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Spiritual Life and Bread






The Epistle


Ephesians 4:25-5:2




Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.



The Gospel

John 6:35, 41-51


Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”


The Sermon


Lets look first at Paul's letter to the Ephesians. If there were ever words to live by this is it. Paul writes, put away falsehood and speak truth to your neighbor. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Thieves must give up stealing. Labor and work honestly. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths. Use your words to build up, not tear down. Put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander and malice. Be kind to one another.

Just think if we lived in a world where everyone lived by those words. I believe it can happen and it can start with us. The Chinese have a saying: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step and when we treat each other with kindness and love we start a chain reaction that reaches well beyond what might be imagined. I read a story the other day about something that happened at the drive thru at a fast food restaurant. One person decided to pay the bill for the car that was directly behind him. The person in that car decided to pay for the car behind her. And so it went for many cars. Random acts of kindness bring joy to so many and it often starts with someone taking that first kind step.

Paul took the words of Jesus and expressed them to the people of Ephesus. Those words were part of a movement that is still alive today. We are the ones who are living the message of truth, honesty, and kindness.

In this Gospel reading, Jesus is telling us to become a part of him. Jesus tells us he is the spiritual bread of life and that if we eat that spiritual bread we will have eternal life. Jesus spoke in metaphors and I am sure it was problematic for many of his followers. When Jesus said he was the bread of life, it was his way of saying that we must bind ourselves to him and his message of love and faith.
When we become faithful Christians. When we consume this bread of life that is Jesus, we are changed and the world is changed because of us.

Amen


Thoughts on Food

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The Gospel Lesson


John 6:24-35


The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

The Sermon


Thoughts on Food

Are you being fed?

I saw a television show once that was talking about our eating habits as Americans. They used plate size as an example. If any of you have plates sitting around from the 50s or 60s you will notice that the dinner plates were much smaller back then. I looked in our cupboard and measure the diameter of plates made in the 60's. They were eight inches in diameter. Our everyday plates which are probably fifteen years old measured ten inches. People seem to be piling on more food today than they did when I was a child so the people who make dinnerware are making bigger plates.

Attendance at church services in America has dropped considerably since those days which makes me wonder. Is there some relationship between our physical appetites and our spiritual appetite. Have we lost our balance. Are we over feeding our physical bodies and leaving our spiritual selves to go hungry.

Jesus seems to be saying the same thing when he says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”

When the people asked him for that food, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

So, are any of you feeling fed? How do we feed ourselves spiritually? I am not being rhetorical here. I am asking you.

Now for a harder question. Are we doing anything to turn away from that spiritual food. Are we in some way poisoning ourselves. It is a tough question and one worth pondering.



Feeding the 5,000; Last Sunday's Sermon


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Old Testament

2 Samuel 11:1-15


In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”



The Gospel

John 6:1-21


Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.


The Sermon



This reading from 2nd Samuel reads like a soap opera. David has lust for Bathsheba the wife of Uriah. While Uriah is off to battle, David has relations with her. She becomes pregnant. David, through trickery hopes to convince Uriah that he is the one who got her pregnant but his scheme fails. David goes to plan B and successfully has Uriah killed in battle.

Next week the story continues....

What do we take away from this story? Well, David had everything. He had wealth, power, fame. He had at least seven wives not to mention his secondary wives. And yet, it was never enough. He wanted more and he really did not care how he got it.

I see this as a cautionary tale. We must always be aware that there is a part of us that is never quite satisfied. We are always hungry for something. This is the beast that must be tamed and we must realize that God will help us conquer that hunger for more. We will never feel fulfilled if we try to satisfy that hunger with stuff. It is by asking God to fill us with His Spirit that will make us whole.

In this reading from John, Jesus sees thousands of followers who literally need food to eat. They have physical hunger.  With five loaves of bread and two fish he satisfies the hunger of the five thousand. It is a miracle. This same story is told in all of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is a powerful message in this story.

Jesus provided for the needs of his followers even during a time of scarcity and he will do the same for us. There is an old saying. You don't always get what you want but you always get what you need. Whether that saying always rings true I do not know but I do believe God watches over you and me. God cares for each of us and God will continue to walk with us on this journey we take through life.

Amen