John 6:35, 41-51
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever trusts in me will never be thirsty.”
41 Then the Jewish faithful began to complain about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying amongst themselves, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the one who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from God comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen God except the one who is from God; this one has seen God. 47 “Very truly, I tell you, whoever trusts has life everlasting. 48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will have life everlasting; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Please pray with me this morning, church:
God of hope,
Our hearts and our spirits are weary.
We yearn for something sustaining.
Feed us with yourself.
Strengthen and nourish us
And call us again and send us to
Strengthen and nourish our neighbors.
Last week marked 4 years since Tiffany and I bought our first house. It’s a great home and we love it, and it’s certainly seen a lot in just 48 short months. I mean, less than a month after we bought it and 2 weeks after we had completely moved in, a little sprinkle, a little event named Harvey…maybe you remember…our first hurricane experience turned those quaint little side yards into something resembling the Colorado River with Class 4 rapids. And 2 years ago, we went from an occupancy of 3—us plus a cat—to an occupancy of 4…which brought with it all kinds of extra stuff—toys, a changing table, a crib, more toys, books, trucks, animals, more toys, and now a toddler bed…and now after a birthday this weekend, even more toys…
But it’s still home.
We love our home.
And I, for one, especially love our home as a place that’s ours where we can spend time together as a family, have our friends over if we want, talk with our neighbors, a place to tend to and try our best to steward well… But for me, I’m especially grateful for our home of 4 years because for the first 7 years of our shared life together, Tiffany and I lived in apartments…our first apartment in North Texas, our apartment in Chicago, and the apartment we lived in when we first moved down here. And it was a bit of a process of growth each time. We started out in a 1-bed, 1-bath 800-some-odd square foot place, but it was enough for us then. Then in Chicago, we upgraded to a 2nd bedroom, still just with the 1 bath. And finally a 2-bed, 2-bath place when we first moved to Sugar Land.
But the thing about apartment living is that you’re so close to your neighbors. Maybe there’s a shared stairwell or a few shared walls…you always feel somehow very connected to your neighbors, whether you want to or not. But we were blessed in our first 2 apartments, in North Texas, and in Chicago, because we lucked into a top-floor unit. It meant we had to go up more flights of stairs, but blessedly, we didn’t feel like the ceiling was about to come tumbling down.
But our last apartment in Sugar Land, there was just no swinging a top-floor apartment. They didn’t have one. And I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal…I met our neighbor, she was a tiny, young woman, her and her partner. They were nice, they seemed quiet… Friends, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a family of elephants parading around in high heels before…but that’s the only explanation I can come up with for what was going on on the floor above us some days. That, or our neighbors picked up Irish dancing in Dutch wooden clogs. I don’t know…but it was cacophonous.
Which is to say, I’m very grateful for our nice, quiet, lovely single-family home.
If there’s any Irish dancing happening, it’s going to be me in my own wooden clogs, thank you very much.
Living together is hard. Living with others, in close relationship, is difficult.
It’s tough work.
It requires give and take, compromise, and intentionality.
It requires you to be open and engaging and communicative and a little bit vulnerable.
Being a good neighbor, and living well together, requires that you bring your fullest self to the relationship.
If we’re going to have and enjoy the kind of life God intends for us, we have to bring something to that table, as well.
In our Gospel reading this morning, the local folks get incensed with Jesus for suggesting that he himself is somehow comparable to the manna that came down from the heavens and sustained the Israelites in their 40-year sojourn out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. “I am the bread…of life,” Jesus says, “Those who come to me and trust in me will never be hungry or thirsty. I’m the bread that came down from heaven.”
“Ummm…we know your mom, and your dad…you didn’t come from heaven,” the folks reply.
But Jesus presses, “Your ancestors ate that manna in the wilderness, and they still died. I am the living bread from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will have life everlasting, whoever has faith in me will have life everlasting.”
It’s interesting, your Bible translates these phrases as “eternal life” or “living forever” but that’s not actually what’s going on here. It’s not that simple of a translation. We’ve become so preoccupied with this idea of living forever that we get caught up in this pattern of death-avoidance. We’ve become so focused on what happens after we die that we neglect to truly live in the present.
But I want to suggest to you that everlasting life has more to do with a kind and quality of life here and now, and has much less to do with the state of your souls for eternity. Because what if everlasting life is the kind of life in which all have their needs met, all are fed, and all are able to live life in such a way that their life isn’t cut short before they’ve had the opportunity to live a full life? What if the zoen aionion—what gets translated as “eternal life” but is perhaps better translated as “the life of the ages”—what if Jesus is talking about what and how we live in the here and now, and not some far off distant place after our bodies are decomposing in the ground?
Because that’s the kind of bread that makes a difference, church. That’s the kind of bread that feeds and nourishes. That’s the kind of bread that sustains weary bodies and spirits.
Jesus says, “The bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh, is my body.” It is the body of Christ that is given for the life of the world.
And if your ears are perking up, church, you are the body of Christ. You are Christ’s flesh and blood. You are the hands and feet and heart of Christ that is given to and for the world.
And when seen this way, then, church, your responsibility is to the world, is to your neighbor. Your obligation is to be broken, poured out, and shared with those who are in need. To be a disciple of Jesus is to allow yourself to be broken and shared and given so that those in need and the whole world would have life everlasting, life in all it’s fullness.
Living well together is difficult work. It requires compromise, give and take. “We are members of one another,” the author of Ephesians writes. Living well together requires us to be vulnerable with one another, naming our needs, naming our hopes and our desires. And I think when we do that. what you’ll find is that we share much more in common with one another than what seeks to drive us apart…certainly when we name and share our hopes and dreams. Just in these times alone, what each of us wants is to feel safe, is to be healthy, is for our families to be safe and healthy and well. And if we can be vulnerable enough to name those hopes and dreams, we can start to see that a shared life together means making certain choices, giving up certain closely-held convictions in the interest of the health and safety of our neighbors. Are you following me, church?
It’s not a question of political opinion, church…it’s doing what is needed from us by our neighbor because that’s what we are called to do, by God, as disciples of Jesus.
You are the ones given to feed and nourish one another. We sustain one another as we are broken and poured out, given to and for one another.
It’s a difficult thing, living well together, but we are fed, nourished, and sustained by the one was first given, broken, and poured out for us.
When we share communion, it’s so much more than a meal done in remembrance of Jesus and the meal he shared with his friends. Communion is an act of nourishing and strengthening. Communion is a reminder that we—this community—we are the bread that is broken and the wine that is poured; we are the ones given for the life of the world.
In this meal, you are invited to receive that which you are called to be.
And you are called to be that which you have received, the very body of Christ, given for the life of the world.
Friends, be nourished and strengthened here.
So that you will be fed and sent to nourish and strengthen others.