May only God’s Word be spoken, and may only God’s Word be heard. Amen.
Did anyone else’s stomach grumble while listening to today’s readings? If I were to guess, I would wager that the lessons were put together shortly before lunch, because it seems like the people responsible for today’s lectionary were a little hungry. For example, in the Old Testament reading we see that Elijah is fed cake by an angel (1 Kings 19:5). Twice (1 Kings 19:7). In today’s Psalm we read, “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). And in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells people that he is the “bread of life” (John 6:35).
The bread of life. Let me set the stage for you: It is early on in Jesus’ ministry. He has turned water into wine, healed some sick people, and his fame is just beginning to spread. The day before this passage takes place, he feeds 5,000 people with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and, later that evening, he walks on water.
Despite his attempt to get away from them, the 5,000 he fed yesterday have followed Jesus and his disciples across the lake to the town of Capernaum. They are hungry for the bread he gave them, and they are hungry for more miracles. Jesus tells them that he is not just some magician, that their hunger is misplaced. I imagine it went something like this:
“You know that hunger and thirst deep inside of you, the one you can’t satiate, even after you’ve had your fill? I’m here to satisfy that hunger. I’m here to quench that thirst. I have come down from heaven to be with you, to teach you, to fill you up, to show you the way. The way is not easy, and before the journey is over, I, myself, will be broken. But out of my brokenness you will know the Love I have for you. It is that Love that formed creation. It is that Love that mends relationships. And it is that Love that holds the promise of eternal life.”
In response to Jesus’ discourse, some of the people look at each other, confused: “Wait a minute, what does he mean he ‘came down from heaven’? Isn’t this guy Mary and Joseph’s son? We know them! They’re just regular people, like you and me. This guy is crazy.”
Jesus’ self-proclaimed identity as the Son of God does not match up with who they know Jesus to be. And if you think about it, what Jesus is claiming does sound crazy! But you and I, we have the gift of hindsight--we know that this Gospel begins with Jesus as the Word made flesh, God dwelling among us (John 1:14).
We also know how the story continues: Jesus goes on to teach more about Love. He heals the sick, shares meals with outcasts, and raises people from the dead. Then he is arrested, beaten, and hung on a cross. But that doesn’t stop him! He is resurrected, and after appearing a few times he shares a breakfast of--what else?--fish and bread on the beach with his disciples.
Each week we, too, come together to share a meal with friends. We approach this table with joy and celebration. We also approach this table broken by illness, sorrow, bitterness, doubt, and anger. This simple meal may look like bread and wine, but we know it’s much more than that. We approach this table to remember the One who came from heaven to live among us. We approach this table to be re-membered, knit together in this pattern of pain, joy, sorrow, and love that is the Body of Christ. And we approach this table to be forgiven, our souls rejuvenated for life outside these walls.
We gather together and approach this table to be made whole. Taste, and see that God is good!
This is in the Episcopal Cathedral in San Salvador, El Salvador