2018-08-05/11th Sunday after Pentecost-B/Community Lutheran/Pr Joe Vought
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 John 6:24-35
What is strange is that this time of year we have five Sundays of the Bread of Life in John chapter 6:1-69. It began last Sunday with feeding the 5000 and continues for the next 3 Sundays. Why must we hear Jesus say “I am the Bread of Life” for five weeks? I think it is because our human appetites are so many and so out of whack. Jesus seems to think so too. When the crowds come looking for him, he says, “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 the food which endures for eternal life.” Maybe they thought, “Wow, if Jesus can feed 5000 and keep making bread for us, we won’t have to work or serve.” We find the same problem in Exodus: “People complained against Moses in the wilderness, ‘If only we had died in Egypt where we ate our fill of bread.’” Fact is you can have a full stomach and still be enslaved. When God said, “I am going to rain bread for you,” he said, “each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.” When we insist on more and are anxious, the Lord’s Prayer says we have enough, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
We are anxious about many things. When Jesus says I am the bread of life he reminds us hunger is more than an empty stomach to be filled. Last week I met a man whose heart was broken for a loved one who died, a chasm of grief and yearning. I listened to a woman who prays for peace in the midst of conflict. How many of us have a hunger for serenity, for reconciliation, for home, hunger for love and relationships. You don’t have to listen too closely to hear it.
The most radical thing Jesus did was to be with people in times of joy and need. It was usually around food. It seems he was always eating with his disciples, family and friends. Strange thing though, he never did understand the rules of the day because he would hang out and eat with anyone: sinners, harlots, tax collectors, even Roman Centurions and people of mixed race. Fr. Richard Rohr says, “Jesus didn’t please anybody, it seems he was always, breaking the rules and making a bigger table.” Jesus was always listening, setting a table, telling a parable, inviting people to understand what it means to be part of God’s beloved community. Helping them to see that in God’s grand economy there are no First Class seats, Diners Club members, but we are all connected.
Scholars tell us when Jesus invited the 5000 people to sit down and blessed the loaves and fish a little boy offered to share, people realized they could too. And in those circles of sharing, the food they may have been carrying for themselves became a feast for all. Listen to how Luther speaks of daily bread: “God gives daily bread to all people but we ask God to help us receive it with thanksgiving. What does daily bread mean? Everything for the necessities of life and our bodies: food, drink, clothing, house, farms, livestock, money property, a good spouse, children, faithful rulers, good government, weather, peace, health, loved ones and neighbors.”
Because Jesus is the bread of life, our thanksgiving to God and connection to others is vital. I visited my sister and nephew in Illinois two weeks ago. It was the first I had seen her since our parents died. If you’ll excuse the pun, we shared “womb service” and now that parents are gone it is important to reconnect and appreciate each other. We ate good food and toasted our lives and I met some of her dear friends. It was a blessed time to give thanks, talk about our family, look at pictures, review some history, do some forgiveness and appreciate each other. And you are family as we gather to share our lives and eat a meal.
Because Jesus is the Bread of Life we share our lives and daily bread with those we know and those we do not know in ever widening circles. 20 years ago I met Rev. John Rutsindintwarane from Rwanda when he came to Muhlenberg, Harrisonburg for Holy Communion, the Bread of Life. We became brothers, then I met you Community and what a joy in sharing to see our how our family of God grows. Because of John and Robin in Rwanda we met Pr. Edward Makara and Flora over a meal in Rwanda 3 years ago and became friends. And now he is with us today. Yesterday we opened up our Church for a Health Fair, over 40 men, women and children received medical attention and needed healthcare. Social Ministry, Stephen Ministry and other service groups were also there. Community, we are meeting new people living up to our name.
Because we believe Jesus is the Bread of Life who shares his life with us and the whole wide world, we open our doors, we build Community. We set tables, we make new friends and even our own anxieties melt away as we give thanks learn to serve each other and our neighbors. And guess what we are about to do in this liturgy? We will set the table where Jesus is the host and the meal, the Bread of life and all are welcome. Thanks be to God! Amen.