Fresh Bread

Pentecost 11, August 8, 2021 – Pastor Stuhlmuller
  1. It was supposed to be another feeding, or so they thought.
    • That’s why the crowd follows Jesus in today’s gospel reading.
    • But instead of more bread, they get Jesus. They get a rabbi telling them, “I am the bread of life.”
    • And thus, a conflict emerges:
      • a conflict between who Jesus is and whom the people want him to be
      • a conflict between our understanding and God’s understanding
      • a conflict between knowing about Jesus and actually knowing him
  2. Perhaps this is what happens to the crowd with Jesus; they know too much to truly understand Jesus’ words.
    • Jesus says, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
    • And immediately, the Judeans object. They talk among themselves: “He didn’t come from heaven. We all know who he is. He’s Mary and Joseph’s kid. He’s from Nazareth.”
    • You see, these are the religious leaders, the insiders, the keepers of the tradition.
      • They know how God does things and how God is supposed to act.
      • They know their scripture, that the bread from heaven was the manna that God provided in the wilderness.
      • They know the law, that nobody should dare to claim the place of God.
      • And none of these things square with what Jesus, this guy from Nazareth, is telling them.
  3. Maybe they know too much for their own good. Or, maybe they really don’t know enough.
    • Knowledge is power, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it can lead us to the wrong conclusions.
    • When it comes to God, we know only a little, because God is a mystery.
    • Of course, this mystery reveals itself to us, and by the power of the human intellect, we can comprehend God’s revelation, but like all living things, our understanding of God is never static.
    • Our understanding of God continues to grow and even change as we move into a deeper relationship with this mystery.
    • And so, to know only a little, and to think that the little we know is all that there is to know about God, can be dangerous.
  4. This is the conflict that emerges between Jesus and the Judeans.
    • The conflict centers upon their frame of reference, their existing beliefs and values by which they understand God.
    • The Judeans know some things, but their knowledge is limited, and they let their existing knowledge close their ears, shut their hearts, and limit their vision.
    • They’re unable to hear and know what Jesus is trying to show them because they’ve already made up their minds.
    • But Jesus is challenging them to step outside of the established, comfortable, and familiar context they’ve created for themselves.
    • He refuses to be limited by either their understandings or their misunderstandings.
    • He’s inviting them into a new life, a larger life, a life that springs from the past but is not bound by the past.
    • In short, he invites them to eat fresh bread.
  5. So when are we like those Judeans?
    • What issues reveal that we know too much about the Jesus of our tradition and not enough about the living God who is speaking to us now?
    • When do we allow our knowledge of the past to close our eyes to God’s action in the present?
    • We too have our frames of reference. To be clear, the problem is not that we have a frame of reference. We all have one, and without one, we would have no way of making sense of the world around us, but are we trusting in what we know, or are we trusting in Jesus?
  6. Jesus is not calling us to abandon our knowledge and tradition as if they can’t teach us and guide us.
    • Rather, Jesus is cautioning us that our knowledge will not give us absolute answers or a foolproof plan to make things right.
    • If anything, God uses our knowledge to give a purpose and direction to our lives, namely, to trust and follow Jesus.
    • Whatever the journey looks like for us, God’s purpose is to draw us into a new life as part of God’s coming kingdom. God’s purpose is to continue to refine our beliefs and values, so that they better reflect this coming reality.
    • The risk of faith, of trusting and following Jesus, is that, even when we think we have a map or a plan, we really don’t know where we are going or where we will end up.
    • The risk is to trust that Jesus truly is enough, even when he takes us in fresh and unexpected directions.
  7. In Jesus, God gives us everything we need for the journey.
    • We have the bread of life, who satisfies and sustains.
    • Whatever our frame of reference looks like, our past and history can neither earn us nor keep us from the bread of life.
    • The living bread has come down from heaven to feed each one of us, and every moment of every day is an invitation to eat this fresh bread, to step out of the old way and into a new way of being.
    • God knows that we’re hungry: our conflicts, our restlessness, our deepest longings are all hunger pangs by which the Father draws us to the Son.
    • Whoever comes to Jesus will never be hungry, and whoever believes in him will never thirsty.
    • Holy bread for holy hunger. The gifts of God for the people of God.
    • Thanks be to God.