“I am the bread of life, never be hungry”

A sermon for the Tenth Sunday After Pentecost, August 1, 2021

John 6:24-35

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

This offering of Christ is the centerpoint of this 6th chapter of John that we are inhabiting in these upcoming weeks.

This offering of Christ comes to us because the people are hungry.

They aren’t hungry for physical sustenance, they have all had their fill. They’ve all had enough bread and fish to sustain them, so much in fact that 12 baskets of bread were left over.

But, Christ has left.

He’s gone somewhere else to keep teaching.

And, the crowd follows.

Because they hunger.

They have sat and been filled by Christ in a physical way, and they know that this physical offering is but a taste of what is on offer in following Christ.

Bread is such a simple thing.

Flour, water, yeast, & salt.

Time.

Heat.

When you combine these things together, the bounty of creation, the very real living creation in yeast, works together to create sustenance, works together to feed us, to fill us.

There is a reason why the crime of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is the stealing of a loaf of bread.

It is such a simple thing, it is such a natural thing, that to deny to someone that very basic sustenance of life is immediately known as extremely harsh, as a great injustice.

There is a reason that Olive Garden is beloved by college students: never ending breadsticks provide great sustenance for many days. Although, they do get suspicious when you are stuffing them into your backpack (expert tip: if you line your backpack with a grocery bag ahead of time it prevents all of the buttery seasoning goodness from getting all over your bag ).

So, Jesus comes before us and says to the gathered people that the bread they seek is not unlike the manna from heaven, and yet, it is new. The manna that was so needed, that provided for so many in a time of great need, that buoys the faith of the people knowing that God will always provide for them as it was seen in that time of desert wilderness. But, that manna hasn’t come again. Manna spoils when too much is kept. Manna spoils when we hoard it for ourselves. Manna is provided in a specific time for a specific people.

Jesus comes before us as something different.

Jesus comes before us as the bread of life.

Jesus comes before us speaking of a food that lasts for eternity.

Jesus comes before us and speaks of our relationship with God, reflecting the story of Moses, the people, the manna, and tells those gathered “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Gives life to the world.”

What gives you life?

What gives your faith life?

What gives this church life?

When we come to this space, this place of worship, following Christ, getting into our boat and going to where Christ is made physically present, what are we seeking if not the bread that gives life?

Jesus, bread of life.

Jesus stands before us as a symbol of the bounty of creation.

The goodness of creation.

The active life of creation at work in this world.

Time and patience, shaping, forming, tending, caring, putting energy into, to transform the simplest things into something new, something that feeds us, that meets a basic, deeply held need.

“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

There is no barrier in creation that can deny our access to Christ, we simply must come hungry, we must come ready to believe.

We’ve done a really good job in the church and in our society trying to muddle this up.

We’ve created barriers to access.

Physical barriers.

Emotional barriers.

Spiritual barriers.

We’ve harmed one another in order to hoard for ourselves the bread.

But, when we have done that, we’ve simply hoarded up all of the bread that will spoil, we’ve hoarded all of the food that perishes, because the bread of eternal life cannot be limited, is not limited by Christ.

“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

This is radical theology.

This is radical faith.

This is a radical call to follow Christ in a way that cannot be of our own creation, because it is clear that without Christ as the center, we will make a mess of this whole thing.

But, when we put Christ at the center, when we live into our faith that Christ is the bread of life, making that Good News known to the world we live into the reality that “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

I’ll be honest that sometimes my ideas of how this world could operate, of how we could resolve many of the issues we face in this world, could easily be described as radical, overly progressive, socialist, even naive. 

But, I don’t believe these things because I think it is worthwhile to be contrarian or to advocate for new ways of life that are incomprehensible if we only look at the way the world works around us today.

I believe these things because I believe in Jesus Christ.

I have put all of my faith, I have put my life into this belief in Jesus Christ and the model of creation that he so desperately wants us to accept and live into.

I have to.

Because, I come to this table hungry and leave with complete satisfaction each time, because I never thirst for my own sustenance before God.

Even in this past year, a year of immense challenge, a year of flying largely by the seat of our pants, a year of barely hanging on between all of the challenges that come to pass, that have yet come to pass, I have found solace, I have found sustenance in the bread of life.

It is this bread of life that fills us, calls us, inspires and leads us.

It is this bread of life that we break with one another in remembrance of the radical life that was lived and sacrificed for us.

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