Although Krisztina and I began talking about worshipping together a number of months ago, your being here today ends up fitting beautifully with a theme that’s been guiding us as a congregation this spring. It’s the phrase you see there as today’s sermon title: “Sharing the Bread of Life.” Over the last few weeks we’ve been reading together biblical stories about bread from heaven. Like the one about God’s provision of manna for the children of Israel in the wilderness. And the one about Jesus taking five loaves of bread and two small fish, and with them feeding a great multitude of people. And we’ve been looking for ways these stories about God’s provision and God’s abundance can inform our ministry as a congregation.
It’s in that spirit that we are beginning a new mission effort here today, with these monthly “Sandwich Sundays” you heard about in our announcements, and I’m so glad each of you is here to join in the fun downstairs after service. Granted, it may be a little chaotic the first time we attempt this, but if so, it will be a happy chaos, a joyful chaos, with all kinds of good energy around wanting to share generously with our neighbors who are residents of Tent City 5. In fact, right now our children are getting us off to a great start by writing messages and drawing pictures on the bags in which we’ll be delivering the lunches, before they return to join us for communion later in the service.
Offering food in God’s name is exactly what the prophet Isaiah calls us to do in our Old Testament reading this morning. More than any ritual, Isaiah says, God wants us to focus on fighting injustice and oppression and sharing our bread with the hungry. When we do, he promises our “light shall rise in the darkness.”
Isaiah also says when we do these things we shall be called “repairers of the breach,” which reminds me of the Jewish teaching of tikkun olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world.” Awhile back I came across a beautiful black and white sketch of the planet earth being held by enormous hands – God’s hands – and then all over the planet were these tiny silhouettes of human figures, carrying ladders, wielding tools, unfolding blueprints. I love that image because it carries with it an invitation to participate with God in the restoration of God’s creation. There are probably as many ways to repair the world with God’s help as there are individuals called to the task. But one of those ways – mentioned again and again in the Scriptures - is simply by sharing food with those who need it. Every time we give generously out of the abundance God has given us, we are taking an important step toward being rebuilders and repairers and restorers of God’s world. And what a beautiful reminder of our unity with brothers and sisters in Christ from other congregations across our city and around our world. For we can also picture each church family lifting up its own particular set of tools and doing its part toward that same goal.
But even before we gather around those sandwich-building tables downstairs, we will gather here around the Lord’s Table, having also been reminded in John’s gospel that Jesus called himself“the Bread of Life.” The words we’ll say as we break the bread and lift the cup this morning are words shared on every continent and in more languages than we can imagine: “Take, eat, this is my body… Drink of it, all of you, remembering me.” The details may change – details of exactly how we explain its significance and exactly how we serve communion, that is – but our gathering together to remember Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, to recall his tremendous love for us that led him to sacrifice himself on our behalf, this is something that unitesfollowers of Jesus of every time and place. Celebrating this meal together, remembering that Jesus is for us “the Bread of Life” – it’s hard to imagine a more significant sign of our connection with other Christians. Even those we’ve not had the privilege of meeting before. When we stand together around the table of our Lord, we’re reminded that – whether or not you know my name, or I know yours - we are part of a single family, in Christ. It’s a rehearsal dinner, you might say, for the great banquet we’ll enjoy together in heaven. All God’s children, men and women, young and old, from every tribe on earth, sitting down together to share a meal. An abundance of food. A banquet like none other we've ever seen. And everyone’sinvited to the feast.
Tom Long tells a story of a friend who frequently flew in and out of Newark Airport, in New Jersey. Newark Airport is not only a hub for a few major airlines, at least at the time he shared this story it was also home to about 400 individuals who had nowhere else to call home. You didn’t notice them when you were rushing to catch a plane, you didn’t really see them, he said, but they were there.
Because his friend was at Newark Airport to catch a flight and it was delayed, he sat down in the waiting room right across from a snack bar. He noticed that the only person in the snack bar at the time was one of these individuals, without anywhere else to go, sitting with his head down on the table. Pretty soon, another person, a man who appeared to be the manager of the snack bar, made a beeline for that table, and the guy watching the scene unfold thought to himself, “Uh, oh, he’s getting ready to bounce him.”
But instead, as he walked past the table, the manager silently set down a hot dog in front of the man, and on his way back he quietly put down a cup of hot coffee. It was just a simple act of kindness. But from the point of view of our faith, it was as if he had said, “Look, in a few minutes I’m going to have to play the role of the manager again, and you’re going to have to play the role of a homeless person, and because of that, at some point later on I may have to ask you to leave. But for a moment, let us be who we willbe, in God’s kingdom. Welcome to the feast, brother. Welcome to the feast.”
“Share your bread with the hungry,” says Isaiah, and so let your light shine in the darkness.
“I am the bread of life,” says Jesus, “the living bread,” satisfying your hunger and thirst for God.
Both upstairs and down this morning, both within these walls and in the many ways our respective churches seek faithfully and generously to follow Christ, it is a great privilege to be united in “Sharing the Bread of Life” with all of you.
May God bless our efforts to live faithfully into that calling!