Bread for the Many, Bread for the Few (preached 3.11.12)

March 14, 2012 at 7:35 am Leave a comment

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III, STS

Nittany Valley Fellowship Lenten Service

‘Bread for the Many, Bread for the Few’

John 6:5-15; Luke 24:38-45

Sunday in 3 Lent

March 11, 2012

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

 

‘Pass the bread and butter, please.’

The clink of plates, the aromas rising from the dishes,

and the happy conversation and compliments to the cook or cooks,

as a family or a group of friends gather around a dinner table,

whether it be an ordinary evening meal

or a Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter dinner.

Community is created,

and often a prayer of thanks is offered

before the food is distributed to those gathered.

 

As I’m sure you’ve noticed,

we have two ‘pictures of bread’ this evening –

two pictures of Jesus giving bread to others.

The first thing we want to notice is the similarities.

In both instances, Jesus takes the loaf (or loaves) of bread,

gives thanks to the One from whom it has been received,

breaks the bread and distributes it.

Community is created.

People are brought together around God’s gift,

and in sharing in God’s gift they share themselves.

This ritual – taking, blessing, breaking, sharing,

is repeated every time a group of Christians share the Lord’s Supper,

obeying the Lord’s command:

‘Do this in remembrance of me.’

Because he has left us this meal,

he is both the host at the table

and the one who provides himself as the feast –

so that we may be nourished in faith, know our forgiveness,

and strengthened for mission to the world in His name.

 

So the similarities.

Now to the differences.

Even if we did not know that the first Gospel story,

the feeding of the five thousand according to John,

occurs before the cross and resurrection

and the second is  from Luke, the evening meal on the road to Emmaus

where the risen Jesus reveals himself to two disciples,

we might be able to tell that we are dealing with two different understandings

simply by looking at the responses of those being fed.

The two disciples at Emmaus recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

They know him as the one who had walked with them,

who had taught them,

who had died on a cross outside Jerusalem,

and now beyond hope had walked with and taught them again,

and broken open not only the bread,

but the meaning of the Scriptures for them.

 

In contrast, we hear this at the end of our reading from John:

‘When Jesus realized that they were about to come

and take him by force to make him king,

he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.’

This crowd, which had been fed beyond hope,

does not recognize the one who stands in their midst.

They see a miracle-worker,

not a suffering servant;

the provider of an endless supply of bread to fill their stomachs,

not the one whose penultimate words will be ‘I thirst.’

 

Jesus refuses the kingship they would give him –

he will not be manipulated.

He withdraws alone to the mountain

where he may commune with God his Father.

 

So often we idolize people or systems which promise us things.

All those who invested their life savings with Bernie Madoff,

the miracle-worker whose investments always paid off.

All those who sent checks off to televangelists who promised miracles

for those faithful who would put their money where their faith was.

All those who hang on to the words of miracle candidates

who promise what they cannot deliver.

Jesus did not come to bring us an endless supply of miracles,

at least not the way we usually conceive of them.

He came to give us himself.

His whole self – his incarnation and birth, his life and teaching,

his deeds of power, which are signs of the resurrection,

his suffering and death, and his risen life.

 

All of this we recognize in the reading from Luke.

Before they arrived at the dinner table,

the man they could not yet recognize as Jesus heard these two disciples

pour out their tale of sorrow about a man

they thought was to redeem Israel

but instead had been put to a shameful death.

Then he said, ‘Did you not know that the Messiah must suffer these things

and then enter into his glory?’

Not miracle after miracle,

but death and resurrection.

That is the shape of Christ’s life –

That is the shape of our life.

In the Communion, we receive the Crucified and Risen One

into our bodies, which are members of the Crucified and Risen One’s body.

In the immortal words of St Augustine,

‘We become what we eat.’

Christ dwells within us,

to work out his will for us and within us.

 

Now we in the Church face an almost impossible task.

We are called as the Church to give bread to the many,

as Jesus did that late afternoon on the hillside to five thousand people.

We are called not simply to say ‘Jesus loves you,’

but to show people that he loves them,

by providing for their daily needs,

by helping them to learn skills to sustain their lives,

by giving them bread in Jesus’ name.

And yet so often that is the end of it.

People receive bread, blankets, oil, laundry detergent,

all of which will run out and will not satisfy,

and we do not know how to say, without being preachy,

that there is more that God would give them.

 

The impossible task is how to proclaim, to ourselves and to others,

that when the Church gives, it gives because there is another bread,

Jesus wants to give us the bread that satisfies.

Himself made tangible in the Holy Communion,

the satisfaction beyond a full stomach of knowing Jesus as the risen Messiah,

the discipleship of sharing in Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

This is the call to the few, but to all, to recognize Jesus as the one who died for us,

and embrace his resurrection as the miracle which eclipses all miracles.

We must hold these two calls together –

the call to give bread to the many in Jesus’ name,

but not to focus on the material blessings,

but to recognize the risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread of communion,

 as did the few disciples who encountered him after his resurrection.

An impossible task?

Perhaps, but nothing is impossible with God.

 

 

 

 

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

The Grace of the Covenant ‘The New Covenant’ Lent 5B – March 25, 2012

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