CACINA

The Parable of the Midnight Bread Run

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit by Rev. Martha on July 24, 2016

17th Sunday ordinary time, 7-24-16, Genesis 18:20-32,Ps 138, Col. 2:12-14, Luke 11:1-13

Did you think at first this week’s Gospel and Old Testament readings didn’t seem related? Me too.  However, 3 questions emerged from the similarities I did find.  Let me tell you what they are and how I found them.

Abraham was sitting in the shade of a tree at the opening of his tent. To his surprise, 3 men appeared to be walked out of the shimmer of the burning hot desert toward his tent.  He jumped up and ran to them, offering food and drink.  His behavior was not bizarre – it was the “ordinary” and expected gift of hospitality.  In the desert, travelers could not just go down the street to the next hotel.  Hospitality was life and death in the desert, and every nomad like Abraham knew all too well that the next man to depend on this desert hospitality could be him.  People were dependent on each other, and they knew it.

But one of the men blessed Abraham and Sarah with the prophecy that within a year, they would have the son they had longed for all their lives.  This was not “ordinary.” Then the men prepared to leave for the city of Sodom, and we are told one of them is God. God and Abraham are “tight” – they have a covenant and a relationship.  God sends the other 2 ahead and lingers to confide in Abraham about the Sodom and Gomorrah problem.  God is on his way to find out if the complaints he hears about the evil in those cities is as bad as people say.   This is a much earlier understanding of God than we read in the New Testament, yet God is, even then, listening- and responding- to prayers. Hold on to that thought for a moment.

Abraham is determined to find out if God values life. This is the first question I found -we would phrase it, “Do all lives matter to God?” The culture of that day concerned communities.  A community of at least 12 men was the focal point; that’s what mattered.  Abraham means to know if God cares about individuals. The answer is clearly yes, God does number each of us, for God will save the entire city for not 12, but even 10 innocent people.  In the end, God finds just 4 innocent people- who are given safety.

What was the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah that they should be destroyed?  This has been discussed for centuries.   Ezekiel 16 said it was their disregard for the poor, pride in their prosperity, and their complacency.  Isaiah 1 says their faith was empty, and their hands were bloody from injustices.  Jeremiah 23 lists adultery, living in lies, siding with the wicked, and provoking others to evil. Genesis 19 lists:  random, uncontrolled violence and lack of that important hospitality.  When the two messengers God sent entered the city, Lot offered them food, lodging, and safety for the night.  Then a violent mob gathered & Lot was so appalled that the city residents would attack them that he offered his daughters to the rioters in place of the two men.   Imagine putting your own children in danger to protect two strangers- but the point the enormous responsibility of protecting travelers– and how seriously out of control the cities were. The city people call Lot “an immigrant”, using the word like an ethnic slur, and threaten him with violence, too.  My 2nd question is then: “What attitude should we have toward travelers, strangers, refugees, and immigrants?”   2 weeks ago we touched on this question with the Good Samaritan story.  But generosity and compassion for immigrants and refugees has always been the expectation of God’s people.

There can be little doubt that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had totally severed any relationship to God, and had lost any sense of justice, hospitality or respect. And here is the place we can move to the Gospel reading, even though the contrast with Sodom and Gomorrah is so deliberately striking that the two seem incongruent.  But Jesus tells this remarkable and often misunderstood parable of the man who needs bread to feed a traveler who has arrived from his journey late at night.

So we know about the hospitality thing. But something else is going on here.  First, Jesus asks literally, “Who from You” (which of you) has a friend to whom you go at midnight and say to him, ‘lend me 3 loaves’…and the answer would be,  ‘Don’t bother me, I am not able to get up and give you anything.’” Do you have a friend who would say that?  11 times a question is posed in the Gospels starting with “Who from you” and every time the answer is “No!” The whole point is that no one would refuse to get up and give his friend what he needs.  It is unthinkable, unimaginable, an easy conclusion based on everyday life.   For sure, the poor sleeping man will hand over the bread.  Now look at this parable again.  Does it mention any knocking at the door or repetition of the request?  No.  There is nothing to suggest this is a lesson in persistence.  Not that persistence is bad, it’s just not in this parable.  We have a problem. The Greek word here translated in some recent Bibles as “persistence” is “anaideia” is correctly translated “shamelessness or bad manners, rudeness”.  There are no recorded uses historically of this word in any other meaning.  Jesus is using the contrast to make a point about prayer and our relationship to our Abba/ Father.  God is not like the sleeping man, who needs rudeness and social convention to produce what you want.

This is a “how much more” parable. In other words, if a man will get up in the middle of the night to answer a request that is rude, how much more will God answer your requests?  Matthew in 6: 27 (which starts with “who from you”)has the same thing when he says if God cares about the birds and flowers, how much more will God care about you?  This is the same God who listened and responded to Abraham’s prayer for a son and the outcry over the evil in Sodom & Gomorrah.  God has a long & impressive resume in handling prayers. In this parable, Jesus is giving us assurance – certainty!- that God hears our prayers and responds… to the point of giving his own Spirit, the Holy Spirit to help us.  This parable and the verses which follow affirm the importance of prayer and is an invitation to pray.  Come to God with your worries, cares, needs – it’s not a waste of time.

So here is my 3rd question:  Can you tell the difference between people with a prayerful, dependent relationship with God, and people who have severed all relationship with God and depend on their own power?  I think our readings answer that pretty clearly. To put it another way, what is the defining difference between a violent, out of control mob with no concern for those in need; and people who share their dependence and needs with each other, and who embrace the hungry and the outsider?  It would seem that a prayerful relationship with God is the difference here.  It would seem that kind of dependence on God completes us as beings made in God’s image.

 

Homily November 8, 2015 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on November 5, 2015

32 sThe stories of the two widows in the readings today is probably familiar to most of us. How many times have we heard one or another of these two stories used as examples of giving and giving generously. Sort of like giving until it hurts. Yet, Jesus was contrasting this poor widow with the Scribe and others who flaunted themselves and paraded around in their importance. Yet this humble woman was out of her faith and love and trust of God giving as she felt she must, sacrificing some or all she needed. Trust, a key word, as Jesus came and had a special care for the poor who in many ways were left to the mercy of their peers and many times never saw any mercy. In his time and in most times, do people look out for the poor and others or just themselves?

The Widow's Mite Luke 21:1-4

The Widow’s Mite Luke 21:1-4

Certainly, prudence requires that one takes proper precautions and care of his family and loved ones, but ultimately it is God who cares and looks over us. He also calls on us took look out for others, especially the poor. Why the poor, you might say, but think about it, if you a parent, you love all your children, but as they leave your home, some are more independent than others and the more dependent ones have a care and concern a bit higher for you. With God, the poor have a special trust not different than others, but perhaps more finely tuned that God leads and takes us where we go. Sure many of us plan and prepare and set our sites on the future and what is good, but it is God’s goodness that lets it happen.

A poor person often has a more humdrum day to day vision, know that each day is a gift that somehow God gives and brings forth the next. Planning is hard when just getting along is a constant task. Yet faith and trust in God brings resourcefulness and happiness. Relationships and love overshadow all that stands in the way to the father. Riches, status, celebrity all can stand in the way or not according to how we trust in God and relate to others. 32sundayTrust means that life has twists and turns we might never envision, yet God walks with us and brings with him if we trust that his way is the way. As all of us get older, I think we realize that as the twists and turns came, like it or not, how we related to God and others is ultimately what made it a good or bad experience.

Trust then is like the two widows, trusting their lives to be safe and fulfilled by God and leading them to a long and safe way home.

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Homily August 30, 2015 Holy Trinity Parish

Posted in Called, christian, church events, homily, politics, saints, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 30, 2015

Homily August 23, 2015 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Communion, Eucharist, Faith, homily, inspirational, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 19, 2015

Jesus Commanding his Disciples to RestIn many ways, if we look at Christian art and how it depicts Jesus, we see a very idealistic and westernized Jesus in most of the art. What we forget is that he didn’t have his own home and he traveled from town to town making Copernican a place He went most often. Sleeping out under the stars was probably not uncommon for he and the twelve. As a group of men, they probably were rough looking and a group that could take care of themselves. Jesus became known for being outspoken and for performing signs. His preaching and message 21 sundawere different and presented differently than by the teachers of the law. He taught with authority that was hard to fathom for the average person. He appeared and spoke in a prophet like way, but he left the choice of following and belief up to the individual. So as we finish the bread of life section today, we find the crowd and at the same time the people of John’s time of writing the gospel perplexed and questioning the whole idea of the bread from heaven and the eating and drinking the flesh and blood in the sacrificial offering of the cross. How can we eat his flesh?
The question or belief in the Eucharist is a faith question that all deal with one time or another. Clearly Christ said this is my body and blood, The how and the why is simply that it is for us for our journey here and for life to come. In life, we do not question love and someone’s looking out for us, so why should we question or doubt what he has done and continues to do.21 sunday
Yet, in today’s gospel, we see that many walked away, many who could not open their hearts to the word and the embrace of God’s love, either through selfishness, or because they shut themselves within themselves, In his love, Jesus let them go, free to choose, free to believe, free to go where their choices took them. No harsh words or condemnation, but simply he let them go, always ready to welcome them again.
And so it is our bread of life, our bread for now and the future is here for us to share and to live out in our world today and to prepare for the time to come. Like Peter we say, “Lord to whom can we go?”

Today’s Homily at Holy Trinity Parish August 16, 2015 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, Communion, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, scripture, Spirit by Fr Joe R on August 16, 2015

Homily for the 21stt Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 23)

Posted in Communion, Eucharist, homily, inspirational by Fr. Ron Stephens on August 16, 2015

Homily for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 23)

Today the readings are once again about the Eucharist – the bread from heaven – but it is our last foray into that topic for a while. The first two readings, however, are more about service. In the Book of Joshua we find Joshua gathering together all the tribes in a great assembly to praise God. They have entered a land where there were many gods being worshipped, each nation, sometimes each city, having its own God and protector. Joshua knew that moving into these lands and cities would tempt the Hebrews to start to fall in line with he inhabitants and worship other gods, which is exactly what happened in the years to come. This day, however, he asks the people to make a choice. He said you can choose other false gods or you can choose the one true God. Joshua said he had made his decision; he would not be influenced by other cultures but remain dedicated to the God of Israel. The people, having travelled forty years to get to this new land, agreed with him. They recognized, because they had lived through some of it, what God had done for them in taking them out of the slavery of Egypt, feeding them in the wilderness with the bread from heaven, protecting them along the way. that the God of Israel was not to be abandoned. Their thankfulness was so great they as a group they chose Israel’s God to be true to.

The psalm refrain today is once again “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” But the psalm itself is extended and we hear of how God will protect righteous people, even though they have many sufferings and afflictions. In the New testament this becomes the healing power of the eucharist.

The theme of servitude is again picked up by Paul in Ephesians. Again, I remind you that this may not have been Paul since some of the things here go against what he had previously written in the epistles we know to be his. The idea of servitude or “subjection” as it is translated here, is that we are to be subjected to each other – we are to act as servants to each other because that is what Jesus did. The example he uses is a marriage and we have to understand that he was writing from a world view where men were totally in charge. His view of marriage is to see the male as Christ-like and wives like the people of God who are to do service, to be subject to Jesus or the husband. If you can get beyond that thinking of male superiority, it can be an apt image, however, for relationships. The dominant image is of the love that Christ had for us that led even to his death. Husbands, being the Christ image, must love their wives, to the death. Paul actually puts a lot on husbands today. They are to help their wives become holy, to help the wives be without blemish, to love the wives as much as they love their own bodies, they must nourish and care for their wives. The husband as the image of Christ is a daunting model for men who have to also realize that instead of lording it over another, they are to be their servant as Christ was. So, in a sense, husband and wife serve each other in a healthy relationship. The ideal is oneness, the great mystery as Paul calls it, of the two becoming one flesh in marriage.

The Gospel then creates the same kind of question that Joshua generated about choosing the God of Israel or other gods. Jesus has explained ‘the bread of heaven” and told them that those who will follow him will have eternal life. They need to choose – go back to the Jewish rituals and continue to follow the Law or follow Jesus and become something quite different within the LAw. Some could not make that choice. We are told that many left over Jesus’ teaching about him being  the bread from heaven. Some stayed, but all the apostles continued to follow him as one who spoke the words of eternal life, and their belief that Jesus was the Holy One of God.

Just a note on a very debated line from this reading today which seemed to some to say that there was predestination. “For this reason I have told toy that none can come to me unless it is granted them by my Father.” Jesus seems to be saying that believing in him is a gift from God, and God doesn’t give the gift to everyone. Therefore only a few people will have eternal life by following him. John Calvin during the Protestant Reformation took this as doctrine, and they believe to this day that some have been chosen to be saved and others have not.

I see this line, though, in context as referring to the Jews who had been chosen by God. God had prepared them for a Messiah and had given clues throughout their history in the writings of the Torah. Without those clues, how could they ever hope to understand what was happening through Jesus. After Jesus’ death this was opened up so that the rest of the world could participate in this knowledge, to become God’s people. Once you see what is before you, but reject it and do not believe, as did many of the people who heard Jesus, then it was not God’s fault. God has drawn you, but you have refused to believe it.

When all is said and done, the most beautiful words in the readings today may be Peter’s: Lord, to whom can we go?”

What else is there? Once we have been made aware of what God has done and is doing for us, once we have been made aware of the bread from heaven come down to earth for us, once we have been made aware that we can share in that bread and in eternal life and have our sins forgiven, to whom else can we go? Is there a choice if we want to live!

And those are the words of Good News that I ask you to think about this week, the last week of our vacation with the Gospel of John.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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Homily August 16, 2015 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, Christianity, Eucharist, Faith, inspirational, religion, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 13, 2015

20 sunThe last few weeks we have been listening to the Bread of life discourse in the Gospel of John. As we know, John was written after the other gospels and has some different characteristics than the 3 Synoptic gospels. John, for instance, spends several chapters on the last supper and Jesus’ washing of feet and various discourses, but he does not include the institution of the Eucharist. The discourse we have been listening to is placed at Passover, and thee bread of life discourse is John’s introduction and theology of Christ’s body and blood. It is his way of teaching and bringing about a better understanding of the Eucharist.20 sunda So far we have seen the body and blood as food and nourishment for the body and as spiritual food for our journey to eternal life,

Today, Jesus emphasizes that the body and blood he is giving is actually his very flesh and his very blood. This flesh and blood is really and actually his body and blood. As bread is made of grain crushed and mixed with water and then baked at high temperature, so has the wine been made of crushed grapes and fermented to make his blood Bread as we know is a staple and nutritious for every day life and in such a way is Christ’s body crushed and life giving to us now and for our daily life and for future life to come. Wine is true drink, but actually in a way more festive and joyful for the sharing of nutritious and happy times. Together we come together and share his body and blood and together achieve a unity of mind and heart and prepare ourselves to go out and face the world as loving Christians and bring ourselves to a table and place Body_of_Christ_by_ssejllenradprepared for us when we have reached the end of our time. Real food, real drink for us for now physically and spiritually , a way to face daily life. How can this be, how can it be his flesh and blood? It was asked in Christ’s time and obviously in John’s time. And even today it is asked. Faith tells us it is what Christ said it was and there has been throughout the centuries no greater gift to us. His body, his blood has been given and has been a constant from the very earliest church. It is true even to today, whoever eats his body and drinks his blood will have life and will never die.

August 9, 2015 Homily at Holy Trinity Parish

Posted in Called, Communion, Eucharist, Faith, homily, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 9, 2015

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 16)

Posted in christian, Communion, Eucharist, homily, inspirational by Fr. Ron Stephens on August 9, 2015

Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2015 (Aug 16)

Once again this week we are invited to look at the continuing teaching on the Eucharist as presented by Jesus in John’s Gospel. And once again, we have an Old Testament reading that looks forward to the eucharistic event. Proverbs says: “”You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense [Wisdom] says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity and live…””

And again we sing in the Psalm: Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Even so, Paul, or pseudo Paul” in a voice that is censuring excess at Eucharistic meals, says don’t taste too much: Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit”…and that will lead you “to sing and make music to the Lord”.

So today is all about celebration of the fact that the Eucharist is a wonderful, miraculous, freeing, forgiving thing!

The Gospel repeats and then picks up what we heard last week, re-iterating that the bread from heaven, the flesh of our Savior will give us life now, and eternal life after. Because Jesus has been raised and we are “in Jesus” we too shall live because of him. Hopefully, you found time last week to think about some of these things that we often take for granted.

Because today is so celebratory about the Eucharist I would like to take a few minutes to remind you how many times this ‘bread of heaven” comes up in our Sunday Mass.

We start most Sundays by my saying “As we prepare to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love, let us acknowledge our failures.”  The mystery of Christ’s love is another way for saying eucharist. Christ’s love for us allows him to give himself up for us, and he does this by giving up his body. Each week at Mass we re-enact that great mystery.

When we get to the Offertory of the Mass after we have finished the readings and said our Creed, the people bring the gifts to the altar, the priest takes them and prays over them. Since I am concentrating on “bread from heaven” today I will only talk about the first one. The priest says..”Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” The bread of life! Jesus has taken something from the earth, it is refashioned by our hands and the refashioned again into Christ’s body. A threefold mystery.

In the Canon of the Mass, just before the consecration, the priest asks that this bread and wine “become the body and blood of Jesus Christ your only son our Lord.” Immediately following we hear the words from the Last Supper repeated: Take this [bread], all of you and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” This is the moment in the Mass when we most clearly know what is happening and what sacrifice Jesus was going to make for us.

Immediately after when we proclaim the mystery of our faith, one of the responses is that “we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus until you come in glory”. How we proclaim that is, of course, the Eucharist.

After the consecration we are again reminded that what we are doing at Mass is reenacting the perfect sacrifice. We are told “we offer to you, God of glory and majesty, this holy and perfect sacrifice: the bread of life and cup of eternal salvation.” Both themes are proclaimed loudly in today’s Gospel – the life-giving effect of the Eucharist and the everlasting effect of it. Then we are reminded of three examples of offerings being given in the Old Testament. We are reminded of Abel who offered up the fruits of the land to God, of Abraham, who was willing to offer the body of his son, and Melchisedech, a Gentile King, who brought gifts of bread and wine to Abram. We see Melchisedech’s gifts as a forerunner of the gifts Jesus transformed.

At the end of the Canon we proclaim that these gifts are filled with life and goodness, and are blessed and holy.

In the Our Father when we say “give us this day our daily bread”, we can hear echoes of the Old Testament and the manna in the desert which was a daily bread and echoes of the Eucharist as well. In this we are asking for the eucharist’s life-giving qualities.

After the Lamb of God litany has reminded us of the fact that sins are forgiven again, the priest takes a piece of the consecrated bread and drops it into the chalice of blood and silently says: May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it. So there it is again – the two prominent qualities of the eucharist – forgiveness of sin and eternal life. When the priest consumes the bread, you may not realize but he silently says: ‘May the body of Christ bring me to everlasting life’. In cleansing the vessels the prayer uttered is: May [these gifts] bring me healing and strength.

So you see that in each Mass we have structured our worship and praise of God around the idea of repeating the perfect sacrifice of the bread from heaven and the wine of the covenant.

Coming back to John’s Gospel today we might end by repeating Christ’s explanation to us: “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” “This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

I ask you this week and going forward to watch for the mentioning of the bread of heaven at Mass in attempt to not let us take the Mass for granted, but to make it a real eucharistic meal binding us to Christ and to one another. Then we can echo the final prayer of the priest: Lord may i receive these gifts in purity of heart. May they bring me healing and strength, now and for ever.:

This is Good News, and it is news that bears repeating today.

(Please note that the Catholic Apostolic church still uses the post Vatican II translation of the Canon, which I have used today.)

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

False Idols and Real Bread 19th Sunday, 8-9-15

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, Eucharist, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on August 7, 2015

HT 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 8-9-15, 1Kings 19: 4-8, Ps 34, Ephesians 4: 30-5: 2, John 6: 41-51

It hardly seems fair to read the short passage about Elijah without a quick re-cap of why the prophet was in such sad condition. As kids, we acted out this story; it was a favorite. The name of Queen Jezebel stands for deceit and danger. She worshiped the idol Baal and killed God’s prophets. To save God’s people, who were worshiping Baal and forgetting God, Elijah finally confronted Jezebel’s husband, King Ahab, in a dramatic showdown between Elijah and 450 of Baal’s prophets. (We used dollhouse figures and dominos for the prophets.)  

The showdown was to decisively prove that the Lord God is real, active and alive, while Baal was only an idol made by human hands. The sacrifice offered to Baal remained untouched, but fire rained down and consumed the sacrifice to God, along with the altar, the stones, the water poured over the sacrifice, and even the dust around the altar. Elijah then killed Baal’s prophets. When Jezebel heard this, she swore that in 1 day, Elijah would be dead. 

So we find Elijah exhausted, desperately afraid for his life, worn out from the struggle of standing alone and being faithful to God in a hostile environment. He has a kind of breakdown from the stress. An angel is sent to nurture him; Elijah is fed and allowed to rest. He was to journey to the Mountain at Horeb aka Mt. Sinai, where God had met Moses with thunder, earthquakes and fire, where God gave the 10 commandants and the covenant. The angel saw to it that Elijah was strengthened for the trip. Remember: God was not in wind, earthquake, or fire for Elijah, but in a still, small voice, exactly right for a weary prophet. God told Elijah to anoint a new king, and he would have the support of 7,000 men. Elijah was no longer fearful or alone.  

The theme is the same as when the Israelites were hungry and discouraged after leaving Egypt- in both cases, bread was sent to nourish them on the journey, a tangible sign of God’s love, care, and presence in their lives. God’s love is indeed real, active and alive, in our lives now as it was then.  

That sets the stage for salvation history to be fulfilled in the ultimate way, in Jesus. In our Gospel, Jesus is being berated by some of the crowd. John uses the label “the Jews” for those who claim to know God, yet refuse to accept Jesus for who he is. Their claims are as worthless as Baal. They remind us of the Israelites’ complaints against God.   These men ridiculed Jesus and called him a fake. “How could Jesus”, they ask, “Come down from heaven, when he is the son of Mary and Joseph?” “This is untrue,” they say, “He’s making this all up, trying to make himself better than he is, causing trouble; he is an embarrassment.”  

No wonder St. Paul warns us in the 2nd reading to not grieve the Holy Spirit with bitterness, anger, shouting, and reviling. When we whine, find fault, and deny the power of God, we blind others and ourselves to miracles happening around us. We prevent others and ourselves from receiving the nourishing bread and love that God has for us.  

Jesus tells the people that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. No way does this mean that God picks and chooses only some to come to faith! Jesus explains, “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me, and whoever believes has eternal life.” In fact, in last week’s reading Jesus told the people, “I will not reject anyone who comes to me…this is the will of God, that I should not lose any he gave me, but that I should raise (them) on the last day.” That seems pretty clear.  

Again, Jesus emphasizes his purpose in coming. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus is not the bread distributor, not the driver of the bread truck. Jesus, in the flesh, fully human/fully divine, has come to give himself. The lesson is not about the stomach, but about believing in God and being given eternal life. 

For us, I think that we get so tied up in concern over self-worth, following rules, and our individual efforts, that we get confused. It’s hard to think that God wouldn’t have a better screening system for eternal life other than “belief”. Surely there will be background checks, resumes, references, interviews, won’t there? Did we work really hard, have good manners, do volunteer work, go to church even when we were on vacation? Hmmm….

I’m not at all suggesting that living in a positive way in our society is worthless, of course not. But if Jesus is the Bread of Life, the Living Bread, and his purpose of coming to earth was for us, then, it changes the whole way we approach what really matters, even how we think about Jesus and that mystery we call “indwelling of the Spirit”. Think of Jesus as the air we must have to breath. Leave the air; we die. Think of Jesus as the one absolute, the primary relationship from which all other relationships flow. Think if JesusBread is our food, and we become what we eat, then we become JesusPeople.  

Instead of just me struggling to think of other ways to express this, I’m going to ask you to do something slightly outrageous. Please, send me an email this week,  with 3 different ways you express this idea of Jesus as the living bread in your life. I’ll forward some of your ideas to Bill for next week’s bulletin so we can share new ways to express what living bread means to us. Thanks!