... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Pentecost 11 Year B
Message August 09th, 2015

God’s Gift – Spiritual Food for Faith

Text: 2 Samuel 18:5-9,15,31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35,41-51

Everybody ha in life a particular interest or interests, and these usually change as we grow and age. My particular interest as a young boy was collecting animal cards from various cereal boxes. Over time this morphed into a curiosity in biology and later into medicine, healing arts and spiritual gifts. However what I am going to illustrate comes from the early biology studies. In those days we were taught that we had five senses – sight hearing smell taste and touch. These senses were the instruments which allowed us to fulfill the basic drives of life: hunger, thirst, safety, survival, community propagation and curiosity. Of these some were of a higher order such as hunger and thirst while others were of a lower or secondary order such as propagation or curiosity. The reality is that these drives are probably common to all life forms, especially in the animal kingdom but in various degrees of importance. Humans have a very highly developed sense of curiosity and it is what causes us to seek for that which is beyond ourselves, looking for the answer to the questions “why” and “what”? What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Is there not more than the present? We refer to these as the existential questions and curiosities and are probably the most profound questions for which we quest the answers.

John’s Gospel invites us to seek and quench our thirst to these questions as we read ponder and delve into the ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. Before progressing further I would ask you to remember when dealing with these “I am” sayings the tradition translates for the name of God as “I am”. Thus when Jesus says “I am” the double meaning is 1) Jesus infers that God is making the statement and so is of supreme authority and 2) Jesus asserts that he is the agent to whom God has given this insight.

The most interesting thing however about the “I am” sayings is that they parallel the basic desires needed for life. I am the bread, I am the vine, I am the living water I am the door I am the resurrection I am the way the truth and the life. All can be seen to parallel the physical desires with the spiritual and all answered and given by God. No wonder the Jewish leaders of the day were confused perplexed and suspicious of Jesus. His insight, his very being challenged all they had been taught, all that they had strived for. It’s all no wonder that those who seemed to flock to Jesus were the poor disenfranchised and who were open to possibilities beyond the accepted norms.

Following immediately after the feeding of the 5000 – a physical quench for the hunger – Jesus launches into the parallel hunger drive of longing for God. As hunger is satisfied by food but only temporarily, hunger for God is quenched permanently in coming to know God and God’s mercy. And this is what Jesus offers because God has given it to him and he is trying to pass it along to those who would follow and believe. We can see this reasoning in the verses preceding today’s ‘I am the bread of life’, because in verses 32 and 33 Jesus reminds his listeners about the manna in the wilderness. This was physical food sent by God so that the children of Israel would not die of hunger while wandering in the desert. The manna was food for the body – Jesus brings food for the soul and as we will hear later the soul is the being of everlasting life.

And so we have the text for today as Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” and the commentary of verses 41-51. The commentary is akin to the contrary arguments in a debate where one makes an assertion and then others try to pick holes in it. It is also the scientific method where one makes a hypothesis and then tries to refute it. The Jews of John’s Gospel are the refuters, but just to make it clear – the Jews of John’s gospel are the spiritual leaders of the day, not the ordinary people or those seeking the truth. And, as an aside, it is often the case that the supposed learned ones are the most blind to the truth and actual reality, the most glaring is the excommunication by the Vatican of Galileo for asserting that the earth was round and not the center of the universe.

So it was that the blind “well fed” leaders are confronted by Jesus. They proceed to refute his claims. They know him; they know his mother and father; they know his childhood. How can he now say he is from heaven? Their contrary arguments are superficial, physical and full of holes. Jesus bids them to go beyond the physical and seek the metaphysical and the spiritual. Jesus invites them to see that God has given Jesus a mission and a mandate and that the mission will be assured success not by Jesus himself but by God who gave him the mission in the first place. Perhaps we could use the illustration of lightening. God is the lightening and Jesus is the lightening rod which attracts the message of God and delivers it safely. The people are the base which is able then to disperse the lightening.

Jesus categorically states that God gives the invitation to be spiritually fed and that invitation comes through Jesus. No one comes to Jesus unless bidden by God. God is at once the initiator, the invitation and the motivator for people to respond. Jesus is the medium or milieu which allows for the result to take place. God as in the days of Moses provides the food, brings it into the presence of the hungry and invites them to feed. However, unlike the time in the wilderness, this time the food is for the spiritual life and wellbeing. The result is faith, and by faith we become nourished more and more richly. It is by faith that we enter into God’s family – the Church and it is in Jesus that we come to faith. The circle ever spirals and by that we come to grow and have life – abundant life.

It is also by faith that we in our turn can bring others to faith – How we live our lives, how we witness to God’s actions in our daily chores, our work and play, and how we bring Jesus’ teachings and bread into the world around us.

And perhaps one of the greatest actions of faith by the community is in the baptism of children and infants. They cannot come to know God, Jesus, or to have faith of their own accord. IT is by our faith that they come, that they experience the invitation and are fed. Do we live up to our faith? Do we keep our vows? Probably not as we ought. However with every baptism and with every renewal of our baptismal vows we are given a new opportunity and a new invitation to come to eat, to be fed and to go forth to do. [Today we celebrate the baptism of Andrew Thomas Richards, and in that baptism may we recall Jesus’ words to come to believe to gain faith and to do the will of God.]