Benediction Online

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bread = Jesus

Ephesians 3:14-21

A while back, I visited a Unity church in the Bay Area. It was a clear, warm morning and so I wasn’t surprised when the worship leader started by saying what a beautiful morning it was. “On a morning like this”, she said, ‘I wake up with my heart full of joy and I just want to say Thank you, Thank you… to my self.”

I was astonished. Thank you to myself! I was praising God not my self. Later I talked to the friend whose church it was, and she said, “Well there’s really no difference.” I beg to differ.

Certainly the Holy Spirit dwells within those of us who have enrolled in the kingdom of God, as the reading from Ephesians says, we are strengthened in our inner beings with power through his Spirit, and Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. But that’s very different from saying that I, myself, am God. Yet we live in a culture which emphasizes the importance of self-esteem, of personal achievement, of individual choice.

We have been reading the Gospel of Mark. But today there is a change. We’re in John, beginning to read John Chapter 6. The next five weeks will be devoted to this chapter which talks about Jesus as the bread of life. John starts his account of Jesus’ teaching by telling us about the great miracle of the feeding of a large crowd – other gospellers tell us it was five thousand plus women and children.

Here we see in physical form the teaching we are about to hear – Jesus feeds the people. Jesus gives bread which, when broken, multiplies so that when everyone is full there is more left over than there was to begin with.

What is it with Jesus and bread?

At the beginning of the Exodus, the original Passover, the people took unleavened bread because there wasn’t time to make bread with yeast, and ever since, unleavened bread has been a symbol of the Passover. In the desert, when they were hungry, the Hebrews received manna –  a bread from a heaven – to sustain them. Jesus broke bread and fed more than five thousand; he blessed the bread at the Last Supper and said it was his body; he made himself known to the disciples on the road to Emmaus by breaking bread. At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus told Satan “Mankind does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Bread is a symbol of that which sustains us. If Jesus had been born in Asia no doubt he would have described himself as rice, but in the Middle East, like here, bread is the staple. So Jesus is the food which sustains us. Jesus is the Word of God. We do not live by physical bread alone but by the ongoing creative presence of the Word of God, of Jesus the Christ, living in our world and bringing us life in our hearts and minds. Notice that it’s not an either/or – Jesus did feed the people, he didn’t just teach them. Mankind lives by bread and the word of God.

We symbolize that here whenever we make Eucharist together. We listen to the word of God in the scriptures and then we meet with God in the symbolic feast of bread and wine; Christ’s body and blood given for us, and in the process we are ourselves are turned into the Body of Christ.

We are what we eat. As we feast on the word of God and let it digest in our hearts, as we eat the Eucharistic bread and let it digest in our stomachs, so we are transformed and become more and more the Christ-like beings that God made us to be. Which means becoming one with God.

But this is very different from saying that I am God. When we think or act as if we are God, we have displaced God from God’s rightful place. We have made an idol of ourselves.

Our physical bodies are dependent upon food and water. Starve us and before long we weaken and die. On a spiritual level we are as dependent upon God for our lives as on a physical level we are dependent upon food. When we turn our backs on God again and again we wither as surely as if we turn away from food. It may not seem that way at first – often people who fast remark on higher physical energy levels – but as we refuse to listen to the Spirit; as we refuse to feed ourselves through word and sacrament so we weaken and our spirits become mean, grasping, and turned inward.

I am not suggesting that the only way people are fed by Spirit is to come to church. But there is a special gift that only comes when the people of God gather together intentionally. I can eat on my own at home and get all the nutrients I need. But when I gather with others for dinner or another special meal, there is a joy and a connection that nourishes me in a different way. So it is when I pray and study on my own – it is good, but it is even better when I get to share the journey and experience with others.

The spiritual journey is both solitary and communal. We commune with God in the privacy of our own hearts, but there are times when God can only fully manifest divine purpose when we gather together to pray, to worship and to serve. There is tremendous power in our joining together to praise God.

There is tremendous power when we come together with hearts full of joy and we say “Thank you God”.

Let’s all say that together…


  • Thank you for posting the sermons. I appreciate reading them when I am away.

    By Blogger Hope-Full, at 10:58 AM  

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