Soul Nutrition

Pentecost 10B

August 1, 2021

Trinity Mennonite Church

Norma Duerksen

 

Soul Nutrition

John 6:25-35

 

As many of you know, I have been taken off all diabetic medicine due to complications resulting from taking them.  This requires that I have to be careful what I eat.  The doctor has put me on a plant-based diet.  I now eat lots of fruits and vegetables. 

“We eat three times a day,” Bohórquez says to Duke Magazine. “This is modulating who we are.” Put junk in your mouth, and you are going to look bad and feel worse. Eat good food, and you are taking a step toward health and fitness. Not that this is new information for any of us. As far back as 1923, an ad in the Bridgeport Telegraph said, “Ninety percent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.”  Even the packaging our food comes in, like plastic water bottles, affects our health.

Bohórquez knows this to be true. “At the core of who we are,” he says, “we are food.”

A crowd of people are anxious to find Jesus after he performs the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. So, they get into boats and travel across the Sea of Galilee to the town of Capernaum. They see him there and Jesus senses what they are up to. “Very truly, I tell you,” says Jesus, “you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:24-26).

The people are motivated not by what they saw, but by what they ate.

Jesus warns the crowd. “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” (v. 27).

 Bread from Heaven

The people of Galilee remember the manna in the wilderness, which God had given their ancestors as bread from heaven. But Jesus says 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” (vv. 31-32).

That sounds good, doesn’t it? Food that endures. Bread from heaven. True bread.

Makes your mouth water.

The people are still confused, however, so Jesus continues, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Such bread doesn’t just taste delicious, but it actually gives life to the world. The people say to him, with excitement, “Sir, give us this bread always” (vv. 33-34).

Yes, they want this bread, and we cannot blame them. Most of us love and appreciate the various breads available from cultures around the world. A slice of sourdough or a handmade tortilla. Seed-crusted roll or a buttery biscuit. Bread historian William Rubel says that bread turns staple grains such as wheat, rye or corn into durable foods. It is a basic food that can be used to feed an army or nourish a hungry child.

But Jesus is not talking about something made of wheat, rye or corn. “I am the bread of life,” he tells them. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry” (v. 35). Jesus is presenting himself as the most basic, durable, and nutritious form of bread available to us.

“I am food,” Jesus seems to be saying. “Take me into yourself and you will never be hungry or thirsty or hopeless or powerless. I am the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to anyone in the world — including you.”

 

Jesus was saying that He had been sent to be their spiritual bread; He would supply their daily spiritual needs.  If they, by faith, applied and took His words and life into their very souls, they would experience everlasting satisfaction.

In cultures with an abundance of food choices, bread is no longer a necessary part of the diet so some choose to live without it for various reasons.  In the first century, however, bread was viewed as an essential staple.  Jesus doesn’t want to be an optional commodity in our diets; he desires to be the essential staple in our lives, our “necessary” food.  As first-century Jews could never imagine life without physical bread, may we never attempt to live without Jesus, our spiritual bread!

In a spiritual sense, we need fresh bread daily.  The Bible is available 24 hour s a day to give us hope, guidance, comfort, and peace.  We ask God to lead us throughout the day.  Then we can live confidently, trusting that God’s wisdom and guidance will be sufficient for our needs.

It’s like that picture hanging in grandma’s kitchen, a print of a well-known painting, a picture of an old man saying a blessing over a simple meal of broth and bread.  The sun softly shines on his table as he bows his head to pray and his spirit seems quiet as he prepares to eat this solitary meal.  Like the man in the picture, as we quiet ourselves before God and open our hearts to the Word, God comes to us and becomes our spiritual food.  God will fill us with the Holy spirit, heal us, and guide us.  Jesus will sustain us throughout our day.

Just as our bodies need nutrients daily, so also our spirits need nourishment each day.

A Recipe for the Bread of Life

When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” he is saying to us, “I am food.” He is saying, “I am the food that brings you forgiveness and new life, the food that brings you to health in body, mind and spirit.” Jesus truly is “the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6: 27), the true bread from heaven which “gives life to the world” (vv. 32-33). All we need to do is eat this amazing bread, in faith and thanksgiving.

But at the same time, Jesus also wants us to know that we are food.

Yes, we are food: The body of Christ, the bread of life. Like Jesus, our challenge is to be good bread for a hungry world.  Belief in Jesus leads to righteousness.  We have a responsibility and duty to share this bread with others.

So, what is the recipe for this very special bread?

First, we are people who believe in Jesus.  When the crowd approached Jesus in Capernaum, 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 [God] has sent” (John 6:28-29).  Often, we think of belief as a light switch, a choice we make—on or off, believe or disbelieve.  Jesus’s words suggest that belief does not happen in a moment of decision.  It is work, a labor to be undertaken.  Belief is a long process.  Belief is work.

Many Christians make a distinction between faith and works, but Jesus made clear that the two should never be separated. You don’t praise God on Sunday and then cheat a client on Monday. You don’t pray to Jesus in a small group and then fail to serve Jesus when he comes to you in the form of a hungry child. “So faith by itself,” said James, “if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). The work of God is that you believe in me, said Jesus, the one “whom [God] has sent” (John 6:29).

Faith and works are as essential to Christian life as flour and water are to a loaf of bread.

Next, we are adaptable. Bread can be found in cultures around the world, ranging from the bolani bread of Afghanistan to the nann of India. The nourishment of bread can be obtained almost anywhere, but it comes in a wide variety of forms.

If we are going to be bread for a hungry world, we need to be adaptable as well. This means taking worship beyond the walls of the church through zoom connections. It includes gathering for theological discussions in coffee shops and restaurants. It requires meeting people where they are, by knocking on doors or chatting in grocery stores, and finding out what they want and need. The best ministry adaptations may still be out there, waiting for us to discover.

Finally, we are durable and nutritious, like a hardtack biscuit taken on a long hike. As the bread of life, we need to have the guts to walk into challenging situations, on the far side of our familiar places and comfortable routines. We provide real nourishment when we not only feed the homeless, but sit down with them for conversation over dinner. We advance the ministry of Jesus when we not only give donations to international missions, but fly to developing countries and build friendships through short-term mission trips.

True belief in Jesus requires acting as the body of Christ in the world. This means being adaptable, durable and nutritious, always looking for ways to nourish a hungry world.

When Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” he is saying that he certainly wants to feed us. No doubt about it. But he also desires that we be good food for others.

RESOURCES

Homiletics.  August 1, 2021.  Henry Brinton and Carl Wilton contributed to this material.

Various Uppper Room devotional thoughts.