2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 – The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
or 1 Kings 19:4-8– Angels feed Elijah in the wilderness.

Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I cry to you.
or Psalm 34:1-8– Taste and see that the LORD is good. (Ps. 34:8)

Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2– Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger… Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up… And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God… be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

John 6:35, 41-51 – I am the bread of life, the living bread which comes down from heaven. No one comes unless the Father draws, and I will raise you up on the last day.

 

Bread Texts

Pentecost 9B – July 29, 2012. John 6:1-21 – Feeding of the 5,000. Jesus walks on water.

Pentecost 10B – August 5, 2012. John 6:24-35 – I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry.

Pentecost 11B – August 12, 2012. John 6:35, 41-51 – I am the bread of life, the living bread which comes down from heaven. No one comes unless the Father draws, and I will raise you up on the last day.

Pentecost 12B – August 19, 2012. John 6:51-58 – Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. The one who eats this bread will live forever.

Pentecost 13B – August 26, 2012. John 6:56-69  – Eat my flesh for eternal life. This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it? Does this bother you? Do you also wish to go away? Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…

Only six years ago, the ELCA Youth Gathering had an optional servant project component. About 2,000 out of 36,000 students took part. But 2,000 was a huge number of kids to be doing servant projects in the community. And it was a LOT to organize. When the ELCA Youth Gathering decided to come to New Orleans three years ago, Heidi Hagstrom the ELCA Youth Gathering Director asked Peggy Hahn on the synod staff (daughter of Phyllis and Ed Dusang at Christ the King, Kenner) if every student that came could serve in New Orleans? Three years ago that was 36,000 young people, or 12,000 per day. Six shifts of 2,000 per day. If you thought 2,000 was hard before, imagine 2,000 six times a day for three days. Peggy mapped it out: Busses for everyone, being sent out in shifts. Coordinators, all knowing their jobs. A million dollars in supplies, all showing up on time. And it happened. Twice. With the help of scads of volunteers from the Lutheran Churches of New Orleans. Not without problems, glitches, torrential rain and the like. But when all was said and done there were basketfuls of supplies left over.

All the bread texts that we’re reading in the month of August, from the sixth chapter of John are grounded in the Feeding of the 5,000, which we read on July 29. How are you going to feed 5,000 people? Philip says, “Six months’ wages would only provide a morsel for each person. Have you ever been charged with overcoming an insurmountable problem, so large that it seems impossible? Have you ever felt that you didn’t have the resources to do what needs to be done? What do you do? And what happens when you lose hope altogether? Could it be that hope is the most important ingredient for solving a problem? Because without hope, we give up. We stop trying. And as Wayne Gretzke said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Hope matters.

Jesus does what leaders do. He keeps the faith. He takes action based on hope. He creates something out of nothing. That’s what leaders do. They create something out of nothing. Leaders make things happen. They look at a hopeless situation and see possibilities. They trust that the resources are there, somehow, somewhere. When others say, “It’s not possible. We don’t have enough resources. It can’t be done,” leaders put their nose to the grindstone and act on hope.

I believe that Jesus is offering more than fish and bread to the masses, because later, when they come looking for him, he says, “Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures for eternal life.” Jesus is talking about more than bread. He encourages us to look past the physical to the spiritual. Don’t worry about your life: what you’ll eat, drink, wear. Your heavenly Father already knows you need these things. Seek first the kingdom of God… Jesus turns Maslow’s’ Hierarchy of Needs upside down, because he knows, as much as we need bread, we need hope even more, because without hope, we give up.

Bread is hope. It is joy. It is love. It is peace. Daily bread is all we need in this life. It is all the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). So when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking for more than just barley. We are praying for everything we need in life. The tangibles and the intangibles.

Sometimes hope seems in short supply. I talk to people all the time that have given up hope – hope that the world can be fed, hope that the federal budget can be balanced, hope that we could live in a world where people don’t kill each other senselessly. They see others working tirelessly and scoff. The thing is, if we lose hope, we lose everything. We give up. We stop working for it. We stop trying. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

John wants us to know that Jesus is the very source of hope. He is the Lord of love. He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the bread of life. If you feel hungry for hope, Jesus is the bread of life, so rich it will satisfy your spiritual hunger.

This has been my personal experience. Prayer renews my strength, my joy, my hope. Faith has been a source of hope. It has been a source of great joy. I believe Jesus is the bread of life, source of hope and love. I believe that true hope, true peace can only be found in a relationship with the God who is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This is my confession of faith. I say it not as an empirical statement, but as a reflection on my experience of life.

So here’s the problem. How do you share that with others? In particular, how do you share that with someone who doesn’t believe in God? How do you tell someone that an endless source of life (with a capital “L”) can be found in a relationship with someone they don’t even believe exists? How do you convince them?

I’ve decided you can’t. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Even Jesus recognized this. People begin complaining about him, and he simply says, “No one can come to me unless the Father beckons.” The parables of the other gospels bear this out. Only one fourth of the seed cast by the sower bears fruit. The rest is scorched by the sun or choked by weeds. Jesus fully expects only ¼ of people will hear and understand and bear fruit in this way. In the story of the ten lepers, only one returns to give thanks. This passage is even more symbolically pessimistic. Only 1/10 get it.

So what do we do? I believe we can only witness with our words and our lives.

Words: We can tell people what we ourselves have experienced. No one can argue with your personal experience. We need to reflect on the ways faith has impacted our life and simply be honest about it. We can tell about the immeasurable grace of God we have experienced, and the difference it has made. It is like sowing seed. We cannot control on what kind of soil it lands. All we can do is cast the seed.

Lives: We witness also with our lives. When we act on our faith, in generosity and service, people will see it. “Let your light so shine before others,” Jesus says, “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” When they see the hope, the joy, the passion and compassion, this will have an effect. When they see us growing spiritually, they will notice. They will, of course, also see our imperfections, but we are, after all, simply earthen vessels that God uses. This becomes all the more miraculous. That God can use us broken folks to multiply loaves in this world is in itself and amazing thing.

The apostle Paul says, “…we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

We do not have to convince or convert. All we do is share the bread of life with a spiritually famished world. And if they don’t want to take it, we just tell them how incredibly good the bread is, and hope they catch the aroma.