During the next few Sundays we will be reading from the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John. This is a long passage explaining that Jesus is the “Bread of Life”. This is a sometimes difficult time for us pastors, because we are asked to preach multiple sermons on the same subject, there is only so much that can be said. Perhaps the most important thing that needs to be said is that bread (food in general) is essential to life. Therefore, when we call Jesus the “Bread of Life” we are saying that he is in some way essential.
The other thing about bread is that it is basic, it is physical, bread is down to earth. It is not just “spiritual”. Jesus has come to us in the flesh, as a real human being that walked the earth and ate bread himself. He has connected himself to you and me and all of creation in this way.
When something is essential to life, God seems to make a lot of it. For instance, we need air and water, so God has created more than enough for everyone. We also need food. (Yes, Jesus said we do not live by bread alone, but we also don’t live long without it.) In the same way, God has provided more than enough food for everyone. We need to think about this. None of us would deny allowing another person to breathe or have a drink of water. Can we let someone go without food when God has provided it in abundance?
On Saturday August 1, a group of volunteers from Zion UCC encountered people who often go without food when we provided a worship service and a meal at the Urban Mission in downtown Steubenville. According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, there are nearly 12,000 people in Jefferson County that are food insecure, meaning that they don’t always know where they will find their next meal. That's 1 in 5 people! This is not just adults, there are a large number of children that go to bed hungry every night, and wake the next morning unsure if they will eat that day.
I hope you can see that we are not talking about a problem that is far away. This is not a problem caused by famine, or poor distribution, or corrupt governments. It is caused by poverty and the cycle of poverty that hunger creates. Think about the children: poor nutrition causes poor mental development, causes lack of energy and poor performance at school, which causes poverty level employment. Then the cycle begins again. We are a people that shares Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. We break that bread together at worship. It is essential. It is real. And sharing our bread, our food with the hungry is not something separate or different. It is part of that communion with Christ, with creation, with all of God’s children.
With the Greatest of Hope!