Kathleen Moore Sermon August 9, 2015
1 Kings 19:4-8
John 6:35, 41-51
May I speak in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit. Amen.
Today’s reading from John’s gospel is all about food, something we deal with every day of our
lives, by necessity. But Jesus is not talking about anything at all like the food we will eat (ate)
this morning in the Parish Hall or what we will put on the table at home this evening.
As we drive around town on our daily business, we are surrounded by signs for restaurants and
grocery stores; we read articles and watch TV news pieces about the fight against obesity and
hear dire warnings about the dangers of too many french fries and too much sugar. It seems to
be all about too much of a good thing. On the other hand, we also hear about the number of
children in our community who go to bed hungry and the elderly who depend on Meals on
Wheels for their one meal of the day.
Every summer, our diocese funds programs that provide meals for children who during the
academic year get their main meals at school. Right here at Holy Trinity, our food pantry helps
people in this community who would otherwise go hungry. On Fridays I volunteer at the Faith
Cafe in Tampa where we prepare lunch for 60-70 homeless and hungry people every day. And
in the wider world, there are famines and food shortages the like of which we can hardly
Some of us have all the food we need, some of us don’t have enough, and some of us have
more than we should. But Jesus is not talking about that either.
Bread is probably the most basic food item there is, and it has become more or less
synonymous with food in general. We talk about “breaking bread together” as a way of saying
we are sharing a meal with someone; bread is sometimes referred to as “the staff of life”. In
today’s Old Testament reading, the angel prepares a meal of bread for Elijah that sustains him
for forty days and forty nights.
So when Jesus says “I am the bread of life,” he is saying that he is essential for life, and not just
physical life but eternal life. Wow! Even the manna that God provided for the Israelites in the
wilderness and the bread that Jesus had just miraculously created to feed the five thousand was
physical bread that perishes. Jesus, in contrast, is spiritual bread that brings eternal life.
What Jesus is saying here is that he is the true Bread; he is to the soul what bread is to the
body, what nourishes and supports the spiritual life. This is a powerful metaphor that his
listeners—and we—understand, but it is not enough just to come and listen. We have to
literally take him in. We have to receive him and appropriate him. That’s our responsibility.
When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” he is also making a claim to deity. “I AM” is the
covenant name of God, or Yahweh, revealed to Moses at the encounter with the burning bush.
The Jews who were listening to Jesus would have recognized and understood that Jesus was
telling them he was the Messiah, the Christ. As we can see, however, this is not easy for them
to take in. This is a man they know, whose family they know personally. How can he be from
Jesus makes eight I AM statements in John’s gospel. The others include the light of the world;
the gate or the door; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; the way; and the (true)
vine. Each one of these statements about himself represents a particular relationship of Jesus
to our spiritual needs. In addition to being the bread that feeds our spirits, Jesus is the light in
the darkness, the gate to security, and the shepherd that guides. He is the way, the truth and the
But even this is not all. If you remember our sequence hymn last week, it was “O God, thy
table now is spread,” written by Philip Doddridge and Isaac Watts in the eighteenth century.
We sang the third verse as follows:
Drawn by thy quickening grace, O Lord
In countless numbers let them come
And gather from their Father’s board
The bread that lives beyond the tomb.
This is a paraphrase of what Jesus is saying in today’s gospel reading. God will draw people
to Jesus, and if they believe he will feed them with the bread that comes down from heaven
and give them eternal life. This is the promise of resurrection—if we eat this bread we will live
So what does it mean to come to Jesus and never be hungry, to believe in him and never be
thirsty? Well, Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus helps answer that question. He tells
them that they must be “imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us.” This is the absolute bottom line of Jesus: to love God and to love
each other. Everything else flows out from that. The way of Jesus is the way of love. If we take
the food of the spirit that Jesus offers and accept him as the one who reveals God’s love to us, it
will change us. If we consent to become part of the body of Christ, we will be different. We will
take into ourselves the thinking of Jesus, the attitudes and actions of Jesus, and the value
system of Jesus.
If we want to know what this looks like, we can read Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians, or
even better we can go the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the poor,
blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. Jesus shows us all
these ways to be blessed and to find fullness of life, and Paul tells us simply to live a life of love,
the kind of self-giving love that Jesus showed.
More often than not, however, we humans live by a logic of scarcity; it’s all a zero-sum game.
Some people are poor because other people are rich, some are hungry because others are
consuming all the food. Neither food nor any other resources are equitably distributed, and we
see that as the normal state of things. But with God, nothing is in short supply. Jesus shows us
a generosity that interrupts the logic of scarcity with the extravagant self-giving of divine love.
The Franciscan theologian John Duns Scotus taught that love, not sin, was the very reason for
the Incarnation. God’s intention to become human was part of the divine plan from the
beginning; God wanted to be with us because God loves us.
God is all about abundance and extravagance—think about the twelve baskets of leftovers from
the feeding of the five thousand. There was more than enough for everyone. And creation itself
is an amazing example of God’s extravagant and boundless love. Because creation is centered
on incarnation, every part of it is an outward expression of the Word of God in love. All creation
has life in Christ, the personal Word of Love, through whom, according to John’s gospel, all
things are made. Until humans began to exercise their biblical “dominion” by decimating other
species, Creation contained more than enough of everything; as we are told in Genesis, it was
One of the books Bob Kinney and I were required to read for our Church History class in the
School of Ministry Development last spring was Benedicta Ward’s book The Sayings of the
Desert Fathers. The Desert Fathers were early Christian monks who lived mainly in the desert
of Egypt beginning around the third century AD. They were hermits living mostly alone, but they
lived close enough to each other to be able to worship and eat together. One of the stories told
in the book was about an earnest young monk who came to the desert community and, when
offered food, declined saying that he was concerned not with what Jesus called “the food that
perishes” but “the food that endures for eternal life.” Several hours passed as the young monk
sat in his cave. Eventually, he ventured out to see what time dinner was. “Oh my son,” said the
Abba (the priest in charge), “we have all eaten dinner already. We thought you had no interest
in the food that perishes so we did not summon you!” (Just a little third century humor!!)
I tell you this story because it reminds me that there was a time in my own life when, unlike that
young monk, I was more concerned about missing dinner than about being fed spiritually. I
didn’t think I had any need for this food that Jesus offers. If I had participated in the recent Pew
Research Center study on the religious landscape of America, I would probably have been one
of the “nones”—people who don’t identify with any particular religious group, but who often
describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. Thanks be to God, that changed suddenly
and drastically when I arrived at St John’s Episcopal Church in Tampa one Sunday in February
over 25 years ago. It did not take long for me to realize how spiritually famished I was. And in
that nurturing Christian community, God provided the food I needed as extravagantly and
abundantly as always—and continues to do so here at Holy Trinity today.
My story, like most of yours, is of a God who actively comes down to meet us rather than waiting
for us to get there by our own efforts. God draws us to Christ, and if we believe, we receive the
food that will nourish our spirit, the bread of heaven, and the promise of eternal life.
Let us pray:
Gracious God, you provide the true bread of heaven in your son Jesus Christ. Strengthen us in
your service, that our lives may demonstrate that we have been truly fed. Amen.