Sermon, Sunday August 5th 2018
Confirmation Sunday, St Petri.
24 Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’
26 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’
28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’
29 Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’
30 So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”[c]’
32 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
34 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’
35 Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
It was the first time. It was like Confirmation for Jesus. What Jesus says here in the local synagogue in the town of Capernaum was like a faith statement that each of our confirmees will speak soon.
He uses words that are radical – never heard quite like this before. He will speak of who God is and who he is in a way that both inspires and upsets.
He explains what has happened just the day before, when he fed thousands abundant bread by the sea.
After that feeding of bread comes the speaking of what the sign points to.
His words are shocking. He uses words to describe who he is that are reserved for the holiest people on the holiest days of the year.
What are the radical first words? “I am”. For the first time Jesus says “:I AM”.
To you and I that may sound like no big deal. But “I AM” is how the Lord of heaven and earth described himself way back on Mt Sinai to his man, Moses.
God introduces himself personally by that burning bush to Moses and the whole world. “I AM”. I AM WHO I AM. I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”. I JUST AM”.
In English; “THE LORD”. In Hebrew, four letters that are unpronounceable without some additional vowels to make them speakable – “Yahweh”.
What is Jesus saying?
Jesus is saying “HE IS”. “I AM is me”. I AM is here with you. I, Jesus of Nazareth am THE LORD of the burning bush, the Exodus, the Temple in Jerusalem, the creator of everything here with you now. Now that is radical!
Too radical for some. They will soon ‘murmur’ about this (John 6:41). They will call it blasphemy. Blasphemy is to speak harmfully or stupidly or wrongly. Blasphemy is speaking wrongly, stupidly, harmfully of God.
And then more. “I AM what? I AM Bread”.
What’s bread for ancient middle eastern people, and a lot of people still today? The staple diet of millions. The essential food that is eaten daily to sustain life, family, work.
If Jesus were in Africa or Asia, I reckon he would have said “I am Rice”. Two thirds of the world’s people in our time live on rice.
“I am the Bread of Life” – Jesus is declaring that he is the Lord God and that he is the staple diet upon which our life and all life is sustained. He is the food on which we survive in the hard times and thrive in the good times. In all times he is the thing that sustains us, gives us health, keeps us alive and helps us grow.
But what does he mean that he is ‘bread’? He is not flour, water and yeast! These people know what he manes – what ‘bread ‘is.
Bread is God’s word. Bread is God’s law that keeps them and shapes them. Bread is God’s promises, his presence, his blessing, his forgiveness, for their wrongs, his healing for their diseases, their hope for the future and the present. “Bread” is God. Bread is his words of life that make them who they are. The Lord’s Word is their staple diet that sustains them. Sounds really important to eat this ‘bread” – to eat the Word daily.
But how do you get this bread, this life, this hope, this healing and love?
28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’
What ‘works” do we have to do to get more of what you just gave, Jesus. How do we do enough to ensure that we will be fed and looked after all through our life? How good does a young person have to be to get God’s blessing on their future career, decisions, relationships? How good, how smart, how much do we have to pray, what secret info do we need to live the good life and get this bread, this Word of life into us?
Good questions but questions that show a completely out of sync understanding of what Jesus is offering and who he is.
They are still thinking, ‘work’. Work for the bread.
They still think that the bread has to be paid for by them. They have to be good, be smart enough, have the right nationality, the right name, the secret code to get this special bread, this special miracle, this special drink to be satisfied, to be loved, to be accepted by the Lord of Creation.
Jesus is saying, don’t bother. I AM. I just AM. I AM bread. I am Word, I am your sustenance for all your life. This bread, this staple diet that will sustain you and make you thrive is a gift, not payment for services done or reward for work completed or consequence of things understood.
It is simply Bread, Life, Word on offer. He does not say “Earn it”. He says, “Take and eat it”.
Oh, how we want children and young people and adults of all ages to receive this bread this way! Oh, how we work to try and help this happen at this local church!
This staple diet that sustains you and makes you grow is only found in one person and it is freely given not because you earnt it, or baked it yourself or controlled the process or achieved the result, but because I AM JUST IS and JUST GIVES. He is the Bread and the Baker of the bread and his Bread is his Word which is life for dead sinners and baptised saints.
That is you, young people. You have tasted this Bread of Life in this time of intensive reflection. You have tasted that this Bread is very good. You have been baptised into this Bread of life and raised to life with the Bread of Life. He now gives himself to you in his special meal of bread and wine, body and blood – for life, freedom and healing – all the time for any time.
As he gives the gift he gifts the call. You are called. Now it is time to take this Bread and feed on him with teenage ears and eyes. Soon it will change again to young adult ears and eyes, with all of its new decisions and responsibilities.
The Bread of his Word will sustain you, if you listen and eat it; eat the Bread.
We are here to support you as you take this bread and be the bread of life to those among whom Jesus places you.
We call on you to turn away from working for what goes off; your own strength, effort, understanding, desires, visions and dreams for yourself.
The Bread of life says, “Take me and eat me. Listen to me”. That grace does not go off. It lasts, and it makes you flourish in love and justice and serving that lasts.
‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’
Everything else will come from that believing. “Believing” is not just thinking or a theory. Believing is all of you and all of life; living in the grace of God daily for others.
“Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”.
As you continue your journey with us and those you love, don’t work for bread that is short term, eventually unsatisfying and unfulfilling. Go for this bread, the Word, this man, this Church this undeserved love and the true fulfilment, joy and love he delivers like no other.
We are praying that together we can all help you and each other no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of teaching, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.
Eat the Bread. It is truth and love. That is how you grow up in faith.