The Bread of Life
My friends, I invite you to a celebration and an adventure. You are invited to join a growing number of brothers and sisters all over this planet in celebrating the good news that the new age of God is literally transforming this present age! You are invited to join them in the unprecedented adventure of allowing God to use your life to change this world. You are invited to dare to believe that God is conspiring through your life and the lives of others like you to make a difference in his world.
God calls us to hope and to action. Our hope is based on the biblical faith that God is very much alive and is very much the Lord of history. God is, even now, working to bring God’s new future into being.
Our action is made possible by the power of God’s spirit working in our lives to change this world. We are part of that mysterious work that uses the small, the insignificant, the invisible, and the incomprehensible to change the world.
Now, to accept this invitation, you have to do a couple of things. First of all, you have to tune your ear so that you can hear the gospel. For example, in the text for today there are two levels of communication going on. This is characteristic of the Gospel of John, where there is always the message of the surface and then the message of the deeper level of the spirit. In today’s lesson we read about the “bread of life.” We know this is a message for the deeper part of us. Jesus is not talking about literal bread, but about that which satisfies the hunger of a soul.
And aren’t our souls hungry? Is this hunger what lies behind the insatiable need to consume more and more?
At our home we receive a lot of catalogs advertising all sorts of things. I know you get them too. Have you “heard” the message of these catalogs with their attractive models and beautiful wares? Do you know what they are really saying to us? They’re saying, “You’re not happy. And you won’t be happy until you have what we are selling. Look at us. Don’t we look happy? We are happy! But, you’re not, so place your order today!” And our garages and attics fill to the brim with stuff, and we numb ourselves with alcohol and drugs, all the while trying to satisfy the hunger of the soul!
This reality is what makes the text from the Gospel of John so incredibly relevant. Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is not magic and neither is Jesus some form of insurance. Jesus is the bread of life that satisfies the hungry soul.
While preparing for this message, I turned to our hymnal and looked up the hymns listed under “Holy Communion.” I found these lines that keep playing in my mind: “You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat. Come, give to us, O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat” (“You Satisfy the Hungry Heart,” The United Methodist Hymnal [Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989], 629).
The spirit of those lines is captured in a little parable about a holy man who rested beneath a tree at the outskirts of a city. One day he was interrupted by a man who ran to him saying, “The stone! The stone! Please give me the stone!” He told how in a dream an angel had spoken to him of a man outside the city who would give him a stone and make him rich forever.
The holy man reached into his pocket and pulled out a large diamond. “Here,” he said, “the angel probably spoke of this. I found it on my journey here. If you want it, you may have it.”
The diamond was as big as his fist and perfect in every way. The man marveled at its beauty, clutched it eagerly, and walked away from the holy man. But that night he could not sleep, and before dawn he woke the holy man saying, “The wealth! The wealth! Give me the wealth that lets you so easily give away the diamond.”
Jesus is the bread of life and in him we satisfy the hungry heart. Why do we come here for worship? Not to simply serve God. That is a pagan idea. We do not have to cajole God to be bounteous to us. God already is bounteous to us, because Jesus is the bread of life. We come to be served; to have Jesus put on the apron and spread a table before us. We come to be sensitized to what God has already given. We come to receive the wealth that lets us give away all our riches. We come for the bread of life.