Faith United Methodist Church
August 2, 2015
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Kristabeth E. Atwood
Scripture: John 6:24-35
Prayer of Illumination:
It is through each one of us that your love and the fellowship of your Holy Spirit are made known. It is through the Word that we come to understand God’s purpose more fully. Let us open our ears to what God is speaking to us this day. Amen.
Sermon: Spiritual Food
I don’t know about you, but I’m starving! Are you hungry this morning? It looks like Jay and Carole prepared something for our fellowship time, and I can’t wait. Part of me wants to skip over the sermon and get to the good stuff! What do you think?
Breakfast was quite a long time ago ~ about 5:30 for me. I usually have a mug of decaf and a mid-morning snack around this time, but Sunday throws my schedule all off. And talking about food just makes it worse, right? So, I am feeling a little hungry, or ‘peckish’ as my grandmother would say. But I am not starving. I’ve never truly been starving in my life. Even if I didn’t know exactly where it was coming from, I’ve never had to worry about my next meal. And, for that, I am thankful.
But, even so, I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Buying it. Cooking it. Eating it. And I like variety, as most of us do. Gary can eat the same meal for days (left-overs like we talked about last week), but I like to mix things up a little bit. Back in the 90’s I visited England as a poor college student traveling with other poor college students. We decided to put our money toward transportation and sightseeing and go cheap on the food. After several weeks of Ramen Noodles (brought from home in our suitcases) and grilled cheese sandwiches, I was ready for… I needed…something…. else. I actually lost weight during that trip. Just to prove to you how desperate I was, during the trip home the in-flight meal on British Airways seemed like the best food I had ever tasted.
In our Gospel lesson Jesus recalled an event from his own faith tradition ~ Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert. Freed from slavery in Egypt and traveling with only what they could carry, they had nothing to eat. With their stomachs growling, suddenly Egypt didn’t seem like such a bad place. They complained, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread…” Instead they were free, but starving to death. They began to wonder if the trade-off was worth it.
It’s not likely that any of us have faced starvation, but have you ever been really, really hungry? What does it feel like? When I was serving in Connecticut I participated in the 30 Hour Famine. I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t realize how much the lack of food would affect me intellectually and emotionally. By the end of our time, my patience was shot and it was difficult to remember the simplest little things. The experience gave me a greater appreciation for food and, hopefully, a greater compassion for those who struggle for it.
Every day, across the world, 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – one child every five seconds. Statistics like this should make me think twice before I look in the refrigerator and complain that I have nothing to eat. Organizations like JUMP and the Emergency Food Shelf struggle to keep up with the need in our community. We help by collecting food in our grocery cart to donate each month. And occasionally individuals and families contact the church in need of food. We have our Helping Hands fund so we can give them a grocery card to get them through to the next paycheck or trip to the Food Shelf.
In the Gospel Jesus referred to Manna, bread from heaven. Manna was the Israelites answer to their hunger problem. The Book of Exodus tells us that the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day….” The Israelites, upon seeing the manna, asked, “What is it?” Good question, right? “What is it?” Some have speculated that it was a species of locust, or a kind of fungus, or plant lice, or the honeydew of insects. Whatever it was, all they had to do was accept it, “…the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”
Many years after this wilderness experience we encounter another kind of bread from heaven in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. As Jesus himself tells us, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry…” Like the Israelites, we may be a little confused. What is it? What does he mean? What is he talking about? And, like the Israelites, all we have to do is accept it.
As Lutheran pastor Elizabeth Hunter explains it, “When Jesus says that to eat of the living bread is to never die, we understand that eating also means receiving and believing all that he is for us.” I would like to suggest that when we receive and believe ~ when we accept Jesus as our ‘bread from heaven’ ~ we also take on Jesus’ compassion and are called to share his love. Hunter continues, “As Christ gave himself as bread for the world, the body of Christ-the-church is called to do and be the same.”
Jesus is the bread of life. Bread for you. Bread for me. But what is it? To use the words of Moses, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.” This is good news. Jesus is our spiritual food, our divine nourishment, that we may have the strength to share food ~ physical and spiritual ~ with others who are hungry.
I’m still hungry. You might hear my stomach growling a little bit. But, you know what? I’m not going to starve. In a few moments we will gather around Christ’s table to receive a meal ~ both spiritual and physical. This meal is a gift and all we have to do is accept it. Then we will move from these seats and share coffee and juice and, maybe, a couple of goodies along with fellowship and love. Throughout the Bible and Christian history, food unites people when it is shared. Food given. Food accepted. The Bread of Life, our spiritual food, broken and shared, offered and recieved. Bread the Lord has given us to eat. Let us pray:
You may recognize this as a traditional table prayer:
Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. Thy people bless and grant that we may feast in paradise with thee. Amen.