Rev. Rosemary Webb
9th August 2015
What Do We Hunger For?

You will have heard me say this before, last year Peter and I went up to the North of Scotland, to a village called Croiche. Like so many others I have been on my computer tracing my family tree and on my father’s side I have reached as far back as my ancestor William Ross who was born there in 1792, having discovered that I wondered what else I might be able to find. Well apart from some grave stones in the church yard and piles of stones scattered across the hillside, not much, for everything else was levelled to the ground in the highland clearances. We then went to Golspie where his son was born and those two visits helped to satisfy my curiosity as to where I came from.

There is so much hunger in the world today, we see pictures of starving children in Africa and Asia, which is horrendous, and we have food banks in many countries in affluent Europe, but I believe the greatest hunger worldwide is the hunger for the truth, a hunger to understand what life is about, who are we, why are we here, and indeed perhaps even more pressing what is death, what happens then? It’s good to have a family, a job, all you need in life – but it is only for life. I may have sought my earthly roots but I do believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life.

In the Gospel reading we have Jesus trying to teach that to the people in the crowd, that he is offering himself so that they may have life. But they couldn’t understand, how can someone who grew up among them, whose parents they knew, say he came down from heaven?

They could only see Christ’s message in its literal sense, it was beyond their perception. All they could hear was that somehow Jesus was going to give his earthly body for them to eat, they could not make a connection between God’s message to them throughout the Old Testament, they couldn’t understand Jesus is the Messiah. They may have learned the scriptures but they didn’t know them.

Increasingly over the years of leading funerals younger people are finding it harder to plan a funeral, they don’t know any hymns, they certainly don’t know any bible passages, and yet they know there is something, someone, that it is not the end for their relative, and whatever it is they want it for their relative. But many schools no longer teach Christ’s message.

Often you can sense that they are beginning to wonder, perhaps for the first time, what life is about, what is death, what does the Church mean when it says Jesus is the bread of life.

As today’s disciples we are called to go out and spread the Gospel, to help people understand Christ’s message, by our lives help them to see the Glory of God’s love.

We may never meet anyone who comes up and says I hunger for God’s love, but how often do we meet people who are depressed, lonely, who cannot understand what life is about, who are terrified of dying?. When Jesus says I am the bead of life he is not only talking to us but to those people as well, people who do not know him but have a hunger which they cannot satisfy.

And in our relationship with Christ have we responded to his gracious love in our life? Have we received but not given? In the passage to the Ephesians Paul says we are to make the most of our time by doing the will of the Lord. Serving Christ does not stop as we walk out those doors, but continues day in and day out as we respond to our neighbour – be it someone we know and like, a stranger or someone we find it hard to understand. Our neighbours are all God’s children.

Each Sunday when we come to God’s table we ask him to feed us with his body and his blood; we know that Christ sustains us and gives us the strength to live out the Gospel. But it doesn’t end when the Eucharist is over, we don’t just live out the Gospel on a Sunday but each day.

What God gave to the people in the wilderness, and what Jesus gave the crowd was bread. Manna was bread. They ate it and it kept them alive. Without it they would have starved. Everyone can understand that – all of us at some time have felt really hungry not to a dangerous degree but enough to feel uncomfortable. We are physically hungry and we need bread. But when people are emotionally/ spiritually hungry they so often fail to see that they need Jesus, that he is the bread of life.

Through accepting Christ’s body through the bread of the Eucharist, we learn that we do not live by bread alone. This bread is special, Christ’s body, given for us to help us understand God’s love. Jesus is calling us to receive him, and then to use his love to reach out to others. To help them understand what we mean by ‘the bread of life’ to help them see that is the way to peace of mind, to be able to understand what life is about. We must teach that it is the bread and wine in the Eucharist, not the food and wine at a party, which strengthens and sustains us. Wine may have a feel good factor for an hour or so, the knowledge of God’s love for us is a feel good factor for life, for through it we find peace; and this is what we must teach.

But I don’t believe we just teach by lengthy talks, the church must teach by example; show itself to truly be Christ’s body here on earth now by reaching out with true compassion and love.

We must also give thanks to God for all he gives us, for loving us, for coming to earth as Jesus to earn salvation for us. We give thanks because we don’t deserve it, we have done nothing to earn it, it is part of our relationship with God. God doesn’t force us to serve him, to spread the Gospel, it is that he loves us and hopes that we will love him and become true disciples, so that the word will be spread. We are not being bigoted when we proclaim the Gospel, call for children to learn about Jesus, we are working to bring people to God because we know that is the way to happiness, the way to the kingdom, that Christ in the Way and the Light.