Ephesians 5:15-20 – Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,
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.
This Sunday I will be preaching at St. John in Angleton.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Bread is Hope
In our five week walk through John 6, we have talked about bread as bread, bread as all I need from day-to-day, and bread as relationships. This week we take a look at bread as hope.
People cannot live by bread alone. We know we need more than just food and water. We need more than clothing and shelter. As someone once said, “You can live 30 days without food, 3 days without water, but you can’t live a minute without hope.”
We look beyond food and clothing and realize we also need safety. We look beyond safety and realize we also need to love and be loved. Today we look beyond all these and recognize that we need also meaning and purpose in life. We need a calling. We need a mission. We need to be needed. A fruit tree wants to bear fruit.
- July 26, 2015 – John 6:1-21 – Physical needs: Bread is Bread.
- August 2, 2015 – John 6:24-35 – Safety: Bread Is All I Need From Day to Day.
- August 9, 2015 – John 6:35, 41-51 – Love/belonging: Bread is Relationship.
- August 16, 2015 – John 6:51-58 – Esteem: Bread is Hope.
- August 23, 2015 – John 6:56-69 – Self-actualization: Bread is Living Beyond Myself.
Maslow looks up the pyramid to a level he calls esteem. He says we need confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others.
I would take it a step further and call it a spirituality of work. Our work, whether paid or volunteer, whether in the world or in the home, is an expression of our spirituality. We all have God-given gifts that we need to put to use to find fulfillment.
Jesus expressed this many times:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free… (Luke 4:18)
My food is to do the work of him who sent me. (John 4:34)
I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. (John 17:4)
Jesus had a very clear sense of calling. Perhaps that sense of calling becomes clearer as we get older, and we look back on our lives in retrospect.
What is your calling? Aristotle is reputed to have said your vocation lies where your talents cross with the world’s need. This is a great way to think about calling. What are your greatest gifts? About what are you most passionate? What do people tell you about yourself? Take the answers to these questions and then take a look at the world. Where are the greatest needs? Where do your gifts meet the world’s needs? Find that place and you will find some of the deepest satisfaction in life, regardless of the pay. In fact, if you get paid at all, it’s like icing on the cake. People who have found their calling (some would say “purpose”) often say things like this: “I can’t believe they pay me to do this.”
We are not wired to just lie around (as appealing as that sometimes seems). Life is meant to be lived with meaning and purpose. Finding that purpose is a critical part of discipleship and finding joy in life. Parker Palmer wrote about the spirituality of work in his book The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work. Another good book is Friend of the Soul: A Benedictine Spirituality of Work.
This Sunday could be a time to talk about vocation. All the baptized have a ministry. We are called to serve God in the world, whether we are teachers, salespersons, or airline pilots. How is God using us to be a blessing to others and to the world? The prayers of the church could have focus questions for prayer: Where is God in my life these days? How is God leading? What is God saying? What have I been dreaming about lately? What thoughts have been chasing me? What have people been saying to me recently?
These kinds of questions are powerful ways to listen to your life. They can help us discern where God is acting in our lives and how God is calling. Why not give people an opportunity to pray in worship? Why not write down questions like these that people can take home and pray about in their daily prayers?
I believe congregations have callings as well. Congregations are uniquely positioned in a context that calls for a certain response. Sometimes congregations have a lot of educators, corporate executives, or international workers. Each of these present opportunities and callings. What is our congregation’s unique calling?
The questions one might use, for example: What are the top 5-10 needs of this community/neighborhood/town? What would the public school teachers say? What would the mayor say? What would the local police precinct captain or county sheriff say? What are our greatest strengths as a congregation? What do we have to offer? What are we most passionate about?
I once heard Methodist Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell speak to a group of about 500 pastors. He said ministry is not as complicated as we think it is. Just make a list of the community’s greatest needs on one side of your paper. On the other, brainstorm a ministry to address that need. That’s what Jesus did. He addressed the most pressing needs of his day: leprosy, blindness, hunger, and so on. He also addressed spiritual needs by warning against materialism and drawing people to love of God and neighbor.
So what? What is the Good News for us today? How will we respond to this?
It can be overwhelming to consider how to respond. What should we do? Love our neighbor, serve those in need, pray?
Jesus makes it simple. Just, “Follow me.” I am the bread of life. Those who follow me will never be hungry. Your spiritual hunger for meaning, purpose, and joy will be filled. I believe this with all my heart. When you are sent on a mission by God, you’re not likely to get bored. When you do something that makes a difference in the world, it fills your soul.
The good news is that Jesus offers us the bread of life. He invites us to follow and trust. Eat this bread today; it will satisfy your spiritual hunger. Drink this wine; it will quench your spiritual thirst. Receive the free grace of God who loves you unconditionally with an everlasting love and invites you to be a part of the exciting mission of healing in the world.