14.4.16

I am

Acts 8.1b-8That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured. So there was great joy in that city.
The Gospel is written in the book of John 6.35-40 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. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’

I am the bread of life.

We are told by John that after Jesus has said this many of his disciples turn away and no longer walk with him. But Jesus says to them and perhaps to us all, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life...”

Where else do we go? There are so many worldviews, religions and ideologies competing for our attention these days – but Christianity offers not a world view or an ideology, neither moral system nor life-improvement plan – Christianity offers us a person – Jesus, to live in us by his Spirit and to guide us by his example. Jesus offers us himself.

We could so easily be those who eat loaves and fishes forever and who do church because of what it gives us: comfort, company, places at a good school, morality, purpose and it could be that God has attracted you to himself with those things – this is just his clever way of getting your attention – what he really wants to give us is the gift of himself. We are challenged to leave the feast with Jesus after he has fed us. Five thousand watch him leave for the other side of the lake. Just as the manna ran out in the wilderness, we can not sit to simply be fed – Jesus asks that we follow him to the other side and be about his mission to the world beyond us, he doesn't give us security, he is our security and he asks us to join him in securing it not for ourselves but for others.

He says to those who sit in the grass and love him because he sorts things: you are looking for me ... because you ate your fill of the loaves. He knows this can be our tendency – to look to him for what he can do for us rather than to be in Him because of what he can be in us and through us. Jesus is an end in himself. Jesus doesn't just give bread, well, he does for a while but the people love him for that and not for him in himself and he is on to that. Jesus doesn't therefore say he will continue to give bread, he says instead that he is bread. Jesus says I am the bread of life. He says Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.

Like him our mission too must be to the other side, to pick up our cross know that He is enough. When we have been fed with him at the table we are to leave the feast nourished and become bread for the world. I first met Jesus at the Eucharist when I was seven years old with the words 'We are not worthy so much as to gather the crumbs from under your table' – I didn't understand then what I understand now – I had to journey into the painful but liberating truth that there is nothing I can do to make me worthy of God, that it is all his action – that he makes me worthy by becoming my living bread, by inviting me into relationship with him, to believe that he died for me, to believe that when God looks at me he sees me covered in Christ because of Christ's work on the cross for me and therefore pleasing in his sight – that I can not gather up the crumbs of my life and present them worthy to him but that he can gather up the crumbs of my life and present them worthy to the Father because he, Jesus, is worthy.

Following Jesus, this living bread – being Christian – being in Christ, is to know him in the joys and to know him in his sufferings, it is to leave for the other side of the lake and follow. It is in this following that we then hear him say I am the living bread. I am your enough. It is not about what I can do for you, it is about my being in you by my Spirit. This living bread is Jesus himself. And so what now – we are those who are fed and if this is so we are to go on to feed others, our God is always a missional God, leaving the comfort of the sun and green grass to travel a lake to the other side, to face the authorities and have them take offence at him, to push boundaries and to shake things up a bit, to bring challenge. Here we are gathered just a few, a sunny day, grass outside and not really one of us hungry – how are we to be like him - bread for the world – let's continue to pray in God's renewal through us. Amen.

Risen Christ, you filled your disciples with boldness and fresh hope: strengthen us to proclaim your risen life and fill us with your peace, to the glory of God the Father.

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