From The Rev. Canon Dr. Anna Carmichael
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
Jesus said “I am the bread of life”. We are now entering the time of John’s gospel in our lectionary, which means we’re getting several weeks in a row of “I am the bread of life” or some variation thereof. I’ve given a fair amount of thought to this statement of Jesus…it was the text I preached in seminary for my “Senior Sermon” and it is a text that has continued to stay with me throughout my ministry. But before I get into that, I need to back up for half a moment.
Remember a few weeks ago, we were hearing the stories of Jesus needing to take his disciples away to a quiet place to rest and reflect, but the crowds saw him getting in the boat and they rushed to the other shore to meet him? It made me wonder…who do we chase around the lake? Who are we seeking to touch and have experiences with?
I think, if we’re really honest, the answer probably isn’t Jesus. We have, as totally wonderful and fallible human beings, made “Messiahs” or “Saviors” out of everyone and everything under the sun! This new product will make us happier, skinnier, richer, etc…This person will make us happier, will take away all of our problems in the church/home/work, etc. We do it even if we don’t mean to. Which is why we have to be reminded about who and what REALLY gives us life. And that’s Jesus. And our life, that happier, more perfect life, is meant to be one of love and service in the path of Jesus.
So going back to bread.
When I was in parish ministry, we had the great debate over real bread versus wafers. We did bread taste-testings during coffee hour. We had robust conversations within the parish. We went into a period of discernment where we tried out bread for a season. To be perfectly honest, this “great debate” was exhausting to me, and I couldn’t articulate why.
And then, one Sunday morning, as I was standing in the handshake line after service, a retired pastor who attended the parish said to me “today I tasted Jesus”. It was the last day of our real bread discernment season. My heart opened wide because I knew exactly what he meant…and his words were the words I needed to take to the worship committee. He had tasted Jesus, the bread of life.
In the end, the parish decided to use real bread from Advent 1 through Trinity Sunday, and that during the season after Pentecost, they’d use wafers. It was a compromise they could live with because it was one they had discerned together. People signed up to bake the bread, and people came forward with open hands to receive.
I think this is what Jesus is getting at with this whole “I am the bread of life” stuff…that he wants us to seek him out, to come with open hands and open hearts, and receive the gift that only he can give…a life that is loving, liberating, and life-giving. This is what it means to taste Jesus.
In his book The Waking Dreamer, Alan Brehm writes, “When we seek to follow in the footsteps of the faith that enabled Jesus to give up his life for the life of the world, it frees us for a whole new way of living, one that is motivated by compassion and giving, by mercy and caring, by faith and hope and love.”
Brothers and sisters, I invite you to taste Jesus.