12th August, 2018
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says
I am the living bread, then later I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and will never be thirsty.
Jesus goes on to speak about how when the ancient Hebrews with Moses were fed manna in the wilderness; that this was a meal for their bodies only.
That manna from God was one meal only and did not provide them eternal life and was not food for the soul. With these words, Jesus was having a go at the Pharisees myopic view of the Mosaic Law.
But he was affirming something positive also. He says in today’s Gospel that he (Jesus) alone is the living bread that he nourishes our souls and redeems us throughout this life and the next; but he does not say he can only be found in the church.
In the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul – Stories to open the heart and rekindle the spirit” a best seller in the nineties; people encountered the metaphor of a chicken soup broth of stories about love and life.
Stories by people from Theodore Roosevelt through to Victor Frankl offering heartfelt advice about overcoming life’s obstacles, love, wisdom, parenting, education, and meaning. For many Christians I’ve talked to; the book was an example of how God’s love, through grace, was manifested in the writings of the secular world.
People said to me, “See?! God is everywhere, in all places and in all things!” Many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have a profound sense of the divine. Some call that sense ‘innate spirituality’. They feel the statement ‘God is everywhere’ is a sacred truthful reality.
But, where I might say “Christ is the bread of life”, they might say words like, “love” or “ultimate meaning”. Artists, doctors, engineers, teachers, business people, and the list is endless; all deepen their sense of belonging and the value they have for each other, in their secular gatherings, by treating each other with dignity, respect, and care.
One business person said to me, that his secular group is the same as Christianity but without the ‘Christianese’. So, he asked me, “If love and God are everywhere; why go to church?”
For him, seeing God acting in the world outside the church proved that the ultimate love that binds us all together, is as much in the secular world, as it is in the Christian world. He only sees one world.
Many people ask “why go to church when God is everywhere?” – and when Christians try to share with them, what’s special and life giving in Christ, about church they walk away or smile, but they don’t come to church.
We may get frustrated by this and blame society or blame the church or blame each other. But St. Paul tells us that this is a waste of time. Our numbers are declining, and this is a statistical reality. We are at a crossroads and we may need to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church through the voices of our secular communities.
Our church can be a focal point for listening. Listening to the people of our community and hearing their stories in their language. As if our Church billboard might say, “Hearing your stories in your words with no strings attached.” Maybe after listening to their stories with deep respect and consistency, we might notice within their secular stories the watermarks of Christ’s love and the work of God in their lives.
Perhaps, if we listen with sincere respect, people might ask us about our journey with Christ. They might ask us who is this Jesus who listens to us? Who is this Christ who listens to our intercessions, our songs, our beseeching, debates, our conversations and prayers and has been listening to us for thousands of years?
Christ, the eternal bread of life, listens to us with deep respect and love every day. It stands to reason that Christ might be calling us to go out and listen to our communities with that same deep respect and love. Amen.
Rev. Julian Morris