Growing with God
Bread of Life
August 6, 2017
Rev. Fritz Nelson – First Presbyterian, Columbiana
Text: John 6:35
A few weeks ago I discovered this incredibly sweet video by filmmaker and Youtube star Meir Kay. You may have seen it – apparently it was all over Facebook and the talk shows a few months ago. Its called Eating Twinkies with God.
From a different part of the world comes some sage advice about food and how we eat it. It comes from Don Chayo, a farmer in rural El Salvador. Don’s advice is pulled from a longer story about survival during the El Salvadorian civil war that he told peacemaking volunteers.
“It doesn’t make sense to eat everything you have at lunch and then go hungry at dinner. If fact gluttony is a sin because if I eat everything I have, maybe making myself sick, and then someone comes to the door asking for food, I won’t have anything to give him.
“If you’re eating chicken and someone comes by asking for a tortilla, don’t just give him the tortilla; give him a tortilla with a piece of chicken. You should never hide good food away just for yourself. Whatever you have, you should share with others.”
Don Chayo’s story is from a wonderful cookbook called Extending the Table by the Mennonite Central Committee. The same cookbook, in the introduction to the bread section, says this:
“In order to bring reconciliation between peoples and between peoples and God, Jesus allowed others to break his body and take his life.”
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus tells his disciples. Like the manna that came down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert, I too have come down from heaven to feed you, sustain you, to give you life beyond all expectation and boundaries. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.
The editors of Extending the Table also share this story from South Africa in the days before apartheid ended. In 1989, during Lent, hundreds of men, women and children in detention cells throughout South Africa began to refuse to eat. Many had been in jail for months, even years, without being charged with a crime.
“What appeared to be a well coordinated hunger strike was actually a spontaneous decision by a few young women and men in one jail. News of their action spread to other jails and by holy week hundreds in the jail and thousands outside had joined in. This call to fasting, many believed, was the work of God. Lawyers, doctors, family members, clergy, co-workers and others had exhausted every legal means for freeing the prisoners. But fed by Christ, the prisoners used their bodies, the one thing they still controlled, to protest their unjust imprisonment. Fearful that prisoners would start dying, the authorities began to release them. As Good Friday turned to Easter Sunday, children and parents, sisters and bothers began streaming out of the jails. Haggard, hungry but free.”
I am the bread of life, broken for you, so you can be free.
John begins his gospel with the miracle of turning water into wine. In that miracle, Jesus and this disciples are attending a wedding – probably the wedding of a friend, certainly the wedding of someone for whom providing the expected, village wide feast, was a financial stretch. When the host’s inadequate resources run out, Jesus steps in, turning the jars of water reserved for purification rituals, into fine wine.
At the midpoint of his gospel, John relates the story of the loaves and fishes. In an event so awe inspiring and terrifying that it is retold six times across the four gospels, Jesus uses one boy’s lunch to feed thousands. So amazed were the crowd, John reports, that Jesus had to escape up into the hills because they want to make him king. Jesus remains in the hills as the disciples head for home across the Sea of Galilee, leaving Jesus to walk home across the water.
Jesus is back home in Capernum, teaching in the synagogue, when the crowd finds him again. They want another free lunch. Jesus offers them something deeper. “I am,” he tells them, “the bread of life. The living bread that came down from heaven. Those who eat of me, drink of me, will abide in me, and I in them.
I will sustain you, for I am the source of all things. Through me, you will sustain others. Together we’ll find joy eating Twinkies and drinking juice on a park bench. Together we’ll find the faith to give not only a tortilla but a piece of chicken, even when – especially because – we’ve know intense hunger. Together we’ll stand strong against oppression and injustice so we may walk together into resurrection freedom. There is enough of me for each of you, so take, eat and find the true fullness of life.