Tenth Sunday After Pentecost—Year B—August 5, 2012
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Last Sunday, when we began this lectionary series about bread, we heard John’s telling of the feeding of the five thousand. Both that story and the story from Exodus of the manna in the wilderness remind us that God provides, and does so abundantly. There is always enough to satisfy us AND share with others.
Both of those stories have to do with physical bread, the stuff we eat, but the same facts about God are true for all the forms that daily bread can take. As Martin Luther writes in his explanation to the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the small catechism, “God gives daily bread without our prayer, even to all evil people” and that the term daily bread covers:
“everything included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, farm, fields, livestock, money, property, an upright spouse, upright children, upright members of the household, upright and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, decency, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.”
There is no need to live with an attitude of scarcity, constantly worrying that we need to hoard from our neighbors resources for ourselves.
This is all well and good, but today’s gospel speaks of another kind of bread that God also provides to us—the Bread of Life.
The confused crowd thinks that Jesus is talking about bread, food to eat and digest. They do not catch on quickly that Jesus is talking in metaphors.
– I do not know if they are so lost because using language of hungering and thirsting in place of wanting and yearning for something was not common in the day.
– Or maybe it is because the Eucharist hasn’t been instituted yet, so they do not relate Jesus, his body and blood, with food, bread and wine, the way we do.
– Or maybe they are just caught up on the amazing meal Jesus just served them and are looking for a repeat performance.
Whatever the reason, we have the upper hand; we know that he is not talking about actual baked-in-the-oven bread.
But it is actually even before the subject of bread comes up that the crowd is confused. They wonder how Jesus made it to the other side of the sea. You have to remember, they did not see him walking on the water, only the disciples did. The crowd does not understand that Jesus is more than a prophet and a teacher, so they do not realize that he is able to travel in less conventional ways. Although they thought his miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes was stupendous enough to warrant making him a king, they did not understand that it was a sign, drawing a direct line between him and God and therefore them and God. They ask for a sign to prove that he is God’s true intermediary, like Moses was, because they do not yet comprehend that Jesus and God are even more intimately related than that. An intermediary is no longer required between God and the people; Jesus is the direct connection.
It does not occur to the crowd that Jesus’, the Bread of Life’s, signs and wonders and miracles have already outshone the manna story.
– In the wilderness, each person always collected just enough manna for each day. However, the bread of life is always abundant; there is enough for everyone to be filled and have baskets left over.
– Whatever manna remained uneaten overnight rotted, but the bread of life is everlasting.
– Manna needed to be eaten everyday and collected everyday except the Sabbath, but with the bread of life, once is enough, after which no hunger or thirst remains.
The crowd requests a sign like manna because they do not understand that standing right in front of them is the ultimate gift, a sign in and of itself, Jesus, the Bread of Life, the source of eternal life.
Their confusion boils down to one basic fact…they do not understand who Jesus is. But if we are honest with ourselves, do we?
Can you clearly and concisely explain who Jesus is without simply repeating the church jargon that we learn from the time that we can talk?
I cannot…and that is why I do not preach the same sermon week after week. I could say something new about Jesus every week for a whole three-year lectionary cycle and still not have fully explained who the Trinity is. This is the same reason that we use so many names: God, Jesus, Spirit, Three-in-One, Shepherd, Savior of the World, King of the Jews, Son, Abba, Father, Mother, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, the Great I Am, Rabbi, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, Lord, Alpha and Omega, Messiah, Paschal Lamb, Allah…Bread of Life.
You can say something about the divine and be correct, but you can never be comprehensive. There is always something more to say. You simply cannot use finite language to describe and explain the infinite.
Jesus is not just some example to be followed, so asking the question WWJD (what would Jesus do) is not enough.
Jesus is not just a waiter, providing you with your portion of bread and wine for the week.
Jesus is not just a teacher with wisdom to share that you will be tested on later.
Jesus is all of these things, but is also so much more. Jesus is the bread of life, the source of forgiveness of sins and ever lasting life. God loves you more than you can ever imagine is possible and provides for you in more ways than you could ever recognize or understand. And that is why the work of God is not to understand “him whom God has sent,” and it is not just to believe what he says, it is to believe in him. That is where faith comes in, belief does not require proof or understanding, but sometimes a leap of faith.
For me, this week the puzzle of this sermon has been “what does ‘I am the bread of life’ mean?” I know that I have not comprehensively answered that question, but really what it means for you today and what it means for you tomorrow could be different. How that truth impacts my life and yours will probably always be different. I cannot speak fully to what is means for us…so this week I am curious to hear from you what it does mean for you in your daily life. When you have even a momentary answer, please share it with me and the congregation. Go on to the LCF Facebook page and post your answer, send me an email, call me here at church, or come in and tell me…I (and I’ll speak for the congregation too, they) want to hear how Jesus being “Bread of Life” impacts your life.
 Kolb/Wengert translation of Small Catechism in Book of Concord, 2000.