Trinity 9: Food for thought
May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
There are lots of idioms and sayings that include food but are not about food and we are familiar with the point being made when we hear them. A taste of paradise, I’ll eat my hat, or a grain of salt, it’s my bread and butter, Manna from heaven. These are just a few, but is that what Jesus is teaching us in the gospel today?
Like many other people I have a problem with eating bread. Yet bread remains a staple food across the world and sustains life, especially where there is poverty. We all look for something to energise and satisfy us, we all need bread, but what kind of bread do we need?
Of course we are using bread as a metaphor for what is being eaten in our world today. King David is surely not the only one to have ever eaten the bread of betrayal, adultery, or murder. Kings, Presidents and Polititions of all colours have had their fill and let down their people with negitivity, hostility, and name calling. They all eat the bread that objectifies and dehumanises the ‘other’.
We eat the bread of ‘me first’, of having to be right and get our own way, of power and control. We swallow the bread of hurt feelings and resentment sometimes causing eating disorders. Sometimes eating loneliness and fear, isolation, sorrow or guilt and sometimes the bread of revenge or being top dog. Yes we eat all kinds of bread and what we eat says something about us, our nature and our appetite.
There is bread enough for everyone in our world and yet there is famine and far too many go without, hungry, empty, and searching. Have we eaten too much of the perishable bread that leaves us wanting only more of the same. Not all bread sustains life, not all is nutritious. We need to understand where bread comes from and of what it is made.
And that is what Jesus is teaching us in the gospel today. The crowds have turned up hungry again. It was only yesterday he fed 5,000 of them with a couple of fish and a few loaves. Today they want to know when it was he had arrived, rather than question what had happened with yesterday’s feast. Do they want to give thanks to God, do they want to know who Jesus is? Or are they worried they may have missed the next meal, not noticing the miracle that fed more than their bellies just one day ago.
Listening recently to a young child practicing her reading, I was reminded of the story of the magic porridge pot that never ran out. Of course that story is very like the pot of oil and the measure of flour that kept Elijah and the widowed woman in bread until the drought was ended. In both stories, the food endured until it was no longer needed.
Jesus said to them ‘I know you didn’t see God at work but you only want me to provide another meal.’ First centuary people were used to intermittant famine, they people were rightly concerned for their bread, but Jesus is concerned for their lives and ours too. He wants to feed them with God. He tells them, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”
What is that food, where does it come from? The food that endures is Jesus himself. He is the bread that is broken and has been given for the life of the world. Broken and never divided, eaten and never exhausted. He is the bread that consecrates, or makes holy, those who believe in and partake of him. When we believe in Jesus, eating and injesting him into our lives, we live a new and different life. We become people created in the image and likness of God.
As disciples of Christ, we are encouraged to see ourselves and one another as being created in the image and likeness of God. We love and forgive, we pray and we listen, we relate to each other knowing our own faults and being vulnerable. We seek life in all its abundance rather than death.
Jesus told the people, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” He offered himself then and now as the imperishable bread that nourishes and sustains an imperishable life.
Jesus makes that same offer to and for us in every aspect of our lives now. He offers himself in our relationships, in family, in friendships, with enemies, strangers, those who agree with us and those who disagree. In every situation and every day of our life we choose the bread we shall eat, perishable, or imperishable. In doing so we choose the life we want.
As we come to God’s table today and eat the body of Christ, who is the bread of life, I wonder what bread will we choose to eat today? Amen.
The Rev'd Maureen Lunn, St Mary Magdalene, Enfield, 01/08/2021