Bible 1: Ephesians 4:1-16
Bible 2: John 6:24-36
I wonder how many of you enjoy Chinese food. My wife and I do and one of the challenges that we face whenever we move is to find a good Chinese take away. But there is one thing about Chinese food. You seem to eat an awful lot but an hour or two later you feel hungry again. The food fills you up for a while but ultimately leaves you feeling somehow unsatisfied.
Our gospel reading for today follows on from the well-known story of the feeding of the five thousand where Jesus had taken two loaves and five fishes, blessed them and fed the multitude. Indeed so bountiful had been God’s blessing that there was enough food and more. Jesus had then left in search of some peace and quiet to rest, pray and to be at peace with God his father.
But the crowd won’t let go of him. They go looking for Jesus. They are expecting another miracle, another meal. They want Jesus to be their king so that they can be fed all the time and never have to worry about earning their keep. But this isn’t what Jesus is about. He isn’t a cheap meal ticket. Now is the time for the crowd to get a reality check.
Why are you following me Jesus asks them? Is it because you just want more food or are you looking for something more substantial. Do you want something that will feed you for a few hours then leave you hungry again, or are you looking for something better that will feed you for life and beyond? But the people cannot see beyond the here and now and ultimately they will be unsatisfied. They will go away hungry.
I wonder how many people today would react in the same way. I wonder how many people spend their time chasing dreams, better cars, better houses, more food, more money, the list is endless. But despite all their hard work all they find is, to quote Spike Milligan, that all they have is a better class of misery.
Because Jesus knew that, in the end the people had their eyes fixed on the material world and as long as they rejected the spiritual side of life they would never be truly happy. They would never really be satisfied. All that they held dear would pass away and they would be left with nothing. Remember the words of the Ash Wednesday service when we are reminded that from dust we come and to dust we shall return.
So the crowd ask Jesus what they must do to be satisfied, to do God’s work. The answer that Jesus gives is deceptively simple. All they have to do is believe in him. It really is that simple. Put your trust in the one who is sent by God. Have faith in what he says and in what he shows himself to be.
The miracle of faith is far more wonderful that any of the other miracles that Jesus performed. The gift of faith is a very precious gift of God to be cherished and nurtured.
Trust and obey, do what God desires and accept the gifts that God gives to each and every one of us. But more than that, having discovered the gifts that God has given you then go on and use them for the good of the community that is the church and for the wider community as well. This is of course the main thrust of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It is a theme that we come back to time and time again as we discover the many and varied gifts that God has given us and how we can best use those gifts to build up the church in the communities that we come from. My theology is liberal but I work with people who come from a whole spectrum of different theologies. Most of them had other careers before they came into airport chaplaincy and I am certain that God gave each and every one of them gifts to use in their current role. I am also sure that god gives each and every one of us gifts of the spirit even if we don’t recognise or name them as such and those gifts are to be used to the glory of God and we ignore God’s gifts to us at our peril.
But back to Jesus and his encounter with the people.
They want another miracle; they want to be fed just as their ancestors had been fed by Moses in the desert. But Jesus isn’t going into mass catering again. Firstly Jesus reminds them and us that it wasn’t Moses who fed the people in the wilderness, it was God. Secondly Jesus reminds them that the feeding of the people wasn’t a one of event. Every day God caused the manna to fall from heaven and the quail to appear. God gave generously to their ancestors and he gives generously to them just as God gives generously to us. Finally the true bread of heaven isn’t bread that will go mouldy and decay like the manna did; it is Jesus the Christ who will never decay.
This is the gift of God to them and to us today.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. Then he asked them just as he asks us ‘Do you believe this?’ As we come together to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion we come to share that same living bread. Bread that was broken on the cross in a once and for all time sacrifice that we might have life in abundance, that we might have eternal life.
Even in the dark times we can still be fed by our living Lord Jesus.
We may go physically hungry but we need never go spiritually hungry if we live by faith. Jesus knew how important food was indeed he was often a guest at a meal. He shared many meals with his friends, his companions, the word means those who break bread together. They remembered his words at the table. Though some disapproved of the company he kept, Jesus ate and drank with all kinds of people and showed everyone the love of God.
Wherever people met together Jesus was glad to be welcomed and to be fed. Today, we are the guests of Jesus. He welcomes us, whoever we are and whatever we bring, and he will feed us at his table. Old or young, rich or poor, joyful or in sorrow, Jesus invites us to share bread and wine with him, to remember the story of his life, death and resurrection, and to celebrate his presence with us today.
So we come in faith ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, to share the bread of life. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Revd. J. Mackerness
02 Aug 2015