“An Emotional Time”
August 12, 2018 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost – Year B
Pat Baker reached forward to pick up the communion bread, to break it, and stopped. The bread was glowing.
The sight so surprised her that she pulled back her hands. Then she realized that the bread itself was not glowing. But somehow, a pool of golden light fell upon the bread and plate it lay upon. Steeling herself, Pat reached into the pool of light and broke the bread.
After the service, she looked around to find an explanation. The explanation was simple enough, but perhaps even more remarkable. The church had recently installed a large brass cross on the back wall of the chancel, illuminated by a spotlight. The spotlight reflected off the shiny brass cross, focusing a patch of warm-coloured light on the bread on the communion table.
We couldn’t have planned it that way if we had tried,” said Pat, still shaking her head. “To have the light of the cross fall on the bread that is broken…”
Martin Luther, back in 1520 tells us, “For just as the bread is made out of many grains ground and mixed together, and out of the bodies of the many grains there comes the body of one bread, in which each grain loses its form and body and takes upon itself the common body of the bread… so it should be with us
This enkindles in us such love that we take on Christ’s form, rely upon his righteousness, life and blessedness. And through this interchange of his blessings and our misfortunes we become one loaf, one bread, one body … and have all things in common.
We should humbly and heartily give thanks with all our powers to the God of all mercy for giving us such a gracious sign by which – if we hold fast to it in faith – he leads and draws us through death and every danger to himself, to Christ.” So said Martin Luther.
I think it is safe to say that the eating of food is at one and the same time both the most commonplace and the most profound experience of any life. The first moment in which love is experienced by any human being is the moment when he or she first is fed. Newborn babies enter life separate and alone. The vast new world is filled with unknown stimuli; but when children are fed by their mothers, they are held, cradled, and rocked. They know warmth, security, caring. It is all but impossible for an infant to receive food without feeling community and love. So, it is that deep in our unconscious minds, food becomes associated with something far deeper than food. It is a symbol for love; never are the two separated.
Eating food is a profound human experience. It is physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. By understanding this, we comprehend Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life.” Eating bread – in fact eating any food – was a symbol for love. Bread – fills a body, physically. Love psychologically fills a life. The Christ claim to be the bread of life was therefore a claim to be the power that fulfills the deepest needs of human life.
We worship Jesus Christ when the bread of life is taken, blessed, broken and given. Christ both makes known and is the source of life. We worship him by living in his freedom, sharing in his being, giving of his love; and we call him brother and Comforter, for he is bread – the bread of life.
In 11 short verses Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. I am the bread that came down from heaven. I am the bread of life. I am the living bread.” 4 times he says, “I am bread.” We must not forget that God is the great I Am. Jesus is self identifying his relationship with God and with humanity.
This passage from the Gospel of John begins with the familiar verse of last week’s reading. Jesus declares himself as the “bread of life.” Some of his listeners takes great offense at this, pointing out Jesus’ humble origins. Jesus replies briefly to them and then resumes an elevated discourse on his relationship with God, linking the Exodus from Egypt with the freedom of new life that he offers. He repeats the assertion – “I am the bread of life” – and goes on the describe that bread even more graphically as his own flesh. The mention of “flesh” recalls the opening chapter of the Gospel of John, where it states “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” and also raises eucharistic or in other words communion images.
Jesus takes ordinary things from life and nature such as bread, wine, water and light, and transforms them into symbols bearing spiritual meaning and possessing saving power. In the dialogue with Nicodemus, birth becomes New Birth, with the Woman at the well, water becomes Living Water and here bread from the feeding of the 5,000 becomes Bread of Life which feeds the whole world.
As we reflect on this simple, yet complex image we become convinced that Jesus speaks of bread that is more than bread. It is spiritual nourishment. We recognize that bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbour is a spiritual question.
In one Saskatchewan community the groundwater is threatened. The water table is near the surface and used by a lot of agriculture. The ground water has been tainted. It is compromised by the use of pesticides and growth enhancers. The grain that is now produced is genetically altered. In this community is a Roman Catholic nun who leads conferences and workshops. Because the grain has been altered, her host for communion is compromised by poison. It brings the issue of the earth and bread into a whole new level of existence in terms of brokenness and our sin.
One of my special friends is a woman who has been organically farming for over 30 years in Southwest Saskatchewan. Growing lentils, peas, durham wheat and some canola – she has learned the many special techniques necessary to farm without using pesticides and herbicides. She is an organic farmer because she wants to do her part for the environment. She believes that the quality of product is enhanced because of the no chemicals approach to farming. Farming organically is part of her commitment to leave the world a better place. Her homemade multi grain bread is something to swoon over.
High quality, nutritious food is essential to a healthy life. To share the bread of life with other pilgrims is to know the Holy One. May your table be laden with nourishing bread. And each time you take a bite of bread remember that Jesus is the bread of life.
It has been said that to know Jesus is to know God. To know Jesus is to have eternal life. May we always reflect on these words of Jesus, “whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Amen.