Greetings to you my sisters and brothers,
To start us off this week, I like to challenge you with a short quiz!
See how many of these five questions you can get right (answers follow the sermon below).
- As of 2021, which British baking firm is the most popular bread brand in the United Kingdom?
- What invention by John Montagu was a good thing for bakers?
- According to old wives tales, what does eating bread crust do to a person’s hair?
- What brand of bread was advertised on TV with Brian Glover declaring it’s Bread wi’ Nowt Taken Out?
- Which biblical town has a name which means House of Bread in Hebrew?
I hope this little quiz about bread has helped you to remember our gospel reading from last week – where we heard that Jesus fed 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. What we have heard in today’s reading happens just the day after that great miracle and the crowds have come looking for Jesus and his disciples once again – but are they here because of that miracle or are they here to see if there’s more free food on the go? Jesus is not so sure!
We live as hungry people in a hungry world.
Like the crowds following Jesus we are looking for something that will sustain and nourish our lives, something that will feed and energise, something that will fill and satisfy. Everyone is looking for bread.
But the problem is not that we are hungry, but the kind of bread we eat to satisfy our hunger.
Just for a moment I’d like us to think about bread as a metaphor for the things that we are hungry for – the metaphorical varieties of bread being eaten in our lives and in the world today.
In Afghanistan, Yemen and Mexico soldiers and militants are eating the bread of violence and war.
Many politicians across the globe share the bread of negativity, hostility, and name-calling.
A little closer to home, many of us eat the bread of having to be right and getting our own way. We eat the bread of hurt feelings and resentment. Sometimes we eat the bread of loneliness, fear and isolation. There are times when we eat the bread of sorrow or guilt. There are other times when we eat the bread of power and control. Sometimes we eat the bread of revenge or one-upmanship. We eat all kinds of bread. And the bread we eat reveals something about the nature of our appetites.
The world is full of bread and yet far too many live in hunger – empty and searching. That says something about our appetites and the bread we have eaten. It’s a sure sign that what we have eaten cannot deliver real life. It is perishable bread that nourishes only a perishable life. It leaves us wanting only more of the same.
Not all of this bread sustains and grows life. Not all bread is nutritious. If we want to know the nutritional value, we have to look beyond the bread – asking where did it come from? What are its ingredients?
That’s what Jesus is teaching in today’s gospel. The people have arrived and they are hungry. Just yesterday Jesus fed 5000 of them with five loaves and two fish. Today they show up and their first question is, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
They do not marvel at yesterday’s miracle, give thanks for God’s generosity or even wonder who this rabbi is. It sounds more as if they are worried that they might have missed the next meal – that Jesus started without them and they are too late. They saw no sign, no miracle in yesterday’s feeding. They saw nothing more than fish and bread. They either refused or were unable to see beyond the fish and bread. They are interested only in their own appetites and Jesus knows it.
“Very truly, I tell you,” he says “you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves,”. The people are concerned for their bellies. Jesus is concerned for their lives. The people want to feed themselves with bread. Jesus wants to feed them with God. “Do not work for the food that perishes,” he tells them, “but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
And the food that he is talking about, the food that endures is Jesus himself. He is the bread that is broken and distributed for the life of the world. He is the bread that is broken and yet never divided. He is the bread that is eaten and yet never exhausted. He is the bread that consecrates those who believe in him and consume him into their very selves.
When we believe in Jesus, eating, ingesting, and taking him into our lives, we are encouraged to live differently. We are to see ourselves and one another as persons created in the image and likeness of God rather than as obstacles or issues to be overcome. We must trust the silence of prayer rather than the words of argument.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells the people. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” He is offering the people himself. He is the imperishable bread that nourishes and sustains imperishable life.
Jesus makes the same offer to each one of us. He offers himself to us in every one of our relationships: family, friends, strangers, enemies, those who agree with us and those who disagree. In every situation and in each day of our lives we choose the bread we will eat, perishable or imperishable and in so doing we also choose the life we want.
So, in this coming week and beyond challenge yourself to consciously choose love and forgiveness over anger and retribution. Relate to others with intimacy and vulnerability rather than superficiality and defensiveness.
Listen for God’s voice rather than your own.
“I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
May God Bless you and those you hold dear in in this coming week.
ANSWERS TO QUIZ
- The sandwich (John Montagu was the 4th Earl of Sandwich)
- Makes it curlier