crowd, however, approached Jesus with questions like “Rabbi, when did you come here?” “What must we do to perform the works of God,” well, Jesus calls their bluff. “The bread you are after,” he tells them, “will not last.” How does he know? Well, because they are obviously hungry again! They were present yesterday, they had their fill. But, they’re back, and they’re hungry…again. Even with the wonderful miracle that had happened before their eyes, they have the audacity to ask for more—a sign even! What more of a sign could they need to see the glory of the Christ before them?
You can tell that the people who questioned Jesus were conditioned (maybe culturally so) to have to “do something” in order to “get something.” They were not, by any means, accustomed to being given something, especially so great as the soul-food of bread, for life. They had benefited from the bread of the 5,000 fed. They knew it was even written that their ancestors at the manna in the wilderness. But they did not understand the bread for which they were asking. Jesus told them that the Bread he speaks of that they will never be hungry again, and whoever believes him will never thirst. Do you hear the power in those words? Have you ever felt hunger pains? Has your mouth ever been parched from dryness? When we see someone else coming before us to receive Holy Communion—the Bread of Life dipped into the cup of salvation—our mouths should water! THIS bread lasts.
There are times, we must admit, when we feel like the Israelites in the wilderness. We yearn for our needs to be met. And frankly, we don’t feel like they are. We get enough manna to get by, but it may not sustain. One scholar writes “In one way or another, each of us is challenged by a personal wilderness: [a] painful loss, physical suffering, financial reverses, betrayal or bereavement. These are roads that we travel not by choice, but by necessity.”A Spanish proverb speaks to this condition: “With bread and wine you can walk your road.” Jesus gives us bread that lasts.
The word bread stands for sustenance. In the Lord’s Prayer, our daily bread generally means “what we need for life.” Jesus’ bread is his own life. Paul Stoble writes “He gives us his life freely. He gives us grace for living. He gives us access to God, forgiveness of our sins, eternal life and much more.”
When we come before Jesus, we ought to be humbly present before him. Everything that we need comes from God. Everything that we have is a gift. It is not ours to take, but rather, it has been given to us as a gift. Our posture before the Lord is a critical one if we are to indicate that we believe the body of Christ has been broken for us to share in God’s glory and ministry in the world. We come to the communion table with cupped hands, the same posture of a beggar. Because that is what we are. We don’t have it, we can’t be filled, we will go hungry and thirsty forever, unless Jesus gives us himself. That is why we receive the bread during communion, instead of tearing it off and taking it. The bread is broken and given to you, so that you may know his love, his grace, his sacrifice. Receive this gift with great care and remember who died for you. I had a friend once who always remembered receiving communion as a little girl. She loved the way the “juice” got soaked up by the bread and the way it tasted in her mouth. Even though it was not a ‘complete’ meal—she always remembered how satisfied she was after partaking of it. She was full. We are full. Full of the bread of life—the bread that lasts. At the same time, I have to say—she always wanted more—more of Jesus.
Why are we so blessed to have the bread of Christ? Because we are a people who need something, something tangible. Jesus came to us in the flesh. Now, without his body physically with us, we have him in the bread of life feeding our souls always. Within us, here in our gut & here in our heart—we are filled so that we may go forth strengthened for the sake of Christ. And as we go forth—after partaking of the bread of life, then we indeed become the “body” for others. St. Augustine, an early church father said that normally when we eat, we digest what was eaten, and it becomes a part of our body. When we eat the bread of Holy Communion, it digests us and turns us into Christ’s body. So that we are sent out of this place, not just to do good, but precisely as part of the body of Christ—the church. This bread is different than any other bread. This bread should be handled with care. When we ‘walk our road’ of life with this bread, we will be sustained, whatever comes our way.
There is a poem I read once that reminds me of the preciousness of the bread:
Be gentle when you touch bread
Let it not lie uncared for—unwanted
So often bread is taken for granted
There is so much beauty in bread
Beauty of sun and soil, beauty of honest toil
Winds and rain have caressed it,
Christ often blessed it
Be gentle when you touch bread.
Jesus himself, the Bread of Life, is indeed a sign. We don’t have to look any further. It has been given. And the bread itself, THE Bread himself, has been given to us. Jesus is the body of Christ, broken for you. Amen.