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Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service; click on the video camera icon.
August 01, 2021
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Grace and peace to you from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When I lived in Phoenix, I worked with a spiritual director. We met once a month, and I talked about what was going on in my work and personal lives. And the core question we sought to answer in each session was, “Where is God in this?”
One day, after I’d been working with her for a few years, my life felt really chaotic. And so we spent time talking about that as we searched for the answer of where God was in it all. And at one point, I shared with her that I’d been leaving the TV on as background noise as kind of a distraction.
And I said, “With as chaotic as everything is right now, that’s probably the wrong thing to do.” And she nodded and said, “Yeah…what it comes down to is do you want to be numb? Or do you want to be fed?” My answer was, “Both! At the same time.”
Her question has stayed with me. Do you want to be numb, or do you want to be fed? Because yes, of course we want to be fed; but more than that, there’s the recognition that we need more than actual food for that. Because but within each of us is an essential need to be fed – one that’s basic to our existence – and it’s a need that can only be met by God.
It’s what the people in today’s Gospel reading were searching for when they went looking for Jesus after he fed the crowd with the loaves and fishes. In their conversation, they asked him for literal bread – equating the miracles he was performing to the manna that had been provided to the Israelites in the wilderness.
And they were hungry for literal bread because they were poor and food was scarce; there’s nothing wrong or unspiritual about that, and it’s why Jesus fed them. But this is about more than just literal food.
It’s about their need for security, safety, provision, and protection. It’s about the world they lived in, and that they needed it to be a place of abundance, generosity, and hospitality – not a barren and dangerous one.
And Jesus recognized that that’s the hunger they felt, and it was more profound than any actual bread could satisfy. So when he declared that he is the bread of life, he was asking them to consider more deeply not only what they wanted but also what they needed.
And to recognize him, to recognize Jesus, as the bread that would nourish them at their deepest level. To see him as nourishment that feeds people beyond the moment of a miracle.
To recognize how much more that would change their lives than one meal could. And to understand that everyone needs that nourishment and sustenance, and that because it comes from Jesus, it’s nourishment that endures.
Over the last year and a half, the pandemic has made clear that certain things are essential: food, water, shelter, healthcare. But there’s also compassion. And empathy, and the humility to realize that our own well-being is connected to the well-being of others.
Some essential things don’t last and will need to be replaced regularly – like food, water, shelter, and medicine. But by recognizing Jesus as the bread of life, and receiving his enduring nourishment, compassion can last, and so can empathy, and remembering that we’re connected to one another.
These aren’t always the easiest things to feed one another with, but they are the things that nourish. The bread of life that is Jesus acknowledges those “hungers of the soul” and it satiates them; it genuinely feeds us and creates the world of abundance, generosity, and hospitality that we all need in order to thrive.
Because as we are fed, and we recognize that the true nourishment comes from more than just a meal, it endures when we share the bread of life with others.
You all know that a group of people from our congregation came together and built a Tiny Home on our campus last week. As part of that project, we also collected donations for people who will be transitioning into life in a Tiny Home Village.
Those donations have been sorted and placed into the welcome baskets that are around the altar. After they were placed, Doug, our Youth Director, asked about the significance of the altar. He specifically asked what happens at the altar during a worship service.
One of the youth answered, “Communion.” Doug said, “That’s right. Why do we have Communion?” Luke Davis responded, “Because we get hungry. Every day.”
Doug then asked what happens at the altar before Communion. And Luke answered, “Offering!”
We know that when we receive communion, we take in the presence of Jesus – the bread of life. And it feeds us on an essential level – the place in our soul where we need it. But it doesn’t stay locked inside of us. Because it comes from Jesus, it endures when we offer it to others who are then also nourished by the life he gives.
We know the daily hunger we experience isn’t only the physical hunger we feel when our bellies are empty. It shows up in the need for the items that are in those baskets; in the need for security, belonging, meaning, purpose, connection, love, a desire to know and be known, wholeness, redemption, the healing of old wounds, a second chance. The list goes on.
That hunger, the need to be fed, can only be nourished through the bread of life – through Jesus’ love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and understanding.
The bread of life that is Jesus shows up in things like these welcome baskets and building a Tiny Home. And more than that. It’s the quilts and care kits we send to LWR, and the prayer shawls at the foot of people’s beds or around their shoulders when they’re sick.
The bread of life that is Jesus is the prayers we pray for one another throughout the week, the phone calls we make to check in on one another, and the conversations we have in the chat log during a zoom call or worship service.
As the bread of life that is Jesus feeds us, we become the community that we need – that the world needs. We become the place of safety and security and compassion and empathy and grace and love.
That nourishment and sustenance becomes part of us. And because it comes from Jesus, it’s nourishment that endures always. Thanks be to God! Amen.