Homily St Mary’s Marlborough, 8am 5th August 2018
10th Sunday after Trinity: Exodus 16.2-4, 9-15 & John 6.24-35
Today’s Gospel reading follows last week’s reading of the feeding of the five thousand. As then, also now, we are invited to reflect on who Jesus is using the familiar image of bread. Last week’s message in many ways was a very comforting one, both for the early readers of the Gospel as well as for us. With God there is always enough and even more. God gathers up what is left over and it is used. Both messages that give us reassurance about God’s loving nature and his care for us.
Today, however, we hear a much more challenging message. Let’s look at it from within the story. The people in the crowd have just been part of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand; their hunger has been satisfied, but yet, they are looking for more. Jesus has gone from the place where they saw him, so they start looking for him. When the crowd has found him, looking for more, Jesus challenges them by challenging their motivation: they are here for more miracles, more reassurance, more food. But Jesus turns it around, and speaks in what I think is rather elusive language.
Firstly he says that we should not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life. When the people ask him what this means, the reply is ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’.
Both for the people then, and for us now, these are challenging words. Taken literally, they don’t make much sense, because we all still need to eat and drink and sleep, but taken figuratively we may take the statement too lightly. To take them at their true value, we need to remind ourselves where it is set in the story: straight after the feeding of the five thousand. Just like us now, the people who asked the question were well looked-after: their physical needs were satisfied, but they were looking for more.
We too can be at risk of always wanting more. Whether it is more money, more status, more recognition, part of what it is to be human is that often we are not satisfied with what we have. And it is here that Jesus challenges us. It is about our priorities. What is it that we really need to live a fulfilled life?
That is a scary thought. Because suddenly the reassurance that a faith in God gives us, comes with a sobering call as we are bidden to reflect on where our priorities are in life. Do we really live our lives putting God at the top, and trust the rest will come? Or do we first look after ourselves, and then make time for God?
We are challenged to order the pattern of our life around putting our faith at its heart. Times of transition often give us an opportunity to rebalance and to take a fresh look, whether it’s moving house, starting another job, or retiring. It’s not easy, and again, the challenge comes with the reassurance we were already given.
We have been given our fill of bread, now the question is put to us: what are we going to do next? Will we keep looking for more, or will we set our eyes on the food that endures for eternal life? Do we want more of what we have, or do we see what we really need?