In the midst of these bread sagas, we get a narrative of what everlasting bread means from Jesus. Jesus promises to be enough for us. Jesus promises to be nourishment, to be what we need in John 6:35, 41-51.
This follows the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Everyone saw how Jesus fed the crowd. But Jesus cautions that this is not the true miracle. The true miracle is not feeding everyone, or even having leftovers afterwards. The miracle is the teachings, the spiritual nourishment that he has to give all of the disciples. John does not have a “Communion” narrative. It just has “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
What do you hunger for in your life? Do you long for security? Or stability? Do you wish to achieve something?
When we look at Simone Biles who returned to the Olympics, it is tough to untangle why. Maybe it was not just to get gold, after all she had already achieved it. She admits part of why she stayed on the Olympic team was to hold her abuser and the committee accountable. She also said she did it to challenge herself further. So when she “called it” and stepped down from competing; she was fulfilling another hunger, the hunger to take care of herself.
What does this text mean to us who face real hunger in our lives? Those who are jobless, or homeless? It is hard to make decisions when one’s basic needs aren’t being met. This is why In I Kings 19:4-8 when Elijah is out of sorts, God suggests he eats and rest until he feels better. God knows that our basic needs are as important as our spiritual needs.
Notice that Jesus does not give the spiritual lesson until after the disciples are fed.
And Jesus himself is rested.
Then the difficult teaching is given, and even then, it is a hard pill to swallow. The disciples say he cannot be the son of God, this is the son of Joseph, he cannot be the everlasting bread. They said “This teaching is difficult, who can accept it?”
Just like Simone Biles when she said enough. Just like Elijah when he felt like he couldn’t go on.
Just like a pandemic that isn’t really over yet.
Some truths are hard for us to face.
Are we able to “taste and see the Lord is good” today? (Psalm 34:8)
I feel a bit like Peter, “Where else is there to go?”
And I think the truth is, we have to look to taking care of one another, our hearts and souls and our mental health. We might need to start with some food and a nap, but ultimately, to deal with the trauma the world has gone through, we are going to have to seriously look at the spiritual food we have feeding one another. How do we nourish each other? Do we encourage people to look after themselves and their relationships? Do we encourage hope and health?
Or are we like the fumbling disciples seeking physical bread above all else, too busy putting out the immediate fires–like how are we going to feed everybody in front of us to deal with the emotional health of the body and to deal with the more systematic issues that cause the hunger in the first place.
How can we rest and eat, and then pursue the bread of life, together.
Because I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.
Where are you at with the texts? Are you wrestling with bread? Prophets? Something else? Share your thoughts and theological nuggets here as we journey towards Sunday together.
Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny Presbyterian church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY since 2020 and blogs prayers & Narrative Lectionary at http://www.katyandtheword.com She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.
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