Scripture John 6: 35; 41-51 Jan Savory
Never be hungry again?
Last week we heard the well-known story of the Loaves and Fishes. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. But John is the only gospel writer who tells us about the teachings of Jesus the next day on the Bread of Life. Today we heard part of those teachings. Jesus starts by accusing the crowd of only coming back because of the free food, and he tells them they need to “work for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” And they ask for this bread.
At this point Jesus tells them that he is that bread, the bread that came down from heaven: “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry”. This bread isn’t like the manna that God gave the Israelites in the desert, which satisfied them for a day, but in due time they all died: “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever”.
And eternal life, too
Don’t we all want to never be hungry again? And don’t we all want eternal life – to live forever? (The same Greek phrase is translated eternal life or live forever and refers more to the quality of life than the duration). Simply defined, “eternal life” is living in relationship with God. So how do we eat this bread? How do we get Eternal life? Well, in the Eucharist, of course! Every time we are present at a service of Holy Communion, we hear the words: “This is my Body” and we eat a piece of bread or a wafer.
Over the last year plus, we have fasted from the Eucharist, and some of us will continue that fast even as churches reopen for in-person worship, for different reasons. Does this mean that we aren’t fed by the bread of life? Not at all. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. There are many ways to come to Christ, to believe in him.
Relationship with God
Coming back to what I said earlier, “eternal life” is living in relationship with God. We get there when we are fed with the Bread of Life. By believing, we enter into this relationship. Believing, or said differently faith or trust, is more than knowing that Jesus died and rose. Faith brings us into communion with Jesus who died and rose. Eating (or feeding on) Christ metaphorically, brings us into relationship with the living Christ, with God. The Eucharist, the Holy Communion, is only one way we build that relationship with God. Any act or experience that enhances our relationship with God feeds us, with the bread that means we’ll never be hungry again.
Holy Communion and Prayer
So, what are some of the other ways we enter into our relationship with God, beyond eating that little, blessed and holy wafer on Sundays? This isn’t a Sunday only relationship.
Well, convention says by praying; I’ve always been a bit envious of people who can just chat to God as if Jesus is sitting in the chair across the room. That never worked for me. It took me many years to learn that praying is more than saying prayers. It is anything that deepens our relationship with God. And that can be almost anything if done with the intention of getting closer to the Divine. The words of the English RC Priest, Dom John Chapman “Pray as you can not as you can’t” has become a motto for me.
Prayer as a buffet table
I think of Prayer, to continue the eating metaphor, not as a prescribed meal, but as a buffet where you choose the food you want or need now. Here is a collage of some items that sit on my buffet table.
Think of what is or should be on your prayer buffet as I talk about a few of mine – ones that you may not think of as praying exactly, but done with the intention of sharing time with God, they are food for your soul. It helps me sometimes to light a candle to remind myself of my intention.
Co-creators with God
I’ll start with anything creative; God has made us co-creators in this universe. Whether we are cooking a meal, knitting a scarf, building bookshelves or doing any other form of art or craft we are in communion with God our Creator. The making the collage you are looking at was an act of prayer.
Creation – the first Bible
Being in nature is a big one for me: watching God’s creatures at pay, listening to the ripple of a stream or to waves on the shore, marveling at the size and shape of trees, mesmerized by the brilliant colours of a sunset. Creation has been called God’s first Bible and the first incarnation. It is the first way God chose to show us what he is like.
What others create
Other people’s creations. Artists, whether painters, writers poets, filmmakers, to name a few, give us insight into God’s world as they see it. This helps me know God, myself and others better
Loving my neighbour
Being with others is the last one I’ll mention today. Learning to see through their eyes, listening deeply to their stories – without rushing in to add my 2 cents worth, sharing their pain and their joy. And being the hands of God to help them as Jesus would have. Maybe, just maybe, I can offer the Bread of Life to someone else, a way for them to never be hungry again.
Never be hungry again
The feast is there, and I’m invited, your invited. What’s on your buffet table? You are invited to feed; God offers the bread of eternal life here and now. We just have to reach out and take it. We are all worthy to receive the abundance of God’s love and grace. So come to the table, be it the communion table or your own smorgasbord of Prayer. Come often; come hungry; Take, eat, I am the bread of life says Jesus. Feed on Him. And never be hungry again! Amen