"Now What?" by Vicar Charlie Frekot
Grace and peace to you all this morning. This is the last Sunday of the Bread of life discourse or lesson that Jesus is teaching. All of the passages this morning make me think of the question: what now? Joshua declaring his house will follow the Lord, Paul speaking of having the armor of God, or the spiritual gifts God gives us to go out and share the love of God to the world, and especially the end of the Gospel.
We have heard from this chapter of John for a few weeks. We’ve heard, “I am the bread of life.” “Who eats of my body will have eternal life.” God has given bread to God’s people throughout their history, but this bread of life given to them is different. In the gospel for today, many of those who were listening to Jesus explain this were confused. They we asking “who could accept it?” Picturing eating Jesus or seeing Jesus actually made out of bread does not really make sense. Remembering the stories of their ancestors, they would try to understand what bread from heaven meant for them. For the past weeks the conversation from the Gospel involved bread and what it means. So what now? What do we do with this discourse, this conversation, about the bread of life after hearing it?
This lesson was difficult for many to disciples to process. Yes Jesus has fed the multitudes with only a few loaves and fish. Yes, many of those listening are aware of the manna that was provided from God in Exodus. But to understand this teaching, to understand what Christ offers is to trust in Christ, to trust that Christ abides with us as we abide with Christ. It means to trust in Christ throughout it all. Throughout the long road of discipleship. For those who heard this Bread of life discourse, it was a matter of trust. The two options we hear from this passage are from the disciples that leave and from Peter who speaks for the 12. After the disciples leave, Jesus asks the 12, do you wish to stay? And Peter says, Whom else can we go? We believe and know that you are the Holy One. Believe and know, they trust that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God.
For many of us, the idea of Jesus being the bread of life is not that challenging or surprising. We hear that language quite often; in bible studies, Sunday school growing up, sermons and during communion. “Jesus is the Bread of Life.” We hear that often enough that it doesn’t make us turn around and walk away. But it doesn’t end with just hearing it. It is knowing and believing. It is trusting in God. We are given the gift that is faith by Christ, the Bread of Life. And what do we do with this faith? Personally, I feel I needed to start with another question. What do we normally do with bread? Well, we eat it, of course. AND often we share it.
When I think of bread, memories of community and meals that I have shared come to my mind. That is with family, with friends, with strangers. At restaurants, when the bread comes out, it's almost like an icebreaker. The tone of the meal is often set by what is first brought out. This week I’ve had the image of Texas Roadhouse rolls when I spent time with the text. When they come to the table, they are warm, soft and practically melt in your mouth. Whatever the conversation was stops. The rolls become the focus as you pass around the basket. And the number they bring out never seems to be even or match up with the number of people at the table, so you share. If you have 5 people, there’s 4 rolls. If you have 3 people, there seems to be 5 rolls. You take part of one and pass the rest. In college I used to take some in a to-go container because they were so good and share them with friends. Something about that bread was so delicious that I kept wanting to have more to share.
We share bread because there is often more than enough, and that is the same with the bread of life. The bread of Christ keeps calling us back to the table as to share the gifts of faith, the gifts of God. That table, the one that Jesus sets, continually grows larger and larger, welcoming all people. At the center of the table is bread, the Bread of Life. This bread is for all of those who are seeking refuge from oppression. This bread is for those who are in need of shelter. God’s table welcomes each one as we are. In our brokenness and wholeness, our despair and joy, our doubt and hope, the Bread of Life is a gift that we receive at all times. We share the bread of life with all. We share the love we found in Christ, we share the acceptance we have in a community that aims to love one another for who we are; beloved and precious children of God. That is the beauty of the Gospel. In this bread, there is life.
Christ provides us with the Bread that we need. It is something that nourishes us throughout the journey. Not just one giant meal, but one that happens again and again and again. And that bread is meant to be shared. Once we keep it to ourselves, we miss the point. All love, hope, peace and welcome flows from the Bread at the center of the table.
The bread of life is for the world. We are part of that, and are called to help serve it to others. That may look like giving actual food to a pantry in need. Maybe it’s volunteering with feeding ministries. It can be reaching out to someone who is going through a hard time, whether it’s from grief, stress or loneliness. Sharing the Bread of Life, our belief and knowledge of Christ’s presence in our lives, comes in many forms and is part of who we are as followers of Christ.
As we continue on in the journey of faith, as we continue to eat of the Bread of Life, we are called to share it. We are called to proclaim it. As the bread of life lessons come to a close for now, we know how important it is to be fed, nourished. Whom else can we go? Christ has the words of eternal life. Let us believe and know that the Christ continues to love and abide with us in the journey that is to come.