July 15, 2018
READINGS: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 ~ Ephesians 1:3-14 ~ Mark 6:14-29
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be evermore acceptable unto thee Oh Christ our strength and our Redeemer Amen
This week as we gather by the river, the mighty Mississippi, we are reminded that our Lord Christ’s ministry from John’s gospel had just concluded with the miraculous feeding of the 5000 out there in the Galillee. The mighty Mississippi River is very similar to the Jordan River and I am reminded each time I arrive here how fortunate we are to be worshipping down by this river.
With 5 loaves of bread and three fish he had managed to feed all those people AND with left overs to spare.
We see parallels this morning between the work of the new Moses down in the Galillee and that of the OLD Moses, as he sought to feed his people as the travel on their way to the promised land, through the land of the Canaan.
When the people complain to their leader that they will surely starve out there in the wilderness, God provides them with Manna in the wilderness. And as God provides, Moses reminds them there is no room for leftovers. God warns Moses;” Take one days’ worth and no more, because Manna would not keep. If the people try to hoard it, it would only spoil overnight. So the people were limited to two quarts of mana per day person. So the people were forced to live one day at a time, being fed only by the providence of Almighty God.
Nothing went into their mouths that the good Lord did not provide for them. I think as we sit down to our meals each day we need to be reminded of the notion that all things come of thee Oh Lord, and of thine own have we given thee. Such a beautiful prayer and a reminder as to whom we must depend.
Long after their sojourn in the desert was over, they remembered their manna meals, to the extent that they kept two quarts of it in a jar right by the tablets of the law, as an everlasting reminder of their dependence on God, who gave them each day their daily bread. This manna was considered by the people to be the bread from heaven.
You can imagine the world of trouble our Lord must have created for himself after he had finished feeding the 5000. Wherever he went, they stuck to him like glue. The crowds were amazed and want more of what He gave.
The miracle of the loaves reminded them of the manna stories they had heard and they thought they had their very own Moses to work wonders for them. Testing their premise, they ask Jesus to prove himself by producing bread from heaven right on the spot. They wanted the butter-crust loaves but he knew they needed more than that, so he gave them himself instead- which believe me, must have sounded like heresy to some.
They wanted the miracle food to eat, not a relationship with this ordinary looking man. He honoured their hunger even as he corrected them. It was not Moses who gave it to them, he explained. It was God who gave it and God who gives the true bread from heaven, the bread that gives life to the world.
“ Give us that bread always they said and that is when he let them know that they were looking at it. “ I am the bread of life,” he told them. Jesus is God’s manna in the wilderness, the one who reminds us day by day that we live because God provides not what we want, necessarily, but exactly what we need, some bread, some love, some breath, some wine, a relationship with this ordinary looking man who comes from heaven to bring life to the world.
I am the bread of life, I am God with flesh on, whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me with never thirst.
Isn’t this the beauty of the work of art we call John’s gospel. We begin by hearing about the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God who walked on this earth. Before all things came into being he was with God and he was God and not one thing came into being without Him.
The powerful employment of metaphor and imagery overwhelms us with the identity and the nature of our God who walked amongst us. John goes on to support this imagery by employing the seven miracles and the seven I am sayings.
The first miracle began at the Wedding in Caana and ended with razing Lazarus from the dead.
While one of the I am sayings is the crucial part of our reading this morning, there are six other I am sayings in John’s gospel that point us to the identity of our Lord.
I am the light of the world. Stop groping around in the dark and follow me.
I am the door, the door to salvation; those who enter through me will find eternal life.
I am the good shephard: you are like lost and wandering sheep. I will guide you, protect you, comfort you when you are ill, support you and keep you safe and well fed.
I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes I me though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who believes in me shall not die but be lifted up to eternal life.
I am the Vine and you are the branches whoever abides in me and I in them must bear much fruit.
I am bread, I am light, I am the door I am the good shephard, I am resurrection and life, I am a vine.
These words come to the people at just the right time. They are struggling. Their lives are at risk under the severe persecution, the Roman emperor Nero. It feels as thought their lives are under constant threat. The enemies are at the gate and no one can necessarily be trusted.
The community was considered to be a dissident group of antithetic to Roman rule. They had been forced under ground and met in secret for fear of their lives. In Rome the catacombs had become their place of worship and they were forced to meet for worship in secret. Their words were spoken in code and metaphor for the sake of their own safety and health.
This was the context for the birth of John’s gospel to the people who needed to speak in code. The last of the gospels to be written, long after the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem, became for them and for us a literary account of the divine life of our Master. It is no wonder that most people who call themselves Christian are attracted to mystery of the Word made flesh, the Jesus of John’s gospel whose divine presence amongst his people became for them the bread of life, their hope for a better future and the man who became God in human form. amen