What good is the Bread of Life when so many people in the world go hungry?
Bread that Satisfies Our Spiritual Hunger
A sermon by the Rev. Susan Bek
Proper 15, Year B
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Ventura, California
August 19, 2018
Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
In this morning’s sermon we will consider the meaning of this promise, explore the difference between physical and spiritual hunger, and answer this important question, “What good is the Bread of Life when so many people in the world still go hungry?”
Manna is the bread that came down from heaven but Jesus calls himself, “Living Bread,” and promises that whoever eats his flesh will live forever. Eat his flesh??? Can you imagine how strange these words must have sounded to the people who first heard them! It’s no wonder that, a few verses beyond the ones we heard together today, the disciples are speaking among themselves and saying, “this teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
We have the benefit of hearing these stories after the Last Supper has taken place; after Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.” And we hear this story after the Resurrection; after Jesus gave his life and allowed his body to be broken for us.
We can take some solace in the fact that the disciples had difficulty understanding his message. We too, struggle with it. We believe, and yet we question. Even those who accept Jesus and believe in him still get hungry, still get thirsty. And, those who love the Lord still die. Clearly, Jesus was talking about something beyond physical hunger, physical thirst, and the passing of our mortal frame.
Let’s explore the idea of physical vs. spiritual hunger for a moment.
One of things you learn when you study pastoral care and counseling is that troubles seem insurmountable when people are hungry because people who are hungry can’t focus on anything else. If you want to help someone, support them or counsel them, first you need to feed them. Once they’ve eaten there’s a lot more that they can see, learn and understand. And often we find, once their bellies are full, they can figure out how to solve their own troubles.
Spiritual hunger has a similar hold on us. People who are spiritually hungry live with an overwhelming sense of needing something more, of emptiness and craving, of fear and instability. The deep longing they feel often propels them into years of discontent. Some people try to fill the hunger with earthly things. They say things like, “I’ll feel fulfilled once I get a new job, move into a new home, or don’t have to worry so much. I’ll be ok once I find the right “someone.” I finally be satisfied once I can get my finances in order, get my weight under control, or when the kids finally grow up and get out of the house. I’ll be able to focus on other things once my parents are no longer sick and need so much of my help, or when the kids come back for a visit and were all together again.
This “Bread of Life” that Jesus offers is the one thing that truly satisfies spiritual hunger.
So, what is the answer to this morning’s important question, “What good is the Bread of Life when so many people in the world still go hungry?” The answer is simple, and here it is… The Bread of Life is vitally important and because of it everyone in the world can be filled and need never be hungry again. How is that possible? This is how it works:
Once you are filled with the the Bread of Life, and your hunger for God is satisfied, you are free to feed those who are hungry. You and I, and others like us, are called to feed the world. God does God’s part, fills us with the Bread of Life; and we do our part, love our neighbors and serve the world in his name.
Once filled with the Bread of Life, we never again need to worry about whether we are worthy. We can take comfort, even in our grief, that we will one day be with our loved ones again. No longer will we have to endure the terrible longing that often fills a life without God.
Once we eat the Bread of Life and learn to trust that it will always be there, we are free to focus on things beyond our own immediate personal needs. We are free to focus on things like solving the problems of the world, and serving our neighbors in love.
We don’t need to spend our time chasing satisfaction yet never really being satisfied. Instead, we can feed the hungry, call for justice, assist those who long for freedom, and do the work that God is calling us to do.
Jesus gives us the Bread of Life so that we can be saved, and, because we are saved, we can go out into the world to love and serve, to forgive and spread hope, to encourage others, and to shine as a living example of a life in Christ.
God bless us all as we go out to do just that. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.