Tenth Sunday after Pentecost -- Proper 14B (8/9/2009)
Lessons: 1 Kings 19:4-8 Psalm 34:1-8 Ephesians 4:25-5:2 St. John 6:35, 41-51 Semicontinuous Series: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 Psalm 130
Prayer of the Day: Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven to be the true bread that gives life to the world. Give us this bread always, that he may live in us and we in him, and that, strengthened by this food, we may live as his body in the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42 They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" 43 Jesus answered them, "Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
St. John 6:35, 41-51 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
There are some experiences that leave a person exhausted and drained - and there are others that seem to fill one's spirit. For me, those experiences are varied. I find myself tested by intricate and repetitive tasks, meetings that go longer than they should, conflict that isn't easily resolved, and obligations that seem to have little meaning. On the other hand I am fed by connecting with people in a significant way, discovering new insights and new directions, a weekend of camping with my family, a concert put on by one of my favorite bands, an evening of picking bluegrass tunes with friends, hiking into a remote part of the country. After these kinds of experiences I find that, at least for a time, I am often walking on air. They are experiences that feed me. And the more of them I have, the more strength and endurance I have to offer to those moments that are more difficult for me.
There are times when one needs to be fed. When life becomes challenging, hopes turn into disappointments, and pains come more often than reliefs, one needs to be fed. Jesus knew what that was like. Surely his followers knew what that was like as well. And whether or not they suspected it, the time would come when it would take everything they had and even more just to survive as his followers. The journey would become so demanding that they would need to be fed. Not just now and again, but on a regular basis. Fed in such a way that they found strength to stay faithful to him, even if it should cost them their lives.
So he provided bread for them. Not just the bread that he multiplied earlier in the sixth chapter of John - multiplied from five loaves to a meal for five thousand families. But an even more remarkable bread. An even more powerful bread. The bread of his own body. And the promise that whoever receives that bread in faith will live forever - a promise extended to his followers, and a promise extended to us as well.
Friendships, camping, music, and nature feed me. But that kind of feeding only lasts for a time. Thanks be to God for the meal that feeds us eternally: the bread of life that is Jesus, our Risen Lord. As we eat and drink of him together, he feeds us indeed. And we are strengthened. Strengthened for faith and hope and life, in a way that will sustain us even beyond the end of this life.
I'm grateful to follow a Lord who loves me enough to give life itself for me. I'm grateful to follow a Lord who both assures me of God's grace, and calls me into faithful living. I'm grateful to follow a Lord who knows that being true to him will not always be easy - and who has provided a way for me to be fed and strengthened along the way. I hope you'll join me, and countless other believers across the face of the earth, as we gather at the Lord's table this weekend. He will feed us. We will be strengthened. And for those who dine with us, life will never end. That is Christ's promise: A promise that can be trusted.
Exploring This Week's Gospel:
- How might it have been difficult to be one who followed Jesus on his journeys?
- What difficulty would the disciples face in the years that followed the time Jesus spent with them?
- How would the meal he gave them continue to strengthen them through those times?
Connecting with This Week's Gospel:
- When have I felt sapped by the experiences of my life?
- How has God provided for me along the way?
- What role has the Sacrament of Holy Communion played in that feeding?