Top of mind has got to be these terrifying wildfires that are devastating vast areas of our province here in Central & Northern Okanagan. Virtually all of Vernon and surrounding areas are either on Evacuation Notice or Alert. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who have lost so much and who still are having to face the possible worst of this disaster.
Christ’s promise is to be with us in whatever circumstances we are, and we believe that within our awareness of his presence is all the Peace that God intends for us to know and to be, quite regardless of our circumstances…
May the peace of Christ be with us all.
Over the last 3 weeks we’ve been looking at what it means that Jesus describes himself as the ‘Bread of Life’. On July 18 we began by exploring how he is as essential to our living as bread was to any meal eaten in the Middle East of his time. The point being that regardless of how `religious` we may be, ‘without our embracing of who and what Jesus actually is and does there is a very real sense in which our lives will remain incomplete. Then we explored something of the abundance that that truth represents – how there truly is no sense of scarcity in God – or in what God reveals within our lives. Not only is what Jesus represents essential, it is also lavish! Generous! Almost, even prodigal! Last week we looked at the physicality of that bread. By describing himself as actual bread Jesus would have us own how this isn’t just all about some theory/ some clever philosophy. This is all about something very real. Actual. Physical. Today we’re looking at the familiarity of what is being revealed, and we`ll be ending off our series next week by looking at how – for Jesus as bread to have any meaningful significance in and through our lives – we do need actually to be eating it.
But getting back to our theme of Jesus as the ‘bread of life’: essential, abundant, physical, and today, familiar. I remember referring some time ago to ‘dramatic irony’– you know, when writers let readers in on secrets that the characters in the story usually don’t know too much about. Lots of scripture does that, lets us know things that the characters involved don’t: …maybe it’s the Syrian woman at the well who had no idea who was asking her for a drink of water, or the Pharisee-teacher Nicodemus who came to question Jesus at night thinking he was just a rabbi who may have some good answers for him, …or Pontius Pilot who thought of Jesus simply, probably, as a victim of some unfair but parochial Jewish prejudice, …or even Judas Iscariot who believed Jesus was simply someone who could be provoked into inciting a pretty localized Roman insurrection…
As we live our lives in the light of what we read in these ‘Bread of Life’ texts from John 6 we are at risk of falling into a similar trap and so missing what scripture is telling us. We are at risk of treating with the contempt that familiarity invariably breeds what is actually being given to us as sacred treasure. That’s what vss 41 and 42 seem to be implying- how, because they were familiar with this son of Mary and Joseph that they knew, they thought that they knew all that there was to know about this ‘Jesus’, and so they were quite dismissive of him being anything more than just the local carpenter’s kid. That’s what Jesus said elsewhere, how: ‘no prophet is recognized in their own hometown[i]’
Our faith is about our coming to recognize and engage with the very physical and familiar actuality of ‘Jesus as Bread’ which is all actually already right here. Given. Remember the story of the fellow who went off on a journey of discovery to find the treasure trove he had been promised, only to realise it was all buried right there from where he began his journey? We think that all the ultimate ‘identity, meaning and purpose’ we yearn for in life must involve us first somehow going over there, picking up on somewhere else, somewhere better/higher/holier/ other than we know – somewhere different! Surely it’s about something so much more than anything familiar – more than just THIS!
We all do that. And as we do that, so we risk missing how it’s all invariably a matter of perception and all actually already present right here. I am this Bread, Jesus said.
I love how Metropolitan Archbishop Anthony Bloom put it back in his 1999 work ‘Seeking God’: “You will find stability at the moment when you discover that God is everywhere, that you do not need to seek God elsewhere, that God is here, and if you do not find God here it is useless to go and search for God elsewhere, …because it is not God that is absent from us, it is we who are absent from God. It is important to recognize that it is useless to seek God somewhere else. If you cannot find God here you will not find God anywhere else. And that This is important because it is only at the moment that you recognize this that you can truly find the fullness of the Kingdom of God in all its richness within you”. (Seeking God: 1999)
We speak at times about the ‘mystery’ of our faith, but that’s never ‘mystery’ in some dark and unknowable sense of something impossible for us to discover where we are as in the sense of it only ever being something for us infinitely to discover where we are. Our God, and the ways of our God with us and through us where we are, are only always ever infinitely knowable – a bottomless knowing, but it starts from right here.
The filling of our lives with Jesus as the Bread of Life, our wonder-full appreciation of who and what Christ is, must always involve our deeper, better, more profound appreciation of what already is given to us to own where we are.
Our work is not so much about our having to create this bread as it is about our having our eyes open enough to see and to become aligned with it. Recognise & embrace it!
What of ‘Jesus as Bread’ are you currently just missing because you’ve become so used to it that you just can’t see it anymore? Familiarity with what exactly are we allowing ourselves to generate contempt, and so miss owning the bread-gifting of what we already have? How are we – all of us – currently just missing what our God is longing for us to see? To taste? To appreciate?
The problem is that we live with an escapist mentality, as opposed to an appreciation of what realistically already is mentality.
In what form are you being given to see the ‘Bread of Jesus’ currently taking in your life? Perhaps it’s within some relationship that you have – precious – but SOOO easily taken for granted – a relationship with a partner perhaps, or a friend, a community. Perhaps it’s from within the blessing of your health and your awareness of your health, your faculties: your ability to see, taste, touch, hear, smell. Perhaps it’s your current living circumstances: while you may have difficulties, it may be within the gift of those whom you know actually care about you and take the time to show that care, or perhaps it may even be from within your career opportunities? Perhaps, it’s to do with living right here in this beautiful Okanagan – currently so filled with fire and smoke but still pretty beautiful? I don’t know…
We’re speaking about the risen Jesus Christ as this precious sacred always-presence within our oh-so-familiar circumstances, just waiting to be acknowledged, embraced, for us to be motivated and moved by.
Where are you currently missing how you are being offered this essential, abundant, physical ‘Bread of your Living’ because it just seems too commonplace, too very familiar?
Or maybe it’s you? Maybe YOU right now ARE the physical Jesus-bread that God is wanting to use to feed others: using your hands, your time, your talents, your treasure, your prayers, your heart. This is God just longing to use the love that you have, the kindness that you show, the care that you offer, the compassion you share, the justice that you insist upon …
Who can you think of that is really particularly hungry for that ‘Bread of Life’ right now, and how can you be useful as part of Jesus’ food to feed them…?
O Jesus, our prayer is that you would hear our hearts.
We don’t often get this right, but we know that you always do.
And, with you, you know how we WANT to get this right!
Come again into the consciousness of our lives
where we so often so easily miss you right here with us where we are
– because our habit is to be looking elsewhere.
And feeding us, we pray, as we acknowledge your presence,
show us all those many baskets of leftover bread that we need
to be the blessing to others that you intend us to be.
May it be so, In Jesus’ Name we pray,
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2021.
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[i] Luke 4:16-30, John 4:44