Christ is the bread of life, feeding all who hunger. We share bread and feed the hungry at communion and at community meal; we share what we have been given. When Jesus is involved, a little bit will go much farther than we expect.
Vicar Erik Doughty, Time after Pentecost, Sunday 17, year B; texts: Text: John 6:1-15
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit; Amen.
First, a note of thanks. This is my penultimate sermon as your vicar. My final sermon and last day as vicar will be August 12. Thanks to all of you; it has been a wonderful year.
This will be a short sermon. I’d like you to consider it an appetizer, or the first course of a several-course meal.
Today we’re using a bread plate at communion that I got in Hebron, during my trip to the Holy Land. On it is an image from today’s Gospel lesson, of loaves and fishes. There are only 4 loaves showing on the plate, so I suppose one loaf is down in the basket, hidden by the others on top. Come take a look at the ancient mosaic image after the liturgy.
I hope you like bread, because you’re going to be hearing about it for the next few weeks. The lectionary turns from Mark to John (chapter 6 of John) and through the end of August we see Jesus with loaves and fishes, talking about the bread of life. In John, Jesus performs a sign and then there’s discussion and explanation. Today we get the actual sign, the “feeding of the 5000”. If you don’t understand quite what’s going on, come back for the rest of the Sundays in August!
There are two “Eucharist-esque” meals in John’s gospel, meals with loaves and fishes, where the food is blessed and given. One is here, not feeding the faithful but feeding the hungry. The other similar meal occurs after Jesus’ resurrection, when he invites his faithless disciples (the ones who ran off at the first sign of trouble) to eat fish and bread on the shore of Galilee – a sign of forgiveness. John’s Eucharist is not for the holy ones with a good understanding and pure doctrine; John’s Eucharist is for the hungry poor and some poor failures of disciples.
Jesus feeds them all himself, 5,000 people, 14 Mount Olives full, and he feeds them with the lunch one kid brought. This is the sign that begins the discussion; and we may never fully understand it ourselves, with weeks of sermons and study.
But we don’t have to understand bread; we just have to take bread, give thanks for bread, bless bread, share bread. Whether at community meal when we share with those who hunger, or at our altar here where we share with those who hunger, the action is the same. In both actions, Christ feeds the hungry, the uncomprehending, the faithful and the faithless, the sinners and saints. Bread is not only for the holy; bread is for the hungry.
There is much more to say. We’ll take another bite of the Word, and the Bread of Life, next week and through August. But in our liturgy today, Christ will be bread for you, and bread will be Christ for you, and this body now gathered will go forth into the world, called to share the small amount we have with the hungry people in this neighborhood, knowing that we ourselves, poor excuses for disciples, have been fed and strengthened and graced and welcomed. We offer what we have been given, that’s all. But the presence and promise of Christ continues to feed hungry people from our offering that seems so small.
Friends, the glory of the Triune God is that life, and bread, and the bread of life, is for all who are hungry. When Jesus is involved, even sharing your lunch becomes a sign of grace. If you do not understand, then simply reach out. Receive the bread of life, the promise of God, the Word made flesh. Eat it. Then go forth strengthened and forgiven, to share grace – and bread – with this neighborhood and the hungry world.