Sunday, August 1, 2021
Lectionary 18, Year B
Prayer of the Day
O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 The Lord gives manna in the wilderness
Ephesians 4:1-16 Maintain the unity of the faith
John 6:24-35 Christ the bread of life
Title: One Bread, One Body, No Hangry
Are you familiar with the term HANGRY? It is a word created by combining Hungry and Angry. HANGRY – that testy feeling you get when your stomach is empty and it needs filling. Well, we certainly have some hangry people with us this morning. I’m not referring to anyone in this room or at home, well, I don’t think I am. Unless you didn’t eat enough breakfast and you are already thinking that I’ve gone on for too long and you have started thinking about what you are going to have for lunch or brunch. If that is you, you might be getting hangry at me and this time of doing something other than satisfying your hunger.
The hangry people that have my attention are in our readings this morning. They are a grumpy, complaining, unsatisfied, discontent people and they want something to eat. Perhaps if we examine why they are hangry, we might feel their pain, might even join them in their complaining, and just might see ourselves as having similar issues in our own experiences causing feelings of unfulfillment and unsatisfied hunger.
First you have those complaining former Hebrew slaves, as recorded in Exodus, who are so discontented with Moses’ leadership that they are convincing themselves that the whips and the abuse, the backbreaking work and the lack of freedom while slaves in Egypt were all better than being free yet hungry in the wilderness. These people are really hangry. Perhaps I would nominate them for being the poster children of hangry. We read the whole congregation was complaining against Moses and Aaron. They’d barely been on the job of leading these folks to freedom for 10 days and everyone was complaining. I hope in my ten years here at St. John’s (today I mark the anniversary of joining this ministry); I know some have complained at times, but hopefully it has never been the whole congregation complaining. But that is certainly what Moses and Aaron are facing with this throng of hangry people. In their hunger they would rather go back to the slavery they know than go forward into the freedom that God is promising them and leading them towards. They are hangry indeed.
Then there is that multitude mentioned in the gospel reading for today. Take note, this passage comes directly after the account of Jesus feeding the more than five thousand people that we heard read last Sunday. They ate, there were leftovers even, and now they are chasing after Jesus because they want more. They didn’t get enough. They are hungry again, and they are growing hangry because they have been forced to chase after him. They feel he has abandoned them in their perpetual hunger.
But Jesus seeks to get them out of their bellies and onto thinking about other things, Godly things, lasting things, graciously God-given things like new life, salvation, and eternal life. He challenges them to consider not the hunger that they are experiencing in their stomachs, but the hunger they should be experiencing in their spirits. And for a minute they do follow his lead and they ask what most they do to gain these most satisfying and nourishing gifts from God. And Jesus makes it simple, sort of. “Just believe in me,” he assures them, the one sent from God.
Now maybe it is the hangry talking, but even after everything these folks have witnessed, they still insist that Jesus give them some kind of proof that he is who he is saying that he is. They are even going so far as to say: hey, our ancestors knew about being fed, and you’re no Moses. Again, let’s cut them a break, allow them to use the hangry defense. Jesus certainly does. He calmly reminds them just where that bread, that manna in the wilderness came from. Who it came from. And it wasn’t Moses who gave it back then, it was God, and it is God who is giving it to them now. And listening through their hangry, they reach opened hands to Jesus and ask for the bread of which he is speaking. To which Jesus speaks a phrase that will be with us for the next few Sundays. Jesus says, “I am the bread. The bread of life.” The bread that satisfies completely, that silences the hangrys forever.
It is not clear from our second reading if those Ephesian Christians were also feeling a little hangry. However, this fourth chapter follows three chapters of some wonderful affirmations about what God through Christ has done for all the baptized, Jews and Gentiles alike. (Just a little geographic footnote. Ephesus was situated on the west coast of what is today Turkey. A few years back, I had the opportunity to visit the ruins of this great ancient city. It was a major trading port, sitting between the western Mediterranean – where Greece and Rome lay, and the eastern part of the empire. Sort of a New York City of its day. The ruins bear witness to just how big of a city it was.) So, the Christian community in Ephesus was quite diverse, just as the city was. Made up of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. And we certainly know well, that living into diversity brings with it challenges.
Now, in this letter to that diverse community of faith, after three chapters of affirmations of what God has done, how in Christ there is no room to be hungry or hangry, we get the very Pauline THEREFORE. God through Christ has done all this for you, for us, for the world, and continues to act through the Holy Spirit, THEREFORE, this is the response we as believers are called to live. And we, the readers, are offered that wonderful symbol of the body. The body of Christ. The body of Christ that we are baptized into. A body that is unified through one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Therefore, we are knit into this body through the grace and mercy of God, the love of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit. We are joined to others in this body. We bring our unique set of gifts to share with and contribute to the work of the body. We are blessed by the gifts of others through the body. And it is a body that never, never, never need be hangry. Whatever our losses, whatever our trials, whatever our disappointments, whatever our disagreements. Christ both unites us and feeds us, sustaining the life of diversity and unity to which we are called.
Are you feeling a little hangry this morning? Are you hungry for more of the rich ministry that you experienced through Vicar Reed’s ministry with us? Are you hungry for some normalcy that we just keep evading as this perpetual pandemic seems to never end but just keeps moving from phase to next phase? Are you hungry for healing? For yourself or a loved one? Are you hungry for some relief from whatever burdens are weighing you down? Take a moment to search out your hunger. (Pause)
Join the crowd and chase after Jesus. Hear him say: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Seek both the bread and the body. The bread that connects us to this sacrificing God of love, the body that connects us to one another through the love of Christ. The bread that satisfies our hunger for identity by being named beloved child of God. The body that satisfies our hunger for meaning and relationship through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, so well feed with this bread at this table, and so strengthened in this body unified by this font and joined across eternity, we, a diverse community of faith in this time and place, can answer the call echoed through the centuries . (Please turn to page 6 in the bulletin and read with me Ephesians 4, verses 15 and 16 from the second reading. It’s the last three lines as printed.) 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
The Rev. Mark Erson,