The sharp-eyed will see overlaps between this sermon, last week's & next week's - but given the readings what chance so I have! and given that I'm at 4 different churches, and trying to fit in some time off, maybe it's forgiveable.
Jesus says ‘I am the bread of life’.
Hang on a minute – didn’t Jesus say that last week – and maybe even the week before?
In the film 'Groundhog Day' Bill Murray plays a TV reporter who keeps waking up to the same day over and over again, the same events, the same things said. We seem to be stuck in a kind of Groundhog day in John’s gospel – we seem to hear Jesus saying the same thing over and over again.
I was at a meeting of ministers last week where we were all bemoaning being stuck with 'I am the bread of life' - but then we began reflecting that perhaps Jesus has a reason for stressing the point. Bill Murray has to learn to behave differently in Groundhog Day - maybe we need to think differently about Jesus, the Bread of Life.
First John tells us the story of the feeding of the 5000. Jesus is the one who can feed the people, who can take care of their deepest needs – not only for bread but for all that is needed in life.
At first we might say
'Nice trick with the loaves and fish Jesus'
and Jesus replies
- yes, but I am the bread of life.
Then we hear the story of the feeding of the people of Israel in the wilderness – and John tells us how people compared Jesus to Moses. But Jesus is not just the leader who points people to what God is sending from heaven – Jesus is the one God sends.
So secondly we might ask Jesus
'You’re like Moses, then, giving us manna?'
but Jesus redirects us
- no, I am the bread of life.
And finally in today’s reading John tells us of opposition to Jesus, as those who have heard os what he has done start to wonder how he can have done it. They say
'But aren't you just Jesus - son of Mary & Joseph?'
To which Jesus responds
- more than that - I am the bread of life.
Maybe this repetition helps us to realise that we have to keep coming back to this as the central point of believing in Jesus.
Jesus is the bread-giver, the one sent from God, and the very life of God come to us.
What does this mean for our identity as followers of Jesus?
The reading from Ephesians reminded us that ‘we belong to one another as parts of one body’ and that ‘as God’s dear children, you must be like him’.
We are to be bread for those who hunger – the body of Christ, given for others.
Being followers of Jesus can never mean that we sit back & rest in the knowledge that we are in a living relationship with God.
We are all challenged to follow Jesus and to seek out the needy of our world, to offer them sustenance in the name of the living God.
Whoever and wherever we are we need to have our eyes open to the needs of the world around us and to ask what, in the name of Christ, we can do.
We who have received the living Bread of heaven can offer bread to the hungry, medicines to the seek, encouragement to the down-hearted: either in person, or through others.
And if we wonder whether we are strong enough to be of any help to other people, if we wonder what it is we have to offer, we need to remember what we receive at this table: God’s gift of himself, offered in Jesus Christ, offered as bread for the world, so that wherever we go we are sustained by his life and his love. To God’s glory. Amen.