Jesus As The Bread (3 of 5)

Jesus As The Bread (3 of 5)

John 6:24-35

 We’ve been looking at what it means that Jesus describes himself as the ‘Bread of Life’.

We began on July 18 by exploring how he is as essential to our living as bread would have been to any meal eaten in the Middle East 2000 years ago – and probably still today… Without our embracing of who and what he actually is, and does, there is a very real sense in which our lives remain incomplete. But I think we miss it. Most of the time. What we so often think is essential to our living, isn’t, and so we remain hungry, struggling to find the wholeness that we know we are made to be! But it’s right here – exemplified/modelled/presented in and through the person and life and teaching of Jesus is what we understand God revealing to us as being at the very heart of everything that is most real. Most essential. Last week, we explored something of the abundance (John 6:1-15) that truth represents. There is no scarcity in what God reveals in our lives. Not only is what Jesus represents essential, it is also lavish. Given in abundance for those who are given enough faculty to see it. Purest possible grace. Abundant grace. This is God’s bread provision in Christ which is everywhere. Today we’re looking at the physicality (John 6:24-35) of that bread. How this isn’t just all about some theory/ some clever philosophy – it’s about something very real. Actual! Physical! Next week we’ll reflect on the familiarity of all of what is revealed (John 6:35,41-51), ending on Aug 15 with how – for it to have any meaningful significance in and through our lives – it does need our actual eating. (John 6:51-58)

We are all very tempted to try to make our faith other-worldly. Theoretical. Purely spiritual. Because that would be so much easier. We’ve told ourselves how if only we kept just believing all the correct things, or at least saying that we believe those correct things then, somehow, it wouldn’t really matter how we live. So long as our doctrine is sound[i]. Our mindset is just to cling to correct doctrine, regardless of the practical implications!

By presenting his physical self as being food/bread that we need actually to be eating, it’s as if Jesus won’t let us do that. Of course correct doctrine matters, but never more so than our faithful living!

Jesus describes himself as being the ‘physically-with-us-Bread-of-God’ reality who has come down to reveal life to all the earth – and we participate in that life as we participate in all the things that God has filled with Christ’s presence! Physical! Tangible! Actual! Bread! God could have chosen to manifest as some nebulous cloud of truth/ some beautiful vapor perhaps. …and there would have been good scriptural precedent for that[ii]. But Jesus didn’t give us those options, because while that may have suited our agendas, that wouldn’t have been real. Or true. Instead, in Jesus Christ, God ensures we understand God’s presence with us as being all very physical. ‘Think of this broken bread as my Body’ he said to his disciples on that last night! ‘SARX’ Jesus said. Flesh. It’s as if he is saying: ‘I am to be experienced in your life as bread broken for you – and it’s as you eat this – physically engage with it – that you most come alive! This is not about us becoming all religious in some other-worldly way. It’s about us coming to appreciate God-with-us right here where we are, within our reality.

Richard Rohr tells of an encounter years ago with a recluse – a hermit’s hermit – who normally lived alone in the forest, just themselves and God, only emerging at Christmas and Easter.

Fr Richard stepped off the path allowing the holy man to pass, respectfully keeping his head down, only to be addressed: ‘Richard, you get chances to preach that I don’t. Tell the people that God is not there!’ (pointing up) implying, GOD IS RIGHT HERE!

Then, in vs 2 we’re told that the crowd who had earlier followed Jesus only because they ‘saw the signs’ – were now following because ‘they had actually been fed’ by him and wanted more. We may see this as a criticism: that Jesus was wanting the crowd to stop just thinking about keeping their bellies full but rather to be focusing on more spiritual things – but I’m not sure that’s necessarily so – perhaps this was also actually a word of affirmation!

I think I’m seeing Jesus was affirming the really good thing of how they were following him because of their previous, beautiful experience of receiving something of what it means to be fed by him. Having had some sense of eating the essential & abundant bread that God provides in Christ for all creation, it’s only natural that they would want more. It’s one thing to be wanting philosophical or spiritual answers to the great questions of life – to ‘look for signs’ – but once we have actually experienced what we may previously been over-intellectualizing, well, that takes our faith-living to a whole new level. To experience something of the love of God as we receive it in the actual, physical, respectful caring of one for another – is to know that we are in the midst of something very sacred and beautiful…

I spoke to an RCMP officer this week who was called in to evict a couple who had taken up residence on the church’s roof. So dangerous. He was clear that they had to leave and they did. But what blessed me was the gentleness and care that he modelled in dealing with them. I saw Christ in him as he spoke with sensitivity of their options. He saw them not as a nuisance to be dealt with but as real people to be cared for, treated with respect…

Christ was physically present. I was blessed.

I believe over Carl Jung’s door in Kusnacht, Zurich is inscribed: ‘Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit’ ‘Whether summoned or not summoned, God will be present’ GOD IS HERE! How blessed we are as we get to see and to participate in that presence.

Then Jesus goes on to describe himself – his own physical presence, who he is and what he does: his birth, life, soon his death & resurrection – as the ‘only sign’ that they or we would or should ever need. It’s as we are given to notice what needs constantly to be dying in terms of our own self-justifying ego and pride-agendas and instead to see arising in terms of kindness, compassion, justice, healing and wholeness that we are given to see where Christ is still always at work in creation. This is the Gospel-rhythm/ the Christ-rhythm of God’s grace constantly pulsing…

We must ‘get’ it that the Bread of what Jesus represents is not just some purely optional idea which we may or may not chose to …but a constantly loving stream of reality which endures/ nourishes, and is right here and now working itself out within the warp and weave physicality of our everyday lives – even as we are given eyes to see it.

There are wonderful teachings now which build on the work of Richard Rohr and others which stress ‘Christ’ as being so much more than just Jesus’ surname.

‘Christ’ they say is ‘a different name for everything, when everything is at its MOST beautiful and most real!’

 I’m paraphrasing now:Christ is the spirit that is embedded in – and makes up – everything in the universe, and Jesus is the embodied version of that spirit that we can fall in love with and relate to…”

Remember that it’s ‘for God so loved THE WORLD/everything, that Jesus was sent as God’s only Son – to reveal real life! We are meant to notice and to take all this God-soaked/Christ-infused Cosmos-stuff very seriously. It is all profoundly within God’s creative presence – and so all really matters!

God is here – all around us! We get a short-cut to see what that looks like, as we look into the physical life of Jesus. And, held within that gaze, so we are held to be within the wonderful worship of the risen Christ. I think of Jacob who  awoke from his dream of angels moving easily back and forth on a ladder from heaven in Gn.28 only to discover that all this time right there, where he was, was Bethel (the place of God) and so we see him anointing that stone pillow on which he’d been resting with oil to symbolize his realization of how this – even these rocks and sand and desert dust are ALL held within God’s Presence! ‘This is all God’s sanctuary!’

How desperately sad and wasted it is for us to live all our lives without somehow getting it that where we are, even with all our challenges, blessings and foibles, is holy and within God’s embrace! Our purpose, as we respond to God in Jesus Christ, is to come into a knowing and a living of our lives that express that wonder-full appreciation!

There is nothing other-worldly about our faith! This – right here – is where we encounter God – and where we are to meet and live into holiness. This is how and where we are called to live out our faith, our everyday living as our everyday worship.

How do you consciously engage the physical Jesus and so reflect the spiritual Christ in your everyday life, currently? …or how are you obscuring him by looking past the holiness of everyday detail, vainly hoping for something more heavenly-minded?

I love the question of what you would do if you knew it were your last day on earth… And of the answer most Godly people give: ‘wake up, make coffee, water garden, say prayers, go for a walk…’ They would do nothing differently to their everyday routine because they understand how THIS life – with all the awareness through which they are living it, is as close to God as they can be…

Holy God, thank you for pouring yourself into all of what you have created…
May we come better to know ourselves as your people, a people better able to see you, respond to you, be useful to you and for you as reflectors of your holy self and purposes…
For we pray these things in Jesus’ Name,  Amen

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[i] As an aside: I recently came across the story of 16thC St Theresa of Avila who got into serious trouble by teaching against a God of love ever damning some souls to eternal suffering. She was forced by the church fathers to answer the question of whether or not she believed hell existed on pains of excommunication or even death. I do, she answered politely, but then murmured under her breath to her sisters: ‘It’s just that no-one’s there!’

[ii] …I think of the presence of God in the OT manifesting as the Shekinah-cloud that settled over the tent of meeting, or as the pillar of fire that lead the wandering Israelites for 40 yeas through the wilderness… Or even as a really good idea – you know, perhaps God could be confined to being some beautiful and abstract thought… Isn’t that what the Gnostics taught?