What beggars know about bread. John 6:35-51 Ordinary 19b

John 6:35-51

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”

I find it difficult to understand how the message of Jesus that was so clearly universal in its scope and in its proclamation, could have become what it so often is today.  Narrow in spirit and accessibility.

To Jesus, every person who came to him was already being drawn by the love of the heavenly parent whose desire for union with prodigal children is the very essence of God’s being.

The word “all” features large in the teachuings of our Lord, as it does here, “…they shall all be taught by God.”

Yet the most cursory look at most of the church that claims to represent and embody the Spirit of Jesus, will reveal a club that it is quite difficult to get into and if you do, will teach you early on just who it is that doesn’t belong.

How did this happen?
The simple answer lies with our old friend the ego.
That inner energy so essential in the formation of the indentity that in adult life becomes threatened by anything that could mean its dissolution into a greater Energy of being called the True Self or God.

Ego wants accolades.
Ego thrives on achievement and when the prize of the spiritual enterprize is eternal life, the ego needs to at least feel that it played a part.

Jesus wrecks the ego expectations of his hearers.
There is nothing for your ego to do here.
Salvation, Enlightenment, Eternal Life, Wisdom, are not the products of human endeavour as your bread is.

For you to have earthly bread requires the sweat of your brow. That’s your creature curse carried from Adam.
Yet foreshadowed by the manna of the wilderness and now fully revealed in me; the bread of life is offered to all who are hungry enough to trust that five barley loaves and two fish can feed a multitude.

This bread is me and it is offered for the life of the whole cosmos (world).
There is nothing to achieve or to do. Which means you cannot decide or designate who gets some and who doesn’t.

You are not the baker nor the distributor.
You are just another hungry pilgrim on the hillside or in the wilderness.
Want a slice?

Jesus the Janitor? John 6:24-35 – Ordinary 18B

John 6:24-35

So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

So why do people come to Jesus?

One wag has said with relation to personal change, that some people change because they see the light and others because they feel the heat!

Perhaps the crowd that followed Jesus had neither motivation.  Jesus suggests that they were looking for security.

In modern times we would call it food security.  Jesus had fed them without their effort and struggle and that seemed to be something worth repeating.   It was probably worth patenting!

There is a hint of indignation in their enquiry when they eventually find Jesus after a long search.  “When did you come here?”   It is as if they expect Jesus to account to them for his movements.

It is about the same as the modern day dilemma faced by NGO’s and Aid agencies.  The agency begins with a vision and mission.  The vision is grasped by others and funding is made available by donors and patrons.  These donors demand accountability and soon the NGO is hobbled to desks writing reports to justify their expenditure of the donations, to the extent that they find it difficult to do the work that was their mission to begin with!  What is even more frustrating is that the donors have every right to demand good governance and fiduciary compliance. “When did you come here?”  “Account for yourself!”

Jesus, as always, cuts to the quick of the crowd’s  motivations. “You don’t want me, you want what I can do for you.  That is your mistake.You are materialist, utilitarian and pragmatic (all concepts that don’t exist yet, but when preachers speak about this in 2012, they will)” (All of this dialogue I found in an obscure Gnostic Gospel according to The Listening Hermit)*Joke

Despite my spurious and speculative dialogue, isn’t that the problem we have with Jesus and miracles?

The crowd may not have been “materialist, utilitarian and pragmatic”, but we moderns certainly are.  Remember Bill Hybels best seller titled, “Making life work”?

That what we want from our religion.  It must make the life we know and want, work.

When Jesus sees this in us however,  he gets into a boat and sails away.

For Jesus it seems, the Kingdom of God isn’t mere materiality, utilitarian ethics and pragmatic problem solving.  It is a transcending and transforming domain where God is paramount.

In this domain if you have trust in the mere mortal incarnation named Jesus, then your human suffering of hunger or thirst, poverty or humiliation, is merely the context for the deepening of that trust and the loosening of your addiction and dependence on the quick-fix, crowd-pleasing, sensational show, that so much religious activity devolves to.

Demands for signs and miracles are the marks of immature trust.  To provide them on demand is an iniquitous error on the Church’s part.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I want to fix the world and it’s suffering as much as the next person.

Jesus however seems determined to fix humanity first.

The Bakery at the heart of the Universe (Season of Creation 4 – The Cosmos)

John 6:35-51

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.”

The notion of Jesus coming down from the heavens or in more modern language, the sky, only makes sense to the world view of his day which was naturally, that of a flat earth. God lived behind the dome that held back the waters over the flat earth.

We who have seen the planet from outside have a problem with this understanding

Does this mean that we have to mistrust the words of Jesus? Not at all. What we do have to do as a matter of responsible scripture reading is lift the truth of Jesus’ teaching from the frame of the context in which that truth was taught.

Every religion which wants to retain relevance has to do this with their ancient texts. Not to do this could one of two problems. Firstly the religion would make less and less sense to people who are living in cultures with different world views, or secondly followers of those religions that do not want to translate into modern contexts would find themselves having to practice their religions in forms that would be more and more out of step with modern society. The most cursory look at religion worldwide will offer many illustrations of these two challenges.

It would seem that the more intelligent forms of Christianity are accepting the challenges of modernity and are continuing to attempt to apply the ageless wisdom of Jesus to the reality of the ever expanding body of knowledge and information that is at our disposal regarding the way the world works.

Reflecting on the realities of the Cosmos has affected the practice of our faith in very significant ways.

Allow me to highlight three

We have rediscovered the power of the feminine for our pater-dominated lives.

At present the archaeological record shows that the first artefacts to have been made by homo-sapiens about 30 000 years ago, were figurines of pot-bellied, broad hipped women.

This seems to point to the religious awe that a tenuous tribe would have had for the ability of women to produce offspring to ensure the ongoing life of the tribe. The religion of those first peoples seems to have been strongly feminine, and it was only when agrarian settlements appear that the energy shifted in religion and social life to a male dominated patriarchy and the maternal was replaced by the material energy of landed people. This strong male energy that led us ever outward in exploration and technology, but which also had its shadow side in the oppression of women, the imperialism both of politics and religion; has brought us to the very edge of a mysterious Cosmos that fills us with as much awe as it must have filled our African proto-parents when they walked into the vast world 70 000 years ago! We are once more on the edge of exploration and at the doorway of discovery. We are hungry to know more.

We have returned to the survival priorities of first peoples.

Having passed through the male-dominated phase of exploration and subjugation (some would suggest annihilation) of nature, we have arrived at the place where the old tribal survival priorities now demand that they be our global priorities. Journey, tribe, nurture, sustainability, words that described the values of first peoples are now once again on our agendas. We realise that for the foreseeable future there is only us in this part of the universe. We are the planetary tribe of earth. The survival of the tribe demands an end to any smaller agendas and pursuits that place the welfare of the whole tribe in jeopardy. Our hunger can no longer rob others of their right to heaven’s bread, neither can we hoard Jesus like moulding manna, as if he is only for our nutrition in the church.

We have taken religion from the outside to the place Jesus had directed it to so long ago, the inside, the heart.

Being confronted by this ever expanding Cosmos we have sympathy for the somewhat disputed comment of the first human space traveller Yuri Gagarin who said, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” 14 April, 1961. Those of us who try to be honest with ourselves as we can, have to admit, “Neither have we” It is this confrontation with the silent vastness of space (the name “space”, says it all) that challenges us to either fall into a despairing atheism or to honestly seek for the space where God truly can be encountered. Don Cuppitt the irascible modern, non-church going theologian was heard in an podcast on Philosophy Bites to declare that Jesus was essentially the world’s first Humanist. What he seems to mean by this is that Jesus was one of the first to point to the inner “space” as the most significant for human encounter with God.

Carl Jung of course saw it too, “We are living in what the Greeks called the right time for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” i.e. of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science.

Jung is also alleged to have said, “If you will not go within, you will have to go without” Living on the Third Rock from the Sun in a rather obscure corner of the universe is not as threatening as it may at first seem. Rather, it has brought us away from outer male dominated ritual forms to inner feminine forms of encounter with the God of the Macro and Micro Cosmoi. The God who invites us as God always has, to integrate our split an divided selves and societies, into the non-dual unity that has always been God’s true nature. Here at this one point of the infinite void of the Cosmos, I encounter in my very being, the One who breaks bread and feeds my soul.

So on this Cosmos Sunday of the Season of Creation, I celebrate the return of the feminine to our thinking, the return to first people’s priorities for survival, and the journey inward that has been necessitated by the encounter with the vastness of the Cosmos.

I am a pilgrim of the one Earth tribe, nurtured by the One, whom we all call God. The God of Bread from heart and heaven. The Baker at the heart of the Universe.