Bread and more bread huh? Every three years in our lectionary cycle we have a summer of “Bread of life” sermons from Jesus in John’s Gospel. Now many Episcopalians are not at church during this time but since I have been a priest in training or a new priest or a supply priest for the past decade or so, I have not missed a Bread of Life summer. And I am delighted to be with Emmanuel for one Sunday in our Bread of Life summer. And yes it does feel like Jesus is repeating himself a bit in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, but there is a reason!
I often repeat myself. You might repeat yourself too. If you spend time with children or with adults that act like children, then you definitely repeat yourself. Here are some of the phrases I find myself repeating. “Hands to yourself.” “Be Kind.” “Do not jump off that.” “Look both ways before crossing the street.” Now none of these phrases are particularly exciting or fresh, but they are all IMPORTANT. These phrases keep my kids safe and help them build a relationship with each other. So, they are worth repeating.
Jesus has something important to tell us that is worth repeating. “I am the Bread of Life.” Now this isn’t as easy to understand as “Hands to yourself,” so it requires further elaboration. Jesus has told us that he is the Bread of Life in several different ways. He has to say it many different ways over and over because we live in a practical scientific world, and he is pointing us toward a multi-dimensional mystical world, where God dwells in bread and in us. It could be repeated to us over and over for our whole lives and we might not fully understand. I would like to share a story with you all that is helping me understand the importance of the Bread of Life.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to dinner at my in-law’s house with my husband David and our two sons James and Charlie. Charlie is 2 and James is 4. My in-laws live in a high rise building in D.C. with a beautiful rooftop deck so we often have drinks and snacks up there before dinner. The whole area is gated off so I don’t have to worry about the boys getting too close to edge. We were having a lovely time, until I spotted my youngest son Charlie walking on the other side of one of the gates. It is usually locked, but for some reason it wasn’t locked that night. I ran over in a panic and got them on the right side of the gate. I was so scared that when I explained why they couldn’t go over there, I said, “This building is really high and if you go past the gate you might fall off the roof and if you do, you will die.” I immediately regretted the D word. Whoops. And since that moment I have spent a lot of time talking about death with my son James. He wants to know where we go when we die. Will he die soon? Can you play with your toys in heaven? Can you fly in heaven? Will your friends be there? Does everyone die? It has been an ongoing discussion and I honestly don’t know that I have answered the questions that well considering my line of work. I should have been better prepared.
And this is where the Bread of Life comes in for me. Death is hard to understand. Eternal life after death is hard to understand. But we have a God that wants to live with us and help us understand. A God that became human so that He might be closer to us. A God that offers Himself to us every week in bread and wine so that we might dwell within each other. Our God is so available. He wants us to have all of us and wants us to have all of Him. But this is hard for us to wrap our heads around. This isn’t just hard for the 4 year old mind, it is hard for the 34 year old mind and I would imagine the 74 year old mind. We need the “Bread of Life” to understand. Or at least I do. I need this bread to get closer to understanding God.
At the end of our Gospel a few weeks ago, when Jesus says “I am the bread of life,” his followers don’t ask for further explanation, they just plead “Sir, give us this bread always.” This gives me some peace. You don’t need to fully understand the Bread of Life to know that you need it. Receiving it is a step towards understanding and a step towards dwelling with the one who dwells in the bread. Amen.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog