John’s gospel is where we find the many “I Am” statements that Jesus makes. This morning we look at Jesus’ statement “I am the bread of life.”
During the children’s story the observation was made by the children that this really is an odd thing to say. Yet, as an odd a statement as it might be it is full of promise that is life giving and affirming.
Text: John 6: 35, 41-51
Living Bread – Audio Sermon
“I wish I could get you to pray the way that my dog goes after meat.” Martin Luther is reported to have once said that to his congregation. “I wish I could get you to pray the way that my dog goes after meat.” It is a crude sentiment, especially by today’s standards. Let’s be honest, most of us who have dogs don’t feed them meat. We feed them kibble. The idea of giving our dog’s steak or chicken for a meal is just something most of us don’t do. The only time they get meat is when there are some sections we deem unfit to eat ourselves or when something drops to the floor.
Crude as Luther’s statement might be, have you ever seen a dog when you throw it a scrap of meat?
That’s what Luther wanted his congregation to pray like. Like that prayer was the first, best and last prayer they were ever going to pray. That the only thing that mattered at that moment was that prayer.
While Luther’s image was crude, I must confess I agree with his sentiment. Not just for you, but also for me. Sometimes we pray out of habit, other times we pray for joy and sometimes we pray out of desperation. No matter why we are praying we should be doing it as if nothing else mattered at that given moment.
At this point you might be confused. Wondering why I’m preaching on prayer when our gospel reading from John dealt with Jesus’ I am the Bread of Life statement. Our reading from John deals more with reaction the crowd gives Jesus and his subsequent response to them. This piece of scripture is important and it should speak to us in powerful and profound ways.
The statement of Jesus, “I am the Bread of Life” raises the issue of nourishment. Earlier this week on the church website I raised the question of hunger and asked what are you hungry for? When Jesus tells us that he is the Bread of Life we have to realize that if Jesus is one alternative, then there must be other sources of nourishment.
What other sources of nourishment might exist? And let’s be clear here, we are no longer talking about a physical meal. Jesus’ claim that he is the bread that came down from heaven tells us that our discussion centers on something far more important.
Let’s consider what other sources of nourishment we might find:
- The cult of celebrity
- Ego and inflated self-worth
- Willful ignorance of the many problems in the world
We try to fill our lives with things, with ideas, with anything that makes us feel full. That elevates our self worth, raises our self-esteem and which promises results. We prefer those results fast. If you don’t believe the fast part take a look at the weight loss industry, the promises it makes and the profits it reaps.
We are all, all of us searching for something. We who are sitting here and the multitude of people outside these doors are searching for something. Some way to feel complete, to be made whole, to be at peace with who we are.
All of us are on that journey. We are at various stages of the journey and please note that it is a journey. Christian discipleship is a journey, we walk in the Way of Christ. As we walk on this journey, Jesus offers himself to us. He says take and eat, be filled and never hunger again. Christ offers us living bread. This is a divine gift.
Food that will sustain us. In accepting Jesus’ gift we take part in a grand story of redemption and forgiveness. A story of love and grace. Eat this bread and be sustained.
Tolkien’s masterpiece the Lord of the Rings is not strictly speaking a Christian allegory (Tolkien was always careful to point that out). However, it certainly has theological images and allusions. When the Fellowship leaves a city of elves they are given a gift of Lembas bread.
Lembas is bread used for long journeys by elves in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has amazing powers to both sustain travelers and even bring healing to the wounded or sick. One piece of Lembas was enough to last a traveler a full day. Its delicious honey-flavor evokes images of the manna God provided Israel in the wilderness.
However, a quote from The Return of the King suggests Lembas has even more striking powers: “The Lembas had a virtue without which they would have long ago lain down to die. It did not satisfy desire, and at times Sam’s mind was filled with the memories of food, and the longing for simple bread and meats. And yet this waybread of elves had a potency that increased as travelers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with other foods. It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.”
This is the what Jesus offers us. Jesus offers us the Bread of Life, which will sustain us for eternity. Jesus offers us a meal that will fill us up so completely there won’t be room left for other desires. The empty promises of idolatry and our materialistic world will be seen as just that, empty promises.
Pastor Will Willimon writes, “Our hungers are so deep. We are dying of thirst. We are bundles of seemingly insatiable need, rushing here and there in a vain attempt to assuage our desire. Can it be that our bread, our wine, our fulfillment stands before us in the presence of this crucified, resurrected Jew? Can it be that many of our desires are, in the eternal scheme of things, pointless? Might it be true that he is the bread we need, even though he is rarely the bread we seek? Is it true that God has come to us, miraculously with us, before us, like manna that is miraculously dropped into our wilderness?”
Food for thought, isn’t it?
Martin Luther said to his congregation “I wish I could get you to pray the way that my dog goes after meat.” What do dogs do at dinner time? They hang around the table, waiting for the scraps of food to fall. Because they know that this food is far better than the kibble we put out for them.
Friends, Jesus offers us the bread of life. A meal for eternity, a meal that will always sustain you. Go after it like a dog goes after meat. And like a dog with a bone, don’t ever let go of it. Amen.
Thanks to Will Willimon for the Martin Luther illustration and Scott Hoezee for the Tolkien illustration.