Food. I like it. I’m guessing you like it. Some people have more than enough of it, some have enough to get by, and others don’t have any.
When I worked in student affairs, our motto was “if you feed them, they will come”. Some wise sage had figured out that the best way to get the attention of college students was to feed them…then talk to them about rules, registration, and other information.
When I worked at St. Matthew’s, our motto was “feed them”. St. Matthew’s was in a poor part of the city, and most of our congregation was made up of people without a lot of food. So we fed them a lot. Sundays included pre-and post-church snacks. We ran a food pantry twice a week, and there was always a line out the door. Food was vital to this congregation.
And here in Hood River, food is important. The FISH food bank always takes donations, and people are always fed. When the Warming Shelter is open, meals are provided. Our community is very aware that people need to be fed.
When we have full bellies, the challenges and tasks of life become less daunting.
Our Sunday gospel from John (6:24-35) picks up right after Jesus has fed 5000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread. There was no reason to apply the “if you feed them, they will come” motto…the people were there and they were hungry…physically and spiritually. And so they were fed until they were satisfied. This Sunday, the people have gone looking for Jesus, asking for another sign and more bread.
But this time instead of giving people bread, Jesus tells them about the bread of life.
Jesus says “I am the bread of life”. It is through Jesus that people are fed, healed, and renewed. So what kind of sign did the people want? Were they looking for more food? Were they looking for someone to be their leader (don’t forget, they had tried to make him their king)? Or were they looking for healing and love; the free gift of grace from God? Maybe it was all of these things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If they were hungry, they wanted to be fed. If they felt that life was chaotic, they wanted organization and leadership. If they felt broken, they wanted to be healed. Ultimately, what they were looking for, and what I think most of us are looking for, is something to make us feel loved. And that love is found in the bread of life.
Knowing about and experiencing God’s grace through the life of Jesus—the bread of life—isn’t the end of the story though. Once we have participated in the bread of life, we are called into relationship with each other and with God. Partaking in the bread of life calls us to discipleship and fellowship.
Why did we feed people at St. Matthew’s? Because we had been fed. Most of the volunteers at the food pantry were also poor people, but they had experienced God’s love and healing, and they wanted to share that with someone else.
Why do we feed people through the Warming Shelter and FISH? Because we have been fed. We give of our time, talent and treasure to feed those in need because we have experienced the grace of God and want to share it.
In the Ephesians reading, Paul reminds the early church members (and us) that we are to lead a life worthy of our calling. What is our calling? It is to share in the bread of life. And Paul tells us that the way to be worthy of our calling is to lead a life that is humble, gentle and patient. We are to love one another, which means serving and supporting each other. We are to maintain unity and peace. As partakers in the bread of life, we become members of the body of Christ.
In Paul’s letter he talked about being equipped for ministry. The Greek word for “equip” is katatismos, which means to restore, create or prepare. As members of the body of Christ, as partakers in the bread of life, we are healed and restored, participants in creation and the coming Kingdom of God, and we prepare ourselves to be disciples and follow Jesus.
When we celebrate the Eucharist, we aren’t given a big meal, but instead we are given healing and love that can only be found in the bread of life. I invite you to come…you will be fed.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.