Summary: A God we chew on in bread, a God who gets involved in refugee camps and broken marriages - this is the bread of life who comes down from heaven
Why is it that we have mass as our main act of worship every Sunday without fail, two opportunities to go to mass every Sunday, another two opportunities every Thursday and Friday, and communion from the reserved sacrament every Monday. Why do we do this?
Back writing somewhere between 80 and 110 AD, so way back in the early days of the church Bishop Ignatius of Antioch wrote:
Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heretics in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead."
[Ignatius "Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.]
He’s writing about a strange group of heretics called the gnostics. Now you might why on earth the fact that these strange people didn’t like communion had anything to do with the fact that they weren’t very nice to the widows, the orphans, the oppressed, the people in prison, the hungry and the thirsty. what on earth has that got to do with drinking this very special bread and wine? ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.
Today we are in the third of five weeks looking at the John Chapter 6 and the bread of life. Now if you go to school, and they make you look at the same subject for five weeks running, what does it mean?
Two weeks ago we had Tricia talk to us about the start of the story. We had Jesus take those five little barley loaves and those two fishes and feed a huge crowd.
Remember we were challenged about our attitudes - were we an Andrew or were we a Philip. Philip can only see problems “six months wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little”. Andrew sees possibilities “here’s a boy who has five barley loaves and two fishes” - it may be tiny but Andrew trusts Jesus do something with the tiny offering and Jesus does. We see the abundance of God’s generosity- so much bread that there is twelve HUGE baskets of scraps left over.
God is abundantly generous - that’s why for example when I do a baptism I use a lot of water. I won’t use too much with Grace because she is only little and I don’t want to scare her - but any of you who have seen me baptise a teenager or an adult - because we want to symbolise that God is not a God of small measures. God is the God of abundant generosity, not just feeding the crowd but twelve HUGE baskets of scraps left over.
when John and the over Gospel writers describe this miracle -there is a deliberate parallel with the mass, the eucharist. Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks and distributes it just as he does at the last supper.
Then last week we had Jill preach about verses 24-35 and talk about all those different sorts of bread - do you remember the different varieties?
Jill talked about essential bread is for life - and how Jesus is like that - how essential he is for our life. That’s what it means for him to be the Bread of life. Jill talked about the different ways we feed on him, including especially in the special bread and wine of the mass.
And so we get to today’s passage
[Monty python style voice] “Is not this not jesus the son of Joseph whose father and mother we know? How can he now say I have come down from heaven”
“no one can come to me unless drawn by the father who sent me, and I will raise him or her up on the last day”
It’s a bit like a Yo Yo isn’t it
Jesus comes down
Our bodies are taken up to heaven
“How can he now say I have come down from heaven”
“I will raise him or her up on the last day”
As Christians we believe in various figures taken up bodily into heaven - There’s Jesus of course at his ascension. In the Old Testament there is Elijah taken up to heaven in that chariot of fire. There’s Enoch. According to a widely held Jewish belief, referenced in several of the books that didn’t quite make the old testament, Moses too was taken up bodily into heaven. Then there is Mary Jesus’s mother. Alone among all the great new Testament figures there is no tomb where the early Christians gathered to remember her because as very early traditions attest … on her death bed she too was taken up bodily into heaven. That’s what St Joseph the Worker Northolt are celebrating at their special service they celebrate next week.