I never write out my sermons in advance, or at least it's very rare; instead I make many pages of notes and research, write out mind maps and bullet points and finally prepare a one page diagram to have as a prompt if needed. I know what I intend to say, I know what my key points are and I let the Holy Spirit work in me and bring the words that are needed. When I pray "may I speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" I trust that it WILL happen. The picture below is the final diagramatic representation I took into the pulpit with me. The words I have written out are those which I think I said.
Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Last week we heard the amazing episode of Jesus feeding the 5000; He took the tiny amount of loaves and fishes and multiplied it into enough to feed all the people on the hillside with food to spare. Jesus suddenly had people wanting to be around him, he had crowds following him and they wanted more. They wanted more food and more miracles and more shows of his authority.
Today we hear Jesus tell the people what they really need. He tells them that they are wrong to look for food again. He tells them that they should not actually be looking for physical food; they should be looking to be fed by the Holy Spirit. He tells them that the bread they are searching for is not the food but himself.
The Bread of Life, the Bread of Heaven.
Bread of Life. Not the medicine or the vitamins; not the chocolate, cake or steak. The Bread of life. Bread is plain, ordinary, everyday. Bread is sustaining and a main part of life; it is a staple of most of the western world; a staple of the middle east in Jesus' time. Jesus was referring to himself as something needed to stay alive, something essential and for life itself.
Bread of Life. We know, and they knew, that bread goes stale or goes mouldy. It does not last forever, in fact in hot climates it is past it's best the day after it's made. Bread is limited in its ability to sustain and in the worst case scenarios can cause harm. Jesus was referring to himself as the bread that lasts forever, the bread that never harms and always gives life.
In Zambia I saw for myself what this means. I saw people who eat once a day if it's a good day; people who are constantly hungry and have no means of making their situation better. I met people who need their own bread, Nshima, to fill their stomachs. And yet these people do not focus on their physical needs; these people are full of joy and love and hope. I met people who although hungry were filled with the truth of Jesus in their lives and the sure and certain knowledge that He will sustain them.
This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said "I am the bread of life." Jesus feeds us. He feeds us on the inside with love and hope and grace and forgiveness. This is the true manna from heaven, this is the food we need to live full lives as we were designed.
When we take communion we share in this bread of life; we share in Jesus and with Jesus and with all christians across all of time. In this feeding we are commissioned to share the bread of life. We are told to "work for food which endures" and the word work is there for a reason. We are called by God to work for Him, to share His love and the good news of Jesus. We are called to be peacemakers, to see the similarities rather than the differences in people and work to bring everyone together. We are called to share the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus and to live as an outpouring of that unconditional love.
And so this week we are tasked to share the bread of life. Perhaps we will get in touch with someone from whom we are alienated. Perhaps we will try to heal a rift between two people we know. Maybe we'll take part in an Churches Together event or an Inter Faith event. Whatever it may be, we are called upon to heal rifts that we see; let us go this week and bring peace and completeness into the world as Jesus called us to do.