Father Jonathon Wylie: Receive the Word, Do the Word

Sermon delivered on Trinity 13B, Sunday, August 29, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

Father Wylie is a new daddy and gets all whiny when we ask for a written manuscript. Nobody’s got time for a whiny priest who’s also a new daddy so click here to listen to the audio podcast of his sermon.

Lectionary texts: Song of Solomon 2.8-13; Psalm 45.1-2, 7-10; James 1.17-27; St. Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

An Exhortation to be Living Stones

Sermon delivered on Parish Dedication Sunday B, August 22, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: Revelation 21.9-14; Psalm 122; 1 Peter 2.1-10; St. John 10.22-29.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Today we celebrate again the founding of our parish ten years ago on May 1. We had our big celebration back in May and it remains a glorious memory for many of us. We celebrate our founding again today because it is our custom to transfer this festival to the Sunday in August closest to the feast day of our patron saint, Augustine of Hippo, which falls on August 28, marking the anniversary of his death in AD 430. Having dispensed with why we are having two celebrations of our parish this year, we turn now to our readings for today. In our epistle lesson, St. Peter refers to Christ’s people as living stones. But what does that mean? This is what I want us to look at today.

We start with our NT lesson from Revelation because in it we find our future and our hope. Both are indispensable for us if we ever want to fully grasp and embrace the meaning of being living stones. Why? Because first and foremost we are a people of promise and hope and for a host of reasons the Church, at least in the West, has lost sight of that hope and therefore we have generally lost our boldness and power as God’s people. Of course I am speaking of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of God’s new creation. Let me be clear. Nowhere else in the religious or the secular worlds do we have anything like the hope and promise of the resurrection. Christ either is who he says he is—the embodiment of God who was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead to announce that God the Father had defeated death on our behalf—or he is not. If Christ really is God, we had better pay attention to him and accept the gift of healing, salvation, and life he offers us. If Christ isn’t God the Son, then we ought to treat him like the lunatic he is and go about our merry way trying to find some meaning and happiness on our own (good luck with that, BTW). But as the NT boldly proclaims, Christ was and is no lunatic. He is God Incarnate, the Word become flesh. Only in him do we have any hope of being finally and fully reconciled to God. Only in Christ do we have the promise of new bodily life after death, a life lived in the direct presence of God—heaven and earth joined together as Revelation proclaims—a life devoid of sickness, sorrow, disease, despair, loneliness, alienation, and madness to name just a few, an unimaginably beautiful and perfect life. 

Without Christ in our lives we are dead people walking and have no hope or future, only the expectation of death and eternal judgment. And as all our lessons make chillingly clear, only God’s people in Christ dare to hope for this future. While final judgment is up to God, the NT gives little hope for a future for those who die without believing in Christ crucified and raised from the dead. We do not have this hope and future because of who we are. We are not unlike unbelievers; many Christians sadly act no better than some unbelievers. Some act worse. No, we have this promise of a hope and future, again defined as new bodily life where we live in God’s new world devoid of any form of evil, only by the grace of God, only by his calling as our lessons proclaim. In describing the New Jerusalem, St. John reminds us that it is not primarily a place as much as it is a new reality between God and his people. Why the Church has rejected her heritage is baffling to me. Perhaps the hope and promise are too spectacular and mind-boggling for our puny minds to comprehend. I don’t know and such speculation is frankly a waste of our time. What I do know is this, my beloved. If we are ever to recover our bold voice in proclaiming and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ, if we are ever to truly be unafraid of all in this world that can harm us and the accelerating chaos swirling around us, we must once again fully embrace the promised hope—the sure and certain expectation of things to come—that we are resurrection people by the love, grace, and mercy of God the Father through Jesus Christ. We must believe that promise with everything we are and set our eyes firmly on Jesus, asking him to be present in our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit and through the ordinary means of grace that the Church has recognized and established: regular Bible reading and study individually and together, regular participation in worship and the holy Eucharist, sweet fellowship, and regular and humble service to Christ and his people and to the broader world. In short we must be living embodiments of Christ to his broken and hurting world, i.e., living stones. And we must do this primarily together because only together do we constitute living stones that comprise the New Jerusalem in St. John’s vision. When we are convinced that not even our mortal death can hurt us or separate us from God’s love, we will no longer be afraid to believe, speak, and act accordingly with all boldness. Neither will we be reticent to proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified and raised from the dead to a world that grows increasingly hostile to that message and those who proclaim it. When we really truly believe Christ is the God who loves us enough to die for us to free us from our slavery to the power of Sin and reconcile us to himself, and when we really truly believe that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead in bodily form and promises that where he is so will we be with him, despite our unloveliness and brokenness, we will no longer be embarrassed or ashamed of being called his disciples or living faithfully according to his good will and purposes for us and for all human beings. If anything we will be embarrassed and ashamed that we were so stupid and reticent in living out and proclaiming our faith, costly as that can be. We will look with pity and sadness on those who ridicule and mock us because we know they have no future or hope. They, like us without Christ, are dead people walking and our hearts break over this reality. 

 But Father, you retort, we don’t feel much like living stones. We are losers and ragamuffins—not as big a loser and ragamuffin as you of course—but still losers and ragamuffins nevertheless with all our fears, hurts, failures, and broken dreams. We get angry and want to act and believe like the world encourages us to act and believe. How can you call us living stones? Well, yes you are losers and ragamuffins (I plead the fifth). None of that matters, though. Feelings in matters of the faith are notoriously fickle and we should should rarely factor them in when considering the reality of our standing before God. Moreover, to argue this way is to miss the point completely. The point, as St. John tells us in his vision of the new heavens and earth, is that we become living stones by God’s power, not our own. On our own we will fail. And even with God’s power we will sometimes fail and miss the mark. We are that badly broken and alienated from God. But God’s love and power and mercy are greater than our brokenness and weaknesses. Nothing is too hard for God, my beloved! After all, he created this universe out of nothing and has the power to raise the dead. Do you think he will renege on his promise to give us life through his Son? No he will not!!  God the Father has raised Christ from the dead to proclaim the inauguration of his new world, a world we get a glimpse of in our NT lesson today. God loves us and is grieved by our slavery to Sin and the rebellion and alienation it has produced. And God loves his good creation and will not let it be permanently destroyed. The same power that spoke worlds into existence and raised Christ from the dead is available to us right now if we stop being afraid and fully embrace our resurrection hope. It is the power to be living stones full of God’s boldness, grace, mercy, love, goodness, righteousness, and justice with the power to embody those qualities and more to each other and to God’s world for the love and sake of his Son who has rescued us from Sin and Death. 

There is no better time than on our parish dedication festival to fully embrace our resurrection hope and let it change us into living stones, the people of God, pleasing in our Lord’s sight. We can trust the promise precisely because we know Jesus Christ is raised from the dead as the early Church and NT proclaimed and as countless people over time and across cultures have experienced ever since. I therefore encourage and exhort you, my beloved, to embrace your inheritance and let the Holy Spirit affirm it in you. When you do, no matter had bad things are or get, no matter how much evil and chaos and anarchy seem to rule the day, you will remember that not even the gates of Hell can prevail against us as members of Christ’s body, the Church, because Christ has defeated the strong man—Satan! No matter how much our enemies threaten us or even persecute us, we will draw on our faith in Christ and rely on his power to help us persevere and ultimately prevail. In his power we will fight our fears and not be afraid, remembering the promises of God made known to us in the Word made flesh, in his holy Word, and in the Eucharist. For the love of God, again I encourage and exhort you to seek Christ with your whole being and strive to imitate him in all your thinking, speaking, and doing. When we do this we will surely find the power to be living stones who embody the presence and goodness and love and power of the One who loved us and gave himself for us so that we could live forever. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Father Santosh Madanu: Jesus the Bread of Life

Sermon delivered on Trinity 11B, Sunday, August 15, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: 1 Kings 2.10-12, 3.3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5.15-20; St. John 6.51-58.

Good morning St. Augustine family.

I would like to begin with a real story:
A lady went to the priest and said, I won’t be attending the church any more. The priest asked. May I know Why? She said I see people are on their cell phones during Church Services. Some are gossiping, some just aren’t living right, they are all just hypocrites. The priest was silent for a minute and said Ok…. But can I ask you a favor to do something for me before you make a final decision. What is that? Then the priest said take a glass of water and walk around the church two times and don’t let any water fall out of the glass, yes she said “I can do that” she went around the church twice and said I did it. Then the priest asked three questions: 1. Did you see anybody on their phones? She said NO. 2. Did you see any one gossiping? No. 3. Was anybody living wrong? She said: “I didn’t see anything because I focused myself on this glass, so the water wouldn’t fall.” So the priest said to her, when you come to the church you should be just focused on God so that YOU don’t fall. That is why Jesus said “Follow Me”.
He did not say follow Christians, or follow somebody else. Therefore your relationship with God should not be determined by how others relate with God. Let it be determined how focused you are with God. (My relationship with God Jesus should not be determined by the relationship of others with God. But you and I can learn from the church many good things to grow in faith and love).

How hungry is your soul for God? The psalmist says “my soul thirsts for the Lord”. Bread is such a powerful symbol for what God is giving us in Christ, the bread of life. Without food we die. Without Christ we cannot have abundant life. A life that lasts for eternity. I would like you to hear once again what people did and said to Jesus: John 6:21-25:

22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ (6:21-25)

Looking for Jesus for the Wrong Reasons (6:26)
If Jesus had performed another miracle of feeding 3000 men on that day, then Jesus would simply have been fixing the problem temporarily. And people would have been hungry again. So what did Jesus do? He became the life giving bread. He said “I am the bread of life’ and promises that ‘he who comes to me will never be hungry and he who believes in me will never thirsty’. Jesus is the solution to all our hunger and God the father gave His only Son Jesus who has the power and capacity to satisfy our innate craving and hunger. Jesus was born in “Bethlehem” that means “House of bread” and it is no surprise that today, he identifies himself as the bread of life.

When Jesus called himself the bread of life, his listeners no doubt thought of Moses. Through Moses God sent down manna, bread from heaven that fed the chosen people for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land. Jesus explained, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die” (John 6:49-51).

The Bread of Life Discourse and the Lord’s Supper
The bread of life Jesus speaks of is his body and blood that eventually the institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist by the Lord with his Last Supper with His disciples.
In the gospel of Mathew 26: 26-28 ‘the Words of Institution’: “26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28)

When we partake of the Eucharist, Jesus feeds us with his body and blood. We enter into communion with him and with one another. Unlike other food, which becomes part of us, Jesus in the sacrament of Holy Communion, the sacred bread and wine makes us more like him. Therefore we, too, are to be bread for the world to many who are searching for the bread of life in the Lord Jesus. The living bread sustains us and prepares us for that day when we will come to the heavenly banquet. It is a pledge of future glory. It is the means by which Christ fulfills his promise, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). When we eat the Bread of Life Jesus lives in us and we live in the Lord. God provides us with food, through Jesus, for our journey through this life.

In Exodus 3 Moses meets God in the burning bush and asks God’s name… It is there that he declares “I AM Who I AM”. This is the name Jesus takes for Himself. What does that mean? Jesus is God – the Divine Redeemer of the world.

There’s so much more to life than daily bread/ food, fame, wealth and power. That is why our hearts are not satisfied with all the success and glory of this world. That is why St. Augustine prayed “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in You.”
We can try to fill our lives with work, hoping that achievement and success will make that inner restlessness, that inner gnawing, that inner hunger go away. But the harder we work, the hungrier we get. No amount of recreational therapy – be it gold medal sports or exotic cruises -will plug the gap. Doesn’t matter how many friends or relationships you’ve got, trying to find in someone else what we are lacking in ourselves, the spiritual hole in the soul will still be there.
Jesus Christ alone satisfy hunger of our hearts.
Jesus brings heaven to earth. Jesus unites God and humanity in Himself. Jesus fills our lives with holy vitality and power. Jesus is Bread with a capital B which gives life with a capital L.
The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. That is why Jesus says “I am the bread of life”.

We have the life to live to the best of our ability. There are many possibilities and potentialities that God has blessed us with. Therefore when we get hurt; when our life become tough; when we lose the loved ones; when we are diagnosed with cancer, covid 19 and many chronic deceases we need to become strong in faith and hope. It is easy to believe God when everything goes well. But when we face the storms in our life, we question God. Why Me? Life is for living. Life takes sacrifices, challenges, setbacks and miseries. But in the midst of all these one should celebrate the life because many could not make it today. You are still alive. You are breathing. As long as your heart is pumping blood you got to do what you got to do.
In all the circumstances trust in the Lord Jesus as the bread of life.

Lessons for all the Disciples and followers

  1. True disciples must look beyond the physical blessings to hunger for spiritual life, eternal life (6:26-27).
  2. Eternal life is gained by faith, not by certain works of righteousness (6:28-29).
  3. Jesus is the Bread of Life who nourishes people spiritually and gives them eternal life (6:35).

I would like to end with humor:
A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small.
The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible.
The little girl said, ‘when I get to heaven I will ask Jonah’.
The teacher asked, ‘What if Jonah went to hell?’
The little girl replied, ‘Then you ask him’.

Prayer
Jesus, please teach me how to feed on you more than I do. I do believe in you; increase my faith, my willingness to obey, and the effectiveness of my ministry on your behalf. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.

Christ: The Key to Living the Good Life

Sermon delivered on Trinity 10B, Sunday, August 8, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: 2 Samuel 18.5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4.25-5.2; St. John 6.35-51.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

What are we to make of St. Paul’s exhortation in our epistle lesson to be a different kind of people, a people who live the good life—good life defined as conforming our lives and ourselves, our thinking, speaking, and doing, to the created order and will of God our Father—especially in light of our OT and gospel lessons that showcase the ugliness of the human condition? Is St. Paul simply being delusional and exhorting us to be likewise? This is what I want us to look at this morning.

Scripture is crystal clear in its assessment of the human condition. Our first ancestors’ sin got the human race expelled from paradise and created a terrible chasm between God and humans and between humans ourselves. We see the fruit of our rebellion all the time: death, illnesses of all sorts, broken relationships, anger, alienation, and mutual hostility and distrust. We search vainly for all kinds of remedies for our loneliness and alienation by pursuing various idols (sex, power, and security being the most common), remedies that are sure to fail because they are grounded in unreality. I don’t have time to rehearse all the weirdness but if you are old enough, you can quickly list the crazy thinking and behaviors in our culture today. We are so alienated and hostile to God that we are willing to do almost anything to avoid being reconciled to him, despite the deep yearning in our hearts to the contrary. We see the human condition on full display in our OT lesson in the death of David’s son, Absalom. The whole sordid story is itself a grim reminder of the consequences of David’s terrible sins of adultery and murder that we looked at a couple weeks ago. Forgiveness there had been, but God had allowed the consequences of David’s sins to remain, consequences that were deeply painful and divisive for David’s house: Here is his beloved son Absalom in open rebellion against his father. Here is Absalom’s father seeking to save his rebellious son from the consequences of treachery and treason. And here is a bloodthirsty commander and relative of David’s, a relative with a history of treachery and violence, all purportedly in the name of the king he serves, who satisfies his bloodlust by disobeying the David’s direct orders and effectively murdering his son. 

Then there are the crowds resisting Christ’s teaching on a baffling scale. Did you notice the repetition in our gospel lesson? To drive his point home, Christ repeated multiple times that he is the bread of life who will raise to life those whom the Father gives him on the last day, yet the crowd hears but doesn’t understand or believe. Think about it. Christ is God become human speaking to his image-bearing creatures, the very people God the Father had called out to bring God’s healing love and reconciliation to bear on his sin-sick and evil-infested world. If there ever was anyone who could be classified as a master teacher who knew how to reach his pupils, surely Christ would be that person. But inexplicably the people do not have ears to hear, eyes to see, or minds to comprehend. Instead, after hearing the breathtaking promise of Christ to heal and reconcile them to God, and to raise them up on the last day to enjoy life fully as God created them to live it and desired for them (and us) to have, they complained about him rather than accepting the most precious gift they could ever receive! Remarkable. And if we are honest with ourselves, things haven’t changed much from Christ’s day to ours. Many of us still don’t want to accept Christ’s gift of eternal life by giving ourselves to him in faith and obedience. We, like them, are a profoundly broken and hopeless people because we are all slaves to the power of Sin, that alien and hostile power that has enslaved us and compels us to continue our ongoing rebellion and hostility toward God. There is no such thing as self-help and self-improvement. People do not come to know Christ through their own effort as Christ himself repeatedly reminds us in our gospel lesson. If this is true—and our own experience affirms the awful reality of the human condition—how can we ever hope to be the people St. Paul exhorts us to be in his epistle? How can we put away all the bitterness and rancor that plagues the human race? How can we control our anger and truly love God and neighbors when our hearts (wills) are naturally at war against them? How can we proclaim the love of Christ if no one will listen? How can we work consistently to build each other up and love each other here in our parish family with a love that encourages each other to conform to the Father’s created order rather than to cave to our own disordered desires? Answer? On our own it is impossible and if we try to be the people St. Paul calls us to be and do the things he calls us to do on our own power, we will be danger of falling into despair and/or becoming neurotic because self-help and self-improvement are a lie and a delusion. We only come to Christ by the grace and power of God. Period. Those who are enslaved to the power of Sin (that would be all of us) cannot simply be told to stop sinning. It won’t happen. We must be freed from our slavery to Sin. Those who cannot hear or see the Truth of the gospel cannot be helped by assigning blame to them or offering advice, no matter how good the advice is. They have to be healed, and only Christ has the power to heal us from our sin-sickness and free us from the steely grip of Sin’s enslavement. Putting on Christ, feeding on him through holy communion, regular Scripture reading and study, prayer, Christian fellowship, and service are ordinary ways we put on Christ, i.e., ways we submit to Christ and allow him to heal and transform us, all fueled by our faith in the efficacy of his healing and saving power, a faith that is itself a gift from our Father’s generous and loving heart.

We can never hope to be the people St. Paul (and through him Christ himself) exhorts us to be unless we strive in the power of Christ available to us in and through the Holy Spirit to imitate Christ, who loves us and has claimed us from all eternity. Putting on Christ (or imitating him) is not effortless, but neither is it futile because it is rooted in Christ’s power, not our own efforts. Setbacks there will be. We are all too profoundly broken and alienated for that not to happen and Christ doesn’t manipulate us like puppets. But if we willingly seek to imitate Christ and to feed on him in the ways I’ve just outlined, we will find that our new selves, the new creation about which the NT speaks, will slowly but surely allow us to be the kind of people God calls us to be and St. Paul exhorts us to be in our epistle lesson. Why? Because we rely on Christ’s power that he willingly and gladly gives us. We do not worship a God who is a tyrant and a bully, bent on punishing or even destroying us. We worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who became human and who promises to love us despite our sins and to free and heal us from our slavery to Sin’s power and our own incurable sin-sickness. And when we worship this God, the one and only true God, and are humble enough to submit ourselves to his will, believing all the time that he is busy working in and through us in the power of the Holy Spirit even when we don’t perceive that power at work, we will see growth and healing and freedom. None of it will be perfect in this life. We live in a cursed world that can never be the entirely good created order God intended it to be. But we are not people of this world. We are people of God’s new creation because we belong to Christ and Christ has promised to raise us from the dead to complete our healing process and bestow upon us perfect goodness and freedom. We will be free to love and imitate our crucified and risen Lord perfectly and in doing so we will discover fully what it means to live life abundantly, to be fully human beings. 

This does not protect us from life’s hurts or the evil that we all must endure on occasion. What Christ does promise us is the power to overcome. We don’t come to faith in Christ without the Father first drawing us to him. Are you willing to relinquish control and trust God to do so with you and others? It’s a hard but necessary first step. That we are here is evidence that the Father has claimed us, no matter how poorly we live our faith, and it reminds us that we do not worship an absentee or uncaring God. There is much mystery and enigma in all this, my beloved. But part of a real and saving faith is the attendant humility to not need all our questions answered about God/faith, to be content with what God has revealed to us in Scripture and in his very own Son, Christ, the Word made flesh. He came to us in weakness and humility to destroy Sin’s power over us and call us to be his people, people who have eternal life starting here and now, despite the vicissitudes and ambiguities and sorrows of this mortal life. He came to free and heal us when we were still God’s enemies and he overcame the sting of Death by being raised to new life. The reality of Christ’s promise extends to us even in our profound weakness and sin-sickness. My beloved, believe this promise with all your being and might because it’s true; Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. Wrestle with it in the power of the Spirit together as God’s people, and you will find that you are becoming the people God calls us to be. When by God’s grace you really know that the promises of God are coming true, you will also find life in abundance, even in the midst of a broken and hurting world and your own hurts and sorrows. It is a foretaste of that glorious life promised to us forever through the grace, merit, love, and power of Jesus Christ our crucified and risen Lord. To him be honor, praise, and glory forever and ever.

In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Father Philip Sang: Seeking Food that Endures and Living It

Sermon delivered on Trinity 9B, Sunday, August 1, 2021 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, usually somewhat different from the text below, click here.

Lectionary texts: 2 Samuel 11.26-12.13a; Psalm 51.1-13; Ephesians 4.1-16; St. John 6.24-35.

May the words of my mouth and meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you o Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

A deep spiritual hunger is implanted in every human heart. Different people will seek to fill this need in different ways, but the hunger is not unique. People yearn for a deeper connection, an eternal spiritual connection, and when that is lacking will seek any means to be fulfilled. Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Yet, he who offered fullness of joy was often met by people with simpler, lesser needs. In the fifth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus met a Samaritan woman who longed for living water so she wouldn’t have to keep returning to the well each day. Jesus started with that basic need and used it to forge a relationship with her that ended with the woman reconnected to God and to others in her community.

In our gospel reading for today, Jesus has met the immediate needs of a host of people. Those remaining after he fed 5,000 with a little fish and bread seek out Jesus. Jesus tells them, “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.”

The previous day, Jesus fed their physical hunger with bread and fish, and the crowd sought him out once more. Jesus points them to their spiritual hunger, which is what he really wanted to fill. After all, the people were created to love God and love others as they loved themselves, and in chasing after other needs, they risked getting further from the real nourishment they needed. Jesus compares this to the original bread from heaven, manna, with which God miraculously fed the children of Israel for 40 years in an uninhabitable wasteland. This was the daily bread that would come anew each morning, with enough to last the day and a double portion for the Sabbath. Now Jesus compares the daily bread of manna, which God gave in the desert, to the Bread of Life, which God offers in Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Jesus offers nourishment, which goes to the heart of our most basic human need to fill a spiritual hunger. Having been created to be in relationship with God, without that connection, we can feel empty.

It is an easy move to connect Jesus referring to himself as the Bread of Life to the Eucharist. For in the mystery of the Eucharistic feast we eat the bread and drink the wine, and in so doing we partake of the body and blood of Jesus. But we don’t want to jump to that correct response so quickly that we miss the bigger picture.

This discourse comes when Jesus has two more years of ministry ahead of him. There is much more time left in Jesus’ ministry before he gets to that last meal with his disciples. John’s gospel makes clear what the other three gospels only hint at: the Eucharist is not about Jesus’ death alone. Jesus’ self-giving act in communion is not only concerned with the Last Supper, the cross and the empty tomb alone. Jesus’ whole life, rather than just one or two events, will institute the sacrament of communion. Put differently, faith is not in Jesus’ death and resurrection alone, but in Jesus’ whole life – from Bethlehem to Golgotha, and beyond to an empty tomb in a garden, Jesus’ appearances to his disciples, and his ascension to heaven. Everything Jesus did – who Jesus was and how he acted – are part of God’s revelation to us. We cannot separate one part of his life from the rest. Nor should we have a Christian part of our lives separate from the rest of our lives. We are to take Jesus’ whole story and make it part of our whole story. This is much more than hearing the word, it is word and deed. In baptism, we do not simply hear of Jesus’ baptism, but water is poured over us as a sign that we are united with Christ through baptism. We don’t just hear the story, we are actually baptised. In the Eucharist, we don’t merely listen to the words, “Take eat,” but we actually get up, come forward to take and eat. It’s not just the bread that we take, bless, break and give. God took Jesus’ whole life, blessed, broke it and gave it to us. We are to let that story of God’s love for us take us, bless us, break us and give us back to the world. Jesus wanted those who followed him after having their fill of fish and bread to discover real spiritual nourishment so that they would never hunger again. And yes, one is fed through the Eucharist, but this too is only part of the picture. Our Sunday worship is to be just a part of how we are fed spiritually. Compare spiritual nourishment to food. Eating out once a week in a restaurant is not unusual. In fact, it is rare to find someone who eats out only once a week. But what if that was the only meal the person ate.

Someone who goes back to their familiar seat in a restaurant week after week to enjoy their one meal of the week could never be nourished enough to make it through the remaining six days. In the same way, common worship in church on Sunday is meant to be an important part of one’s spiritual food and drink, but it will never satisfy your hunger if this is your whole plan for feeding your spirit.

Fortunately, the Anglican Church has a centuries-old norm of daily prayer that is well suited to filling this void. The Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer as found in the Book of Common Prayer are a wonderfully enriching daily devotion. When praying in this way, together with the daily scripture readings, one is better prepared to meet whatever comes. It is not that troubles never occur to people who pray and read their Bible; it’s just that those who dwell daily in prayer and scripture are more connected to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Then whatever comes, they can call on that connection.

So much of our lives is spent working for the food that perishes. We must work to earn food, water and shelter and all the extras that make life enjoyable. But we know there is more to life than the daily grind. For a fulfilled life, one should commit a portion of each day to prayer and reading the Bible, for that is the food that endures for eternal life and the gift of Jesus who came so that you might have an abundant life.

Paul in today’s epistle lesson reminds us that God has chosen us to be Christ’s representatives on earth, in light of this truth, Paul challenges us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received -the awesome privilege of being called Christ’s very own. This life includes being humble, gentle, patient, understanding, and peaceful. People are watching your life. Can they see Christ in you? How well are you doing as his representative?

It is my prayer that as we seek the food that endures that each of us will live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

In the name of God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen