Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron Pentecost 11 Year B 1 Kings 19:4-8, John 6: 35, 41-51
“I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
I’ve heard several people this week complain about the lectionary committee’s decision to have 5 weeks of “Bread of Life” readings. But I’ll tell you what, this is our wheelhouse right? This is who we are as Grace am I right?
In fact, I preached in Saugatuck last week. Because the readings all kind of flow into each other, I really could use the sermon I wrote last week. I don’t know if you know this, but a preacher never gets any negative comments about the sermon the day of. And since I didn’t receive any negative feedback, last week in Saugatuck, I think I’ll preach it again today, this time for you. Wait, was anybody there? Ok, good, you don’t mind getting a warmed up sermon do you? I’m teasing, but the readings have been so rich and essential to how we as Episcopalians view the Eucharist and how we view the mission of the Church, that the sermons may seem pretty similar.
Bread is a pretty big deal. Some kind of bread exists in almost every culture and every corner of the globe. And if you are gluten intolerant, you don’t get to ignore the teachings on the bread of life, you just need to think about it as the gluten free bread of life. And because it is so prominent globally, I thought i’d look up some quotes about bread. These were my five favorite.
Quotes about Bread:
- In the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach.Woodrow Wilson
- The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.Mother Teresa
- Was I always going to be here? No I was not. I was going to be homeless at one time, a taxi driver, truck driver, or any kind of job that would get me a crust of bread. You never know what’s going to happen.Morgan Freeman
- Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.John Muir
- I came into music just because I wanted the bread. It’s true. I looked around and this seemed like the only way I was going to get the kind of bread I wanted.Mick Jagger
So you may have noticed that the Hebrew Text was different than in the printed leaflet. You may or may not know that in the summer, during ordinary time, that the parish has the option of reading track 1 or track 2. This year we have been reading Track 1 and we have had David and Bathsheba and Uriah and Jonathan. And typically, you don’t switch that track around. But I thought that the story about Elijah and the broom tree in 1 Kings just fit too nicely with the bread of life.
So we hear about poor Elijah. He’s walking around like Charlie Brown in the desert… down and out… just having a blue kind of a day. Why the long face Elija? You may remember from Sunday School what happens to Elijah before the story of the broom tree.
Elijah had been sent by God to tell King Ahab to abandon worshiping Baal and to turn back to God. He had been dueling with the 450 priests of Baal. They set up a competition to see which God was real… You remember the story right? They set up an altar and sacrifice bulls and ask Baal and God to reign down fire. At one point Elijah mocks them and tells them to shout louder because maybe Baal is sleeping. This is how the end of the story goes…
“At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.’Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.’ Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.”
So, Elijah presided over the death of Baal’s 450 priests. And Ahab and his wife Jezebel get angry. In fact Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah and so he flees to the wilderness to avoid them. So whether he was down in the dumps because he had killed 450 human beings… created in the image of God, or whether he felt like God had abandoned him, I am unsure. Maybe both. But either way, He wants to just lay there and die. And God takes care of him and his needs. By taking care of his physical needs, God also comforts Elijah and reminds him that he is loved. By taking care of him God says to Elijah, “Even if you kill 450 priests of Baal, I’ll take care of you.” It is a pretty incredible story…
And now I’m going to put you on the spot… Is there anybody here who has a story about when God provided for your needs when you felt hopeless? Maybe a time where you just didn’t know what to do? Felt Helpless? Maybe just needed a respite from something difficult in your life? A time that God took care of you… maybe through a friend or family member or something that seems mysterious and miraculous?
Well I’m not sure about your individual theology about Jesus. About your Christology… But I truly believe that the Church acts on God’s behalf because WE are the body of Christ. We can serve as the need for the divine in one another’s lives. We function as the incarnation of God to one another.
Can you hear that in the gospel for this week? Jesus is responding to the needs of the people. Responding to the needs of humanity. Two weeks ago, Jesus feeds the 5,000 plus, hungry people. Last week, Jesus explains to those who seek more mana from heaven… more bread… that feeding the hungry and nourishing the body is very important, but that God has a plan that will also take care of their spiritual needs.
Just like the story of Israel wandering in the wilderness, God provides for them by making it rain bread on a daily basis. God provides for their daily bread.
And God provides bread for Elijah when he is hungry and water for him to drink when he is thirsty. And this is God’s story right? This is the biblical narrative. And… This is our story… Jesus is God’s gift to us. The way for God to provide for our needs. A way for God to teach us how to live and how to take care of each other. How to bring about a new way to envision everything…
Jesus says to us in the gospel for the day… I am the bread from heaven… God loves you and will take care of you.
I really hope this sermon isn’t too elementary for us all… But I think that the entire flow of the biblical narrative is summed up in this gospel text. It is really fantastic…
So, to complete the sunday school lesson, Jesus died right? The bread was broken for us. For our benefit… So that we may consume our God and by ingesting the divine… we become divine. This is the resurrection story… We become Christ to our neighbor who is sick. We become Christ to the hungry folks in our parking lot… or Hope students and young adults who need community and a meal on Thursday nights… We become Christ to our friends and families who get beat up by Cancer or Crohn’s or Chronic depression and anxiety. We become Christ to those who grieve after the death of a loved one.
So, good people of Grace. Remember, You are what you eat. Let us not forget that the bread and wine… the body and the blood that we will ingest… transforms us into walking, talking, living, breathing, loving, and caring extensions of the Creator of the Universe.
Here ends the Sunday School Lesson. Amen
The Word of the Lord.