Jesus gives us bread that endures for eternal life, what are we doing with it to bring God’s reign?
Vicar Mollie Hamre
Day of Thanksgiving, Year C
Texts: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, John 6:25-35
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“What must we do to perform the works of God?”
This is the question Jesus is asked by a large group in the Gospel today after feeding all 5,000 of them earlier in the chapter. It is asked amidst a series of questions to Jesus as the crowd works to decipher the difference between perishing bread and the kind of bread that gives eternal life. This crowd, who already ate their fill of loaves, is confused because they are following their stomachs–not Jesus’s metaphor. We can quickly see that they are talking about two different things.
See, the bread that Jesus is speaking of is not the kind that literally fills our stomachs, but the kind that fills our lives and embraces what God seeks for our world. Bread that fills us in the form of connection, caring for one another, peace, justice, even literally feeding one another–these are things that sustain us and bring God’s reign. They are ways that we bring hope for a future of abundant life. This is not a quick fix that involves the perishing bread that the crowd seeks, but bread that endures, living in God’s reign.
The Israelites from Deuteronomy know this.
In the first reading, we hear the history of the Israelite people who were exiled to Egypt. People that were separated from their homes, were left seeking out God’s promises and a place where they can peacefully live.
This painful history is not forgotten because it impacts the way the Israelites moved around and experienced the world. It left them with a constant reminder of where they came from and to welcome those that resided among them because they were once strangers too. The people in the Gospel remember this too as they recount their time in the wilderness relying on God for mana. Trusting in God to guide them.
Yet, as we recount the history of the Jewish people, which is also ours, it feels complicated.
We live in a country where land that was seen as a refuge by those that colonized, was actually stolen from the indigenous people. Communities that were supposed to have peace were instead torn apart. Stories of war, death, and exile have been left out, leaving us seeking out what truly happened in our history.
Placing ourselves in the retelling of this story from Deuteronomy feels distressing because a lot of pain comes with it. Not to mention that the lives of people have become more intricately intertwined, leaving healing and restoration to feel distant. It makes one want to simply ask how the works of God are performed instead of seeking out what enduring healing is to the world. How can we be a part of the bread of life that Jesus talks about?
For starters, being in community and breaking bread together is one way.
Jesus says these words to a crowd gathered, not to a single person. Being here, not only in church, but with other people too. This is where Jesus reminds us that these pieces of our shattered histories, must be entered into and remembered with the uncomfortableness that comes with it.
So that we, with all of creation, can have hope for a life that abides with peace, justice, and love. That we embrace the bounty that God has given to everyone, creating a community that welcomes the stranger and gives thanksgiving for all that we share.
Which why Jesus comes to us with Bread today, offering life that endures.
This crowd in the Gospel wants to live whole and faithful lives, like you and me. They want to find fullness in the Triune God whether that means a simple meal or seeking out food that endures for a lifetime. But that is a complicated world to imagine living in when we see news reports of shootings, war, and the ever-present impacts of climate change.
A life that embraces the bread that Jesus is talking about is not a single miracle of feeding 5,000. It is a life that asks us to hold hope for the present, for the future, and to be part of its growth. To look back at our history and believe that there will be change and that we will be changed ourselves with it. This is the life that God calls us to, not just for the world to come, but the one there is here today. Do you dare to reach out for that kind of bread for the world?
A world where life endures is one where people are fed. Where hope is held for a sustainable Earth. Where people are not oppressed for their sexuality, gender identity, and race. Where people are not living in fear for their lives when going for a night out. Where painful histories are truly grieved and began to find healing. Can you imagine what our world would be like?
Jesus tells us today that this bread is here and present for all.
Sometimes it might be literal bread, but other times this bread takes different forms: welcoming in the stranger, advocating for justice, and caring for the neighbor. Finding this life does not mean “performing the works of God” properly or seeing the specific “signs that God is going to give,” as the crowd around Jesus asks.
But it has everything to do with embracing God’s promises and hope for the world. Everything to do with loving the neighbor, and knowing that you were once a stranger too. As we enter into Thanksgiving at our tables today and the celebration of the Eucharist, know that God reaches out to you with bread. The kind that brings life. All this is asked of you is an openness to trust and be transformed by the Triune God who is already there, working inside of you.
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.