Lloyd Menke | Our Saviour’s Lutheran
The text for this sermon is John 6: 1-21. The scripture can be found here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=401965126
By Marianne Casamance [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
What fills you? In John’s gospel, Jesus plays with the idea of being full – as a way of drawing us deeper into a connection with God. For the next five Sundays our gospel readings will all be from John 6. Over the course of the next five Sundays, Jesus will be moving from being filled by having our stomachs full to being filled because we are deeply connected to Jesus as the Bread of Life.
It begins with a large crowd following Jesus. Why do you follow someone? We are bombarded with invitations to follow people and organizations on social media. We follow celebrities, sports stars, music stars, and English royalty.
People followed Forrest Gump when he decided to start running across America. In the movie, Forrest returns from Vietnam and one day he decides to run. He runs and runs, from one coast to another. His running attracts attention and people start running with him. Until one day, he stops. He tells those following him he is tired and is going home. One of the followers asks, “what are we going to do now?” (The YouTube video clip can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKKmzmeU5-0&t=3s)
Those following Forrest didn’t know what to do when he stopped. Why do you follow someone? The bible tells us that people followed Jesus because they saw the signs he was doing for the sick. In John, Jesus’ miracles are “signs” that point beyond themselves. Jesus does miracles to help people understand something deeper about God.
When the crowds come to see Jesus, he knows they are hungry. He asks Philip where they are going to buy bread for all these people. Philip is flabbergasted. He tells Jesus, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough for each of them to get a little.” Peter tells Jesus that there is a boy there that has five barley loaves and two fish, but asks, “What are they among so many?”
Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit down on grass. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.
This story of the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle story that is recorded in all four gospels. The story is essentially the same in each of the gospels, with a few small variations. One of those variations is that in the other gospels Jesus has the disciples distribute the food. But in John, Jesus alone distributes it. That is because John wants to help us see that God provides our daily bread, that Jesus is like the Old Testament prophet Elisha, and that he is the Bread of Life.
He wants us to believe the psalmist when he says:
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
The people eat much as they want until their hunger is satisfied. And then the disciples gather up 12 baskets of fragments. It would be easy to pass over this point, but I think there is a lot to notice in this little statement about fragments. I am intrigued by the fact that the word for “fragments” is used in the Didache, the 1st catechism for the early church, for the communion bread.
The literal meaning of the word of “fragments” in Greek is “that which is broken.” “Breaking bread” was an early term for the communion. They didn’t have pre-sliced bread. You broke some bread off from a loaf. So, there would naturally be broken pieces left over. These are the fragments that the disciples gathered up.
I got to thinking about these fragments and the fact that the very early church used this word for communion bread. It really seems appropriate if you stop and think about it. We live in a very broken and fragmented world. More than ever we seem to let single issues divide us. We experience fragmentation in our relationships. We are pulled in a hundred directions by work, school, family activities, friends, social events, and even church. Who doesn’t feel like time is fragmented? All of that can leave us personally feeling broken and fragmented – struggling to hold it together.
While the people who came to Jesus on the mountain, and those in the early church, were dealing with different issues and problems that fragmented their lives – we share a common humanity. To be human means that there are things that cause us to feel broken, fractured and fragmented.
Jesus met the people following him on the mountain in that need. And he gathered up the fragments of that meal and the early church realized and celebrated that even the fragments of the miracle are enough to meet and provide for us in our fragmented lives.
Broken bread for broken people.
Why? Because Jesus himself meets us. Bread in and of itself isn’t enough to meet our need. Oh, our hunger may be satisfied for a time. But, we get hungry again. Or just as likely, even if we are full we find ourselves enticed by the thought of something more – something better. No food can satisfy the deep hunger within us. Only Jesus can do that. Jesus gives himself to us in the broken bread of communion.
Fragments of bread for fragmented people.
It is about way more than bread. It is about way more than full stomachs. Jesus invites you to experience again in him one who truly satisfies. As we shall see in the weeks to come, he is the Bread of Life. Amen