Saturday, July 31, 2021

Pentecost 10B

Bread for the Journey
(John 6:24-35)

Jesus, Bread of life,
reveals God's love most clearly,
born as one of us.

One who did good works
and called those who would follow
to believe in him.

One by whom we live
(not satisfied but sustained),
this Bread of heaven.

This strange metaphor
has pre-Christian origins
yet still somehow works:

"You are invited!"
to life in all its fullness,
the way of Jesus.

© Jeff Shrowder, 2021, on The Billabong, A worship resource following the Revised Common Lectionary

John 6:24-35

24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 26Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."

28Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?"

29Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 30So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

34They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." 35Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Bread of Life

Today's gospel passage continues Jesus' Bread of Life discourse, homily, or talk from last Sunday. My gospel of John and John 6 notes from Pentecost 9B also relate to this week.

John's Gospel is famous for Jesus' double Amens (so be it, be it thus, may it be, for sure); chapter 6 includes four in verses 26, 32, 47, 54. Surprisingly the old Roman Catholic default Douay-Rheims is the only English version I know that retains the original. Others tame and dilute it: Verily Verily – Truly Truly – Most Assuredly.

In 2 Corinthians 1:20 the apostle Paul describes Jesus Christ as the fulfilling Yes! [never ever a no] for all God's promises! Paul continues by saying we respond to Jesus' authority with our own "Amen!"

"For as many as are be the promises of God, in Jesus they all are yes; therefore also by Jesus we say Amen to the glory of God through us."

It feels as if Jesus himself echoes this in John's gospel!

Knowing Jesus as bread of life means being connected to him, as John's gospel says, we "abide in Jesus" so we can't become separated. When we abide in Jesus, the bread of life feeds us as whole people, we're "in Christ" as Paul would express it; we become part of Jesus who becomes part of us, and we instinctively walk in the way of Jesus with love, mercy, and justice.

Today's Reading

Jesus (sort of) chided his disciples for seeking him out because he'd given them enough to eat. More than one commentary said Jesus' followers had eyes in their stomachs, but how is that even negative when food, water, air, and shelter are necessary for survival? (I'm not sure any of them did say it was negative.) For us, also, but especially in that time and place with no social or economic safety net, with exorbitant taxes, with women and children needing to rely on income-producing males, with food being necessary for the bodily health that's necessary for employment? It's people being "realistic," yet Jesus offers and provides nurturing sustenance that's more than physical.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." John 6:33-35

Interpreting Jesus' Bread of Life sayings can be tricky because it's easy to assume Jesus is all about spiritual and spirituality, yet scripture, Jesus, and our own experience demonstrate how earthbound, physical, and material life in the Spirit is. God created humanity from the substance of creation, out of dirt (hummus—not sure if the word human derives from that or not) beneath our feet. Christianity's central proclamation is that in Jesus of Nazareth God came to earth in a real human body like ours—not the appearance of one. In addition, sacraments mediate God's presence with elements of creation – water, bread, fruit of the vine, though any liturgical scholar will say that's much too shorthand. We can't have sacraments unless we have a healthy creation. In the creeds we affirm "I believe in the resurrection of the body" (Apostles Creed) or "the resurrection of the dead" (Nicene Creed). The apostle Paul tells us the risen Christ is the first fruits of the new creation. The resurrected Jesus' body was fully physical and even retained scars of crucifixion—yet a resurrected body has an additional dimension. Scripture reports Jesus entering spaces without going through a door, yet he was fully embodied. Christianity's central proclamation is… physical death and bodily resurrection.

Abiding in Jesus

Terminology in any language can be confusing; translating or interpreting one spoken language into another is more art than it is science. A Hebrew perspective would insist you don't have a soul—you are a soul. How you express in English our divine Ruah/Ruach/Spirit, life-force, godly spark, heart (a wonderfully comprehensive Hebrew concept) depends on the scripture passage, the religious tradition, the author's original language and other factors. In any case, most would insist we don't disconnect Mind (is "mind" philosophical, spiritual, psychological, religious? Anyone ready to write a series of books?) and Spirit from Body because we can't separate all the facets of being human.

Everyone has been with someone who has a serious illness, possibly a terminal one. We've observed a frail, failing body, yet many times we've noticed the essential person still is there, with their usual emotions, intellect (even if a little slower), and sense of humor. We've also encountered (at times probably been there, done that) someone so discouraged and debilitated that even if their body looks and functions okay, they can't think straight and their emotions may be confused, inappropriate, or non-existent. Despite the necessity of our physical bodies, these experiences show our essence may be more spiritual than it is physical—or they're at least equal.

We refer to spiritual practices that primarily focus on connecting with God's presence and God's ways, but they're always about us as whole people. In the creeds we affirm "We look forward to the resurrection of the dead" [Nicene Creed] and "I believe [trust] in the resurrection of the body" [Apostles Creed]

We abide with Jesus the bread of life that nourishes and feeds us as whole people; with Jesus as our bread of life, we walk with love, mercy, and justice.

Next Sunday

• 08 August, Pentecost 11B – John 6:35-51

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