The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 9, 2009
John 6:35, 41-51
St. Francis, Norris
“…one may eat of it and not die.”
Our homiletics class at Sewanee was warned about these weeks in year B of lectionary readings. The professor told us to be sure we didn’t preach everything we know about bread on the first go round. For five weeks straight we talk about bread in the gospel. This is bread week three so we still have two more after this week.
Why is bread the subject of so much of Christ’s presence in the world anyway? Why not potatoes or steak? Why bread? I suppose there are many possibilities but I would like to share my own personal views on the matter.
First of all, bread is so very basic in our lives. It always has been and always will be I am sure. Even when you hear about the worst of prison food it includes bread. Bread and water. Basic grains from the earth mixed with yeast and water and maybe salt depending on the recipe. The point is that it is the most basic of food.
Of course, this story starts with the bread of heaven or manna that we read about in Exodus. If we were using the old lectionary, we would have read the story of Moses and his leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land a couple of weeks ago. If you remember the story, the Israelites were complaining to Moses that he had led them out of slavery, only to put them in a position where they were starving to death in this wilderness he had found. Moses heard their complaints and went to God for them. From that time on, God made manna fall from heaven every night in order that they would have food.
This manna was something very special. It would only keep for one day and if anyone tried to hoard it, it would go bad and turn into worms the very next day. The one exception to this was that on the day prior to the Sabbath, the manna that fell would not spoil for two days because no manna fell on the Sabbath. This manna is described as a sort of flake that was gathered from the ground. The key is that it fell daily and could not be stored. It fell daily. So it would have been a request for our daily bread that Moses had requested from God. Does that ring a bell?
When Jesus was asked to teach us how to pray, a very important part of that prayer, The Lords Prayer, was give us this day our daily bread. DAILY bread. THIS day. In other words we are given what we need to survive every day and we are given this essential need by God.
On our way back from Georgia this week we were playing new CD of Disney songs by various country and bluegrass artists. It really is a pretty good CD. Anyway, when the Bear Necessities came on I listened to it with a new perspective...a theological perspective.
Phil Harris sang the original and some of the lyrics are as follows:
Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That's why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life
And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it
I'll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you.
The bare necessities are what God provided in the wilderness. The bare necessities are what Jesus is teaching us to pray for in the Lords prayer.
Then when we come to today’s Gospel we get something a little more than the bare necessities. Actually a lot more. We get more than just enough sustenance for a twenty four hour period. We get enough bread for all of eternity. And we get it all at one sitting.
Jesus is not being cagey or vague at this juncture. He comes right out and says, I AM the bread of life. I am the bread that came down from heaven he says. The Jews are saying, “Oh no, you didn’t come from heaven.” You came from Joseph and Mary. How could you possible say you came from heaven?
Jesus has an answer for them but they, like many of us, still do not get it. He tells them that no one can come to him unless drawn by the Father. In other words there can only be some sort of divine pull to be able to believe in Jesus and that he came from heaven.
Now, what I am hearing is that God will supply us with sustenance no matter what. We are all given the bare necessities. However, in order to go beyond that requires something on our part. The bare necessities that God provides keeps us alive only one day at a time and only until the end of our natural lifetime. All the Hebrews that ate the manna from heaven died, eventually.
God had supplied the manna, that they might stop their grumbling and continue their journey to the Promised Land. Now we see this journey at the gates to the Promised Land. The Promised Land is eternity and Jesus is the gate. God has provided the bare necessity for all these years but now it is time to look beyond bare necessity and think of eternity.
Unlike the manna Jesus tells us that He is the living bread and whoever eats of this bread will live forever. The manna came to the people daily. Jesus came down from heaven in a different way. More is required than merely gathering in to attain the living bread. In order to attain this living bread a simple belief is required.
Look at it this way. God made the manna fall from heaven to us to keep us alive from day to day. Give us this day our daily bread. God still does that for us. God provides us with the bare necessities. This bread is different in that God came down from heaven to give us this bread personally. Not bread dropped from the sky but bread handed to us as individuals. Not group bread but personal bread. Not temporary sustenance but permanent nourishment. The true bread of life. The body of Christ, the bread of heaven.