Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Be the Bread

John 6: 51-58 
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
August 16, 2015

You’re hungry. You want something right now. You’re lacking in some way. This is the assumption of most advertising. We’re wanting. We come out of the womb wanting. Even though we might not need whatever is being sold, just the very act of putting something in front of us can create desire. So we listen and look. Sometimes we are entertained, yet we are not filled. In fact, we may want it even more.

Jesus said, “Follow me.” But we also follow Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Mashable, Jon Stewart, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Weight Watchers, the Wall Street Journal, numerous news outlets, and any other number of gurus to help us with our hunger.

What do you want right now, what do you hunger for? Are you tired, wish you could go back to bed? Is your stomach rumbling? What are you thinking about, where’s your mind right now? Is there something weighing on your heart? Do you want a drink or a smoke? Are you restless or worried—restless or worried about what? Does something hurt inside? Write it down in your bulletin, somewhere near where the scripture is printed.

Often these hungers are substitutes for what really lights our fire: knowing who we really are, where we belong in the world, what our purpose is.

It seems almost tasteless to speak of hunger in these terms when millions of people don’t have enough to eat. How dare we afford ourselves the luxury of these existential hungers. But we who are indeed rich need to get our spiritual act together in order to help feed the world, both physically and spiritually. In our mostly middle to upper middle class suburban culture, what we once needed in order to survive—food, shelter, clothing, relationships, education, a source of income—have now become things we want in order to feel satisfied.

But being satisfied is a loaded gun in a culture built upon the concept of wanting but not always getting more. We’re wanting on the inside, and there’s a whole machine at work with the response, “You can have it all. Here it is.” We are surrounded by advertising: on the radio, television, newspaper, billboards, and now every page we look at on the internet. It’s become a habit to fill our internal emptiness and despair with external answers. Hungry? Here’s some fast food. Tired? Here’s the best bed you’ll ever sleep on OR here’s a pill or a snack or whatever to give you energy. Overweight? Here’s a buffet of diets to choose from. Have a want with no name on it, just some gnawing desire inside you that you can’t ignore? We’ll come up with something (or many somethings) that we’re sure will seem to fill that aching hole inside you. 


And what is that aching hole? Often our hungers are open wounds in need of healing. Needs that never got filled. Feeling like we’re not enough. Not knowing who we really are. Not knowing why we’re here, what’s our purpose in this life, and feeling like we’re running out of time to find out.

While I was on vacation, I was living the life of Riley. I don’t even know who Riley is, but I know it means I was taking it easy, detached from my usual life. For three of the four Sundays, I didn’t go to church. I slept in, ate a late breakfast, did a little work in the garden, went for a walk with my husband, spent time with my family. Which seemed reasonable, since for me, church is my work, my vocation.

Last week I thought it would be a good idea to go to church, to sort of ease back into the practice. I went to
Saints Andrew and Matthew Episcopal Church in Wilmington, a church I admire for its ministry to their neighborhood.

The supply preacher, a Lutheran pastor with Episcopal chops, preached on the lectionary: previous verses from the gospel of John about Jesus being the Bread of life. As I listened to his words, about how God promises through Jesus that God will be with us without telling how, just that God is indeed with us, tears began to roll down my cheeks. And they kept coming, through the end of his message and into the liturgy for the Eucharist, as I got on my knees and said the familiar words, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

I realized I had been hungry for church, not just for words of forgiveness and promise but how these become the very food that sustains me.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. I don’t know how this is supposed to happen. That’s why we call it the mystery of our faith. But I know it has happened in my life. Time and again God has reached into my life of dead ends and raised me up. When has God reached into your life and raised you up? Write down a few words about that near the scripture. If you think God has not reached into your life and raised you up, think about the people who have loved you no matter what. Write down a name or three. Maybe one of them is in this room.

And when I doubt if it’ll happen again, I need to not only hear those words of promise but eat the bread and drink the cup that bears that promise. What does Communion mean to you? Whatever it is, write it down. Even if it’s a question mark, write it down.

Now look again at what you’re hungry for, what you want right now. Are there any dots to be connected there? From your hunger, what you want, to what God has done in your life, to this Table?

Jesus said, “I am the living bread.” As in, “I am who I am.” The God whom we do not see, but we do get to see what God is doing and being and becoming. Jesus, the one who lives in God, who lives the message, who is the message, is the living bread, that which does not satisfy but sustains, always leaving us hungering for more…and there always is more.

But it doesn’t end there. We are made in God’s image. “I am who I am.” You are who you are. “I am the living bread.” You are the living bread. “Do this in remembrance of me.” Remember who you are. When we partake of the living bread, it becomes a part of us; we become a part of the living bread. Whenever we feast of God’s good things, they become a part of us. “We are what we eat.” We are what we consume. Are we merely consumers? Or are we hungry for something else? Something that not only sustains but transforms us into living bread for the world. I once read, “Life is the Mass. And you are the Eucharist.” Life is worship and being in the presence of God. We are the body of Christ, living bread for the world. Be the bread. Amen.

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