19 SUNDAY B - Living Bread


Michel DeVerteuil
Textual Comments
In this passage, Jesus again draws lessons about life from the feeding of the five thousand.
I remind you that all teaching of Jesus recorded in the gospels is intended to speak to experience, and we must therefore appeal to our experience to discover its truth. This can be difficult with passages like these: one reason is that the language is not the kind that we use ordinarily. Some expressions – such as “eternal life,” “being drawn by the Father,” “living bread,” “flesh” – you will have to bring down to earth for yourself, applying them to what you have lived yourself.

There is, however, a more important reason why we may find this passage difficult to relate to experience: it contains deep teaching, speaking of a level of experience that we seldom reflect on because we all tend to live at the surface of ourselves.
In meditating on these passages then, you must remember deep experiences. You will naturally think of deep conversion – for example, a retreat that changed your life, a Life in the Spirit Seminar, or a prayer moment that you have never forgotten.
But you need not stay with prayer moments. You could think of other deep experiences – a movement, for example, or a leader who touched your life. The passage will help you understand these experiences and put them in the context of your growth as a person.

As always with gospel stories, you can focus on the person of Jesus, letting him remind you of someone very important to you and in the process, of the kind of person you yourself would like to be; or then you can focus on the journey the people were called to make, recognizing a journey that you or people you love are making or have made.
Remember also that the fruit of your meditation is that you find yourself repeating the actual words of the passage prayerfully and with great gratitude to God for his grace.
It is not possible to meditate deeply on a passage like this all together – divide it up and take one section at a time. You will usually find that one section is all you can go into over a week, although you may be able to connect the other sections after a time. I would suggest diving the passage as follows:
–  Verses 41 to 44 describe a journey that Jesus invites the people to make.
– In vs. 41 and 42 they are ‘complaining': their lives are so ordinary that God could not possibly be with them. All they can see is ‘the son of Joseph’ whose father and mother ‘they knew’.
– In vs. 43 and 44 Jesus asks them to look beyond that same ordinary reality and recognize two things: a) that the meeting with him is not by chance but by God’s grace; and b), that it is a meeting that has great significance, not merely here and now, but for all eternity.
What encounter in your own experience resulted in your making that kind of journey? What kind of leader is able to challenge people to make such a journey?
–  Verses 45 and 46 speak of a similar journey, this time as one of ‘hearing’ or ‘being taught’ or ‘learning’. We can know right teaching, but in an abstract way; when we come to Jesus, we learn God’s lessons personally as if he had taken us aside and given us individual tutoring. Identify a moment when you made that journey and who was the Jesus you ‘came to’.  Verse 46 makes an interesting comment on the process: we don’t have to have seen God, only the one who came from God.
–  Verse 47. Take this verse by itself, as a reflection on a fact of life. ‘Believes’ is left vague, and so you are free to take it in as wide a sense as you want, of any act of faith. On the other hand, you can also take it to refer to real faith.
Think of people who have risked their lives, their careers or friendships for the sake of non-violence or for the liberation of oppressed people, or for honesty. Remembering them, you gradually discover the meaning of ‘having eternal life’ and you will feel a kind of awe as he reflected on the power of that kind of faith, ‘I tell you most solemnly’.
Remember world-famous people, but don’t limit yourself to them: remember members of your own family or your village community.
A negative way of appreciating this powerful verse would be to reflect on the emptiness of a life without faith. “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” (Martin Luther King).
 yes, you are hearing right. Me, 'I am the bread of life.'
yes, you are hearing right. Me, ‘I am the bread of life.’
–  In verses 48 to 50 Jesus speaks of himself as bread. This is a metaphor that is quite frequent in the Bible to describe the teaching of a leader.  Jesus makes a distinction between two kinds of teacher or leader. There are those who when they find people in the wilderness are content to give them manna after which they die. Jesus is a different kind of teacher: through his teaching people are set free from within themselves so that they live. His teaching gives unlimited depth to a person’s life.
–  In verse 51 the teaching is repeated but Jesus makes a new point which he will make clearer in the following passage: the bread he gives is his flesh. Make sure you bring this expression down to experience.  ‘Flesh’ in Bible language means various things. Here it clearly stresses that Jesus is a source of life by giving himself, not abstract teaching but his own self-sacrificing love. The word goes deeper and says that Jesus did not give himself in power but in weakness, and this of course is a tremendous lesson about giving life to others.

Prayer Reflection
Lord, we often complain about
– our bad health, our failures
– the friends who let us down, our parish community
– society today with its materialism, its selfishness, its crimes.
How can anybody say that you are with us?
But Jesus tells us to stop complaining;
unless you were drawing us we would not be where we are.
The people we live with, the situations we find ourselves in,
all are your gift to us and they can raise us up to your presence.
In fact they can raise us up on the last day.
“Our prayer has had a beginning because we have had a beginning.
       But it will have no end. It will accompany us into eternity
       and will be completed in our contemplation of God.”   Carlo Carretto
Lord, we thank you for moments of deep prayer;
we can only come to them because you draw us there
and we know that they will take us beyond the last day.
Lord, we thank you, those of us who preach the Word,
for calling us to be part of this mystery.
People are there, listening to us as they listen to other speakers,
but they cannot really come to us unless you draw them.
On the other hand, those words of ours, poor though they may be,
can raise them up so high
that they are beyond the reach of death and of all that can harm them.
Lord, we have known Jesus all our lives,
but for a long time he was someone far away who taught abstract truths.
Then, one day, we experienced conversion
and it was as if we understood life for the first time.
We understood, then, what was written in the prophets: “They will all be taught by God.”
Teachings that had seemed abstract we now heard addressed personally to us,
and we really learned from them. That is what it means to come to Jesus.
We know that no one has seen you,
but we have met the one who came from you and has seen you.safe lamb
  “Gandhi’s impact is not measured over two years, or four years or twenty years;  the ideas he has given us are imperishable.”     A disciple of Gandhi
Lord, how true it is that one who believes has an eternal life.
When we put our trust in absolute values
– truth, justice, the equality of all men and women, the care of little ones  we are taken out of ourselves, out of our present history
and become part of eternity.
spiritchristreal Lord, many people take it for granted that their destiny is to be inferior to others;
they are convinced that
– they will always fail,
– they will never overcome their faults,
– they will remain forever in bandage.
There are leaders who encourage this attitude,
content to give people bread in the wilderness and let them die there.
Lord, send us leaders, spiritual guides, like Jesus
who will give us a different kind of teaching,
feeding us with another kind of bread, one that comes from you,
and help us to experience that we have it within us to be free and creative,
that we are born not to die in bondage but to live forever.
Lord, our culture leads us to think that people can only help others
by their power, their wealth or their achievements.
We have even come to think that Jesus helped people like that.
But the bread that he gave others to eat was his weakness, his flesh:
– he made himself vulnerable to children
– he asked the woman at the well for water and Zacchaeus for hospitality
– on the cross he was so human, so much ‘flesh’
that the good thief could speak words of encouragement to him.
It is by sharing our weakness that we give life to others.
Lord, we thank you for our mothers:
they gave us their flesh that we might live.

Lord, our churches are big and beautifully decorated, with imposing  statues.
But the heart of all is Jesus under the form of simple bread.
It is still true that he gives his flesh for the life of the world.
Lord, we pray for our leaders, in the Church and in the State.
Teach them that they cannot give life to others by their words,
but only by giving their flesh.

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
In today’s gospel we hear Jesus describe himself as ‘the living bread that comes down from heaven, anyone who eats this bread will live forever.’
We have gathered here around this table so that he can share with us his Living Bread. We have gathered for his meal at which his food is his own life: life that he shared with us to sustain our lives as children of our heavenly Father.

Homily Notes
1. It is tempting to think of being a Christian in terms of striking a deal with God. I, for my part, will do this and that, these actions will show that I trust in God, ‘love God’ (whatever that means), and profess that I believe all things I ought to believe (just tell me what I am to believe and I will do it —and if you want me to sign something to that effect, I will do it!). If I do all this, then God will reward me with eternal life, or, at the very least, stop me going to a place of eternal punishment.
We, preachers, have often connived with this sort of presentation of faith: its simplicity as a piece of communication for the ‘simple faithful’ seemed to justify its blasphemy of placing God and the creature on a single plane of commutative justice. It was connived at in little ‘pious practices’ which were let be understood without any of the subtle distinctions found in learned books in Latin. The practice of ‘the Nine [First] Fridays’ was one such: if you did these, then it was understood you would not die without a priest; and then once the priest got to you, you could confess, be absolved, and everything would end up all right.
In this sort of presentation, faith is a deal rather than a relationship; it is something that occurs at fixed moments in the way one visits a service station rather than a pilgrimage; it is on the edges of ordinary life rather than at life’s core; and it is an individual matter of survival rather than relating to the whole community of the People of God.
2. So the first task in getting a congregation to hear today’s gospel is to try to alert them to how we all fall into these false images in relationship with God.
We all, to a greater or lesser extent, tend towards:
•    reducing faith to doing a deal with God;
•    reducing faith to fixed moments in life;
•    reducing faith to being peripheral to life;
•    and reducing faith to being a matter of individual survival.
dealing with God

3. Then the task is to see how Jesus presents the relationship of being a Christian in today’s gospel.
•    The Father has not struck a deal with us, but in his love has sent his Son among us: we are called to a relationship of love with God.
•    A relationship with God is on-going: he loves us at all times and without exception, so we cannot think of ‘holy moments’ and ‘ordinary moments': God’s love abounds and envelops every aspect of our lives. Jesus, the Son of the Father, has come among us and lives with us as one of us.
•    Jesus is the Bread of Life: it is he who sustains us throughout our pilgrimage of life.
•    It is a community that ate the manna in the desert, and it is a community that is sustained by Christ the Bread of Life – this is why we gather and we pray and we eat and we drink.
4. Discovering the whole extent of God’s loving involvement in our lives is the task as great as life itself. We can never fully grasp this mystery while we live; but we must be careful never to betray it by reducing that life-long and life-giving relationship to miserable meanness of human dealings.
5. We can grasp the horror of reducing faith to commerce by noting how jarring this sentence is: The Lord has come offering life in abundance, Love’s gift; he did not come selling tickets for places in a life-boat.
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Sean Goan
One of the techniques used frequently in the gospel of John is that of misunderstanding. In the case of Nicodmeus and the Samaritan woman they misunderstand his words about being born again (3:4) and living water (4:15) and this leads to further revelation or explanation by Jesus. Now those who hear Jesus saying that he is the bread of life come down from heaven fail to grasp the significance of the statement and insist that they know where he is from. Jesus, however, continues with his revelatory discourse and shows how he is indeed the one sent by God to give life. To believe in Jesus is come to life, a life that never ends. We come to this life through believing in Jesus who offers his life (flesh) for the sake of the world. Until now, in using the symbol of bread the focus has been on believing in who Jesus is, but with the change in language from bread to flesh there will be a shift in meaning towards a reflection on his death on the cross and the Eucharist. The gospel of John does not make for easy reading because of its layers of meaning and great depth but it offers great inspiration if we but try.

Reflection
elijah&angelWe are invited to recognise ourselves in the Elijah story as people who, if they are to be faithful on the journey, need to be sustained. We can easily become dispirited either at our own shortcomings or at the failings of others. However, as we are often reminded in the scriptures, we must learn to rely not only on our own resources but on the guiding presence of God that directs our life. It is probably true to say that it is almost a necessity in our journey of faith that we come to a low point. In the biblical tradition and in that of the church, all the heroes and heroines come to a stage where they too have to acknowledge their own weakness and utter dependence on God. This does not come easily to us because it can seem like failure. That is when we need to remind ourselves of what the Lord said to Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Cor 12:9)
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From the Connections:
THE WORD:
From time immemorial bread has been the “staff of life,” the basic and most important food in everyone’s diet.  To the “murmuring” Jews (“murmuring” as their ancestors did in the desert), Jesus tries to help them see the deeper meaning of his claim to be “bread come down from heaven.”  Christ is the “bread of heaven” that transcends this experience of life to the life of God.  Christ the bread is the love, justice and compassion of God incarnate; God, our “Father,” is revealed in him.
The operative verbs in today’s Gospel are “believe” and “trust”:  God provides for and sustains our faith in his gift of Jesus the Bread of life in the same way that First Testament wisdom nourished all who paid heed.
HOMILY POINTS:
Manna is the manifestation of God in our midst.  Manna is generosity and kindness, consolation and support, the constant, unconditional love of family and friends.  Manna is food for our own journeys to God.  God sends us manna in many forms every day of our lives; the challenge of faith is to trust in God enough to look for manna, to collect it before it disappears, and to consume it and be consumed by it. 
As Jesus, the “Bread of life,” gave “life” to the world through his selfless compassion and humble servanthood to others, we, too, can give “life to the world” when we look beyond our own needs and security to the good of others, giving not from our treasure but from our poverty, nourishing one another in the love, compassion and selflessness of the Gospel Jesus.  
To receive the Eucharist worthily, we must allow ourselves not only to consume but to be consumed by the life and love of God
To his Jewish hearers, Jesus’ most astounding and revolutionary teaching is that God, Creator and Lord of all life, is our Father: God is not a mysterious cosmic tyrant to be feared but the loving Giver of life whom we can approach in confidence.  The boundaries and differences that separate people are eclipsed by the realization that every man and woman shares the same humanity, becoming one human family under the “Fatherhood” of God.

Manna for dinner — again?
Just about every parent has heard that whine:  Something new, something different, is served for dinner.  The child is suspicious of the color, the shape, the smell.  Are Mom and Dad trying to poison me?  The child looks up at the parent and, with a voice that could curl the dining room wallpaper, cries:  WHAT IS THIS?  The parent would like to throttle the child with the copy of Bon Appetite in which the recipe was found.
During the Exodus, the Israelites whined the same way to Moses (“murmured” is the word used in Scripture):  Why did we leave Egypt?  We were slaves there but at least there was food.  Now we’re in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat.  We’re going to die out here.  Moses’ approval numbers quickly sank.
So God provided Moses and his fellow travelers “manna” to eat.  Scripture describes manna “as a fine, white flake-like thing.”  Early each day, Israelite families would gather about two quarts of manna and grind it to bake it into cakes.  As the sun rose higher in the sky as the day wore on, the remaining manna would evaporate.
Many scientists think that these “flakes” were formed from honeydew secreted by a certain insect that fed on the sap of tamarisk trees (yum!).  In the dry desert air, most of the moisture in the honeydew quickly evaporated, leaving sticky droplets of the stuff on plants and the ground.
Since the Exodus, manna became the living symbol of God’s providence and love for the Jewish people.
By the way, the word manna comes from Hebrew.  Manna literally means What is this?
Manna is both the question and the answer:  What is this?  Manna is the manifestation of God in our midst.  Manna is generosity and kindness; manna is consolation and support; manna is the constant, unconditional love of family and friends.  Manna is food for our own journeys to God.  God sends us manna in many forms every day of our lives; the challenge of faith is to trust in God enough to look for manna, to collect it before it disappears, and to consume it and be consumed by it.  May we find the manna that God rains down lovingly each morning of our lives; may Christ, the new manna, be our bread and drink on our own exoduses to the dwelling place of God.  
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From Fr. Jude Botelho:
In the first reading we meet Elijah when he is in the pit of despair. He flees to the desert but there a terrible depression overtakes him. He asks God to take his life. But instead of doing so God sends an angel to him with food and water. Strengthened by these, the prophet arises and makes his way to the mountain of God. We should be aware that God did not solve Elijah's problem but gave him nourishment so that he could cope with whatever difficulties he faced in his mission. We often want God to solve our problems but he prefers to provide us with the nourishment that will help us to cope with life's problems. Am I using the nourishment God is providing right now?

This was all included with the tickets!
There was once a family that had fallen on hard times when the family business failed, and they lost everything. The neighbours were very sympathetic. The children were embarrassed when they had to move to a mobile home after they had to sell their house and business premises. Some of the neighbours came to the parents to offer their help, and to find out how best they might be able to help. The father told them that the one thing he wanted, more than anything in the world, was to be able to take his wife and kids and move off to America where nobody would know them, and try and start again. The neighbours worked on the fund-raising, and after a certain length of time they had sufficient money for tickets by boat from Cobh to New York. The family had never been away from home before, so they had no idea how to prepare for such a voyage. They bought bread and cheese and packed a few boxes with sandwiches. They gathered together in a single cabin in the boat, with no desire to mix with others, in case of finding themselves embarrassed or out of their depths. On the first, second, third, fourth and fifth days they ate sandwiches. From then on the sandwiches began to go bad. The cheese and the bread had blue-mold on them, and they began to smell. By now they were all in a bad way. They were sick, hungry and deeply discouraged. With a day or two to go before arriving in New York, one little lad begged his dad for a few pennies, so he could go up on the deck and buy a few sweets. The dad gave him the pennies and off he went. He didn't return and after about half an hour, the father was forced to go up on deck to look for him. When he came up on the deck, he was totally amazed by what he saw. There were long tables surrounded by people, and they were all eating a beautiful dinner. There in the midst of them was his son, with a plate of turkey, ham, potatoes, and vegetables in front of him, together with a large beaker of Coke. The father came up behind him and whispered, "Why did you do this? You know rightly, we cannot afford this." The young lad's eyes lit up as he replied: "Dad, we could have had this every day. This was all included with the tickets!" When we enter heaven and look around… Jesus could say "I never mentioned sandwiches once in the whole gospel. I often spoke of being invited to the feast…"
Jack McArdle in 'And that’s the Gospel Truth'

The context of the gospel is the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes with which Jesus fed the multitude. We know that the crowds kept searching for him and following him. But Jesus had confronted the crowd about their real reason for following him; they wanted more bread not more of him! When Jesus spoke of himself as the 'bread of life' in last Sunday's gospel and this Sunday's as well, he meant it in the sense of food that sustains faith –his teachings. Only at the end of today's section of the gospel does he refer to this bread of life as the Eucharist. Jesus not only claimed that without his teachings they could not live, but without Him they could not live. He claimed to be the source of life itself. But the people began to complain just as the Israelites complained in the desert. How could this Jesus be the source of life? After all they knew his history, they knew his village and where he came from; he was ordinary just like them. How could he claim divine origin? But Jesus reminded them that knowing him was a gift and not an acquisition. "No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me. Whoever believes has eternal life."

"Shortly after Columbus discovered America, rumours spread that the new world contained a fountain of youth. A sixteenth century Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon fitted a ship and sailed to America to search for this legendary fountain but never found it. In the movie 'Cocoon' there is a group of senior citizens. These old people experienced a return to their youth when they bathed in a swimming pool used by aliens from another planet. Their exciting experience prompted them to accept an invitation from the aliens to go back with them to their planet. The senior citizens were told that once they reached the alien planet, they would live forever."
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

Giving up or going on!
One day a partially deaf boy came home from school with a note from his teacher. He handed it to his mother. She opened it and slowly read it. The note suggested that her son was too dull to learn. He was holding back the whole class. It would be better for everybody if he would withdraw from school. When the boy's mother finished reading the note, she felt awful. She also felt challenged. "My son, Tom, is not too dull to learn," she said to herself. "I'll teach him myself." When Tom died many years later, the entire nation honoured him in a remarkable way. At exactly 9:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, every home in the United States turned off its lights for one minute, as a tribute to the man who had invented those lights. Thomas Edison invented not only the electric light but also the movie projector and the record player. When he died, the boy who was 'too dull to learn' had over a thousand patents to his credit, thanks to his mother who never gave up!
Mark Link, in 'Journey'

Don’t take gifts……
"I will go with two small suitcases," said an emotional President A P J Abdul Kalam as he prepared to leave Rashtrapati Bhawan with a desire to see India as a developed nation by 2020. In possibly his last public function as the head of the state, Kalam had advice for the countrymen - "Don't take gifts that come with a purpose and build families with character and a good value system. On the 25th I will leave Rashtrapati Bhawan after having spent five glorious years there. What I have got are two small suitcases. I will go with two small suitcases," he said. The President went on to add that besides the two suitcases, he had a big reserve of books that he would be taking with him. "I will take the books with me. They are my own books," said Kalam. The 75-year-old Scientist-President, who turned philosophical and nostalgic in turns, recalled how his father had taught him not to accept any gifts. "Yesterday, a well-known person gave me a gift of two pens. I had to return them with unhappiness," he said, also quoting from the ancient Hindu code of law 'Manusmriti' that by accepting gifts the divine light in the person gets extinguished. "I am sharing this thought with all of you since no one should get carried away by any gift which comes with a purpose and through which one loses his personality greatly," he said…
Times of India

One day at a time
God provides a mysterious food called manna for the Israelites during their time in the desert. However, they were told not to stockpile the manna, but to gather only what they needed for one day. Jesus told his disciples not to worry about tomorrow. He said, "When you pray to your heavenly Father, you are to say, 'Give us this day our daily bread.'" No matter how difficult life may be, for those who trust in God and who live one day at a time, the manna falls every day.
Anonymous


Don't doubt God's Word
The night fell heavy in the heights of the mountains and the man could not see anything. All was black. Zero visibility, and the moon and the stars were covered by the clouds. As he was climbing only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, he slipped and fell in to the air, falling at great speed. He could only see black spots as he went down, and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity. He kept falling and in the moments of great fear all the good and bad episodes of his life came to his mind. He was thinking now about how close death was getting, when all of a sudden he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard. His body was hanging in the air. Only the rope was holding him and in that moment of stillness he had no other choice but to scream: "Help me God". All of a sudden a deep voice coming from the sky answered, "What do you want me to do?" "Save me God". "Do you really think I can save you?" "Of course I believe You can." "Then cut the rope tied to your waist." There was a moment of silence and the man decided to hold on to the rope with all his strength. The rescue team tells the next day that a climber was found dead and frozen - his body hanging from a rope, his hands holding tight to it, only one foot away from the ground. Lesson from the story: And We? How attached are we to our rope? Will we let go??? Don't ever doubt about the Words of God. We should never say that He has forgotten us or abandoned us.
Anonymous

Every human being yearns for a full life, for a life that will not end. Jesus was offering the people the possibility of life that would last, he was offering them himself as the means to obtain this fullness of life but the people would not accept him. They wanted proof. "Show us right now that you have miraculous powers. Provide us with what we want right now." They just wanted bread! Today, Jesus is offering us a fuller life. The blessings that he is offering are not something that we have to wait for until we reach heaven. He is bread to be eaten now, not preserved in a freezer for the future. Jesus is all we need for a full life. If we have Jesus now there is no reason for us to be discouraged or to pray for death as Elijah did. Jesus invites us to get up and eat and continue on our journey. Have we tried Jesus? He never fails!

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil and the Sermons.com

1. Marching caterpillars:
You may know the famous story of Jean Henri Fabre, the French naturalist, and his processional caterpillars. He encountered some of these interesting creatures one day while walking in the woods. They were marching in a long unbroken line front to back, front to back. What would happen if he made a complete ring with these worms? Would they break their circle or not? So, Fabre captured enough caterpillars to encircle the rim of a flowerpot. He linked them nose to posterior and started them walking in the closed circle. For days they turned like a perpetual merry-go-round. Although food was near at hand and accessible, the caterpillars starved to death on an endless march to nowhere. That seems to be the story of many people today. They are on a march that leads to nowhere. We need to stop for a moment, and sit down in the presence of Jesus and receive him as the Bread of our spiritual life.

2: Starving to death in the midst of plenty of food:
During the winter of 1610, the population of British immigrants to Jamestown, in the U.S. (the Pilgrims) went from about 500 people to about 60. While disease and American-Indians took some lives, most of the settlers simply starved. There were plentiful supplies of fish, oysters, frogs, fowl, and deer all around them. But these settlers from the city were not accustomed to obtaining food from the land. Hence, they starved! [Cullen, Joseph P. "James' Towne," American History Illustrated (October, 1972).] We sometimes act the same way. God comes to us continually in the Person of the Holy Spirit to guide us. As a loving Father, God awaits the opportunity to meet our needs, but we are not accustomed to receiving things from His loving hand. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to give us spiritual food. It is up to us to receive the Heavenly Bread.

3: He died arguing with them that the canisters were empty.
John Krakauer wrote a book entitled Into Thin Air, the story of an expedition to Mount Everest during the spring of 1996 which resulted in a great loss of life. One of the most unfortunate stories was about a young man named Andy Harris, who was one of the expedition leaders. He had stayed at the peak past the deadline that the leaders themselves had set, and as he was coming down, he was in dire need of oxygen. He radioed his problem to the base camp telling them what he needed and told them that he had come upon a cache of oxygen canisters left by some of the other climbers, but they were all empty. The problem was they were not empty - they were absolutely full, but because his brain was already so starved for oxygen and he wasn't thinking clearly, he died arguing with them that the canisters were empty when in reality they were full. The problem was that the lack of what he needed so disoriented his thinking that, even though he was literally surrounded by what he needed, he never took advantage of it. The very life that he needed he held in his hand. He just didn't take it. What oxygen is to the body the Bread of Life is to the soul. Without that Bread, we will never satisfy our real spiritual hunger which is why every day we need to feed on the Bread of the word of God.
 
4. A modern Good Samaritan: A few years ago the news media carried the story of a modern-day Good Samaritan who packed his car each day with dozens of homemade sandwiches and traveled to the inner city to distribute them to homeless and otherwise needy people. Eventually, those who benefited from his generosity became familiar with the Samaritan’s customary route and began to congregate on certain corners at aspecific time each day to wait for their daily gift of food. Today’s gospel describes such a scene where people who had been sumptuously fed onthe previous day by Jesus came searching for him for another free meal.

5. The Great Depression Bread-lines. In the depression years of 1930’s millions of Americans were out of work and many thousands were hungry. In a number of cities religious groups set up bread-lines to feed the hungry. One of these was the Franciscan monastery at Cincinnati, Ohio. Every evening, the Friars, Brothers and lay volunteers prepared and gave a nourishing sandwich of bread and meat to hundreds of hungry men and women. It was interesting to note the reactions of the recipients. Many accepted the well-prepared and well- wrapped food with a smile and a thank you. Others, with head hanging, snatched the food package and shuffled off. Some tore the bag at once and started eating as they hurried away. Most of them ate every last crumb after a silent prayer and put the wrapping into a nearby container, though some would eat only the meat and discard the bread on the roadside. A few discontented ones just opened the package and then threw the entire contents away in protest. The way those hungry unfortunates reacted to that little lunch is a lot like the way his listeners received the words of Jesus in today’s gospel.

6. Cat to kill mice: Once there was a young hermit who lived as an ascetic in a forest. He owned nothing except a pair of loincloths. One morning, to his great disappointment, he found that mice had destroyed one of the loincloths. He brought a cat to kill the mice and then a cow to give milk to the cat. Later, as the cows multiplied, he hired a girl from the nearby village to look after the cows and to sell the extra milk in the village. Finally, his ever-growing material needs prompted him to end his religious life, marry the girl and settle down as a farmer in the village. This little story illustrates how easily the never-ceasing hunger for material things can take over our spiritual life. In today’s gospel, Jesus promises to satisfy our spiritual hunger by offering his body as our food.

7. Once upon a time there was a young woman who had become very scrupulous about the Eucharist. She was afraid that the priest was careless about distributing Communion and permitted tiny bits of the host to fall on the floor around the altar rail. After Mass was over and the priest had gone back to the Rectory, she would sneak up to the altar and collect what she thought might be parts of the hosts in which Jesus was still present. She would pick them up with a little spoon she always carried in her purse and then place them in a little plastic bag. However, after she had collected many of these little bits of Jesus, she did not know what to do with them. So she brought them home and created a little altar in her room where she could pray to Jesus. Her parents thought it was nice that she had the little altar with a votive light burning in front of Jesus.
Finally, one morning the priest caught her collecting bits of the Eucharist from the floor. Greatly embarrassed, she tried to explain what she was doing. The priest who understood how young people can become obsessive, took the plastic bag from her and promised that he would wash it out in the special sacristy think. But, Martha, he said, Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist to be with us because he loves us, not to drive us crazy with fears. If he was worried about such things he would have consecrated jelly beans at the last super.

8. Are You Hungry?

There's a story found in the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth volume of that series, Mary, Edmund, their cousin Eustice, and some of the colorful creatures of Narnia, come upon a crystal clear pool of water with what appears to be a golden statue of a man at the bottom. Only, they discover that it is a magical pool that turns everything into gold that touches the water. It appears that the statue at the bottom of the pool is a man who either didn't know about the pool's magic powers, or he was so consumed with accumulating gold that he ignored its dangers. Even though the characters of the story are awed at the magic of the pool, they recognize that such a place is far more dangerous than it is beneficial, and so they swear themselves to secrecy and wipe their memories clean of that place.

You see, when you waste your energies seeking to fulfill the hunger for things that perish, what you'll find all too often is that you'll still be dissatisfied, and your dissatisfaction will usually put you deeper into the hole you're digging for yourself. Whatever piece of the pie that you're hungering for - whether it's a bigger slice of acceptance or riches or gratification of your urges - you're going to find yourself hungry for more and more and more, until you're so out of control that you can't back-peddle fast enough. In our consumer-driven world, in which many people literally work themselves to death accumulating a never-fully-satisfying abundance of things, Jesus' words challenge our society's misguided substitutes for "life."

Steve Wilkins, Are You Hungry?
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9. Sometime this week you will make a trip to the grocery store to get a loaf of bread. It will be readily available on the shelf. There will be quite a variety to choose from. You will pay little attention to the price, not realizing that the packaging that the bread is wrapped in actually costs more than the wheat that is in the bread. All in all, you will think it a very uneventful trip, but you will be wrong.

It is quite difficult for many of us to understand the importance of bread unless we turn on the TV and watch what is going on in so many parts of the world today. When there is no staff of life there is suffering and famine. A simple loaf of bread: Something, which we do not give a second thought, but in certain parts of the world it means life itself.

It is only as we comprehend that situation that we can really begin to understand the importance of bread not only now but also in the time of Jesus. Just think for a moment how so many significant theological events in the Bible revolve around the subject of bread. The most important event in the Old Testament of course, was the Exodus event--the trip from Egypt to the Promised Land. But what caused the Hebrews to be in Egypt in the first place? It was for want of bread you will recall. The wheat crop had failed due to draught, and the Hebrews had migrated to the land of the Pharaoh because there was a surplus in storage there. It was bread, or the lack of it, that initiated this whole chain of events...
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10. Southeast Asia is hot. The economies of its countries are sizzling, especially Viet Nam and Indonesia, with the highest growth rates of almost anywhere on the planet. Investors and tourists from all over the world are flooding both countries. Of course, Bali, Indonesia, is where everyone wants to go. But if I could go anywhere in Southeast Asia, it would be the island of Sumatra.

Why Sumatra? Because this island is the archipelago of 17,000 islands known as "Indonesia" is where the "manna" of that country is grown. The best coffee in the world comes from Sumatra. It is called Kopi Luwak coffee. Kopi Luwak is one of the most unique coffees in the world, and very hard to find. Only a couple of thousand pounds of this coffee comes up on the world market each year. And almost all of it comes from the island of Sumatra.

This coffee bean has an interesting story and one that echoes with our Psalm today...

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11. Thinking Metaphorically

In a sermon on the "I Am" sayings of Jesus, I once mentioned the Simon and Garfunkel song which had the line, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin' Joe has left and gone away." Originally part of the soundtrack for the film The Graduate, the song "Mrs. Robinson" has become one of the 1960s' best-known, iconic ballads.

But in a 60 Minutes interview a few years back Paul Simon mentioned that some time after the song was released, he received a letter from Joe DiMaggio in which DiMaggio expressed his befuddlement at what in the world that song could mean. DiMaggio wrote, "What do you mean 'Where have I gone?' I haven't gone anywhere! I'm still around--I'm selling Mr. Coffee." Then Mr. Simon smiled wryly at Mike Wallace and remarked, "Obviously Mr. DiMaggio is not accustomed to thinking of himself as a metaphor!"

But then, who is? Most, if not all, of us see ourselves as real people with literal, descriptive identities. For instance, I am a pastor, a husband, a father, a committee member, a volunteer, a son--these are all straightforward descriptions of who I am in relation to the people around me in life. Like most people, I cannot readily conceive of myself as a symbol for something, as a kind of metaphor that represents something beyond myself.

Indeed, if someone came up to you at a party and said, "You are my shelter from the storms of life," well, you'd be taken aback. Then again, if you met someone who constantly spouted self-referential metaphors, you'd have to wonder about him or her. We expect people to denote themselves by saying things like, "I am a plumber" or "I'm a stay-at-home Dad." But our eyes would widen if someone said, "I am the oil that lubes my company's machine" or "I am the antibody that shields my family from the virus of secularism."

This is not a terribly typical mode of discourse. Yet Jesus, with some frequency, did refer to himself in a metaphorical mode, starting with John 6:35 when Jesus said, "I am the Bread of life."

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations

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10. Our Help Comes from Above

Looking out at my backyard during the fall, I noticed the leaves falling while the tree branches remained stretching heavenward--not only did they remain that way after the leaves were gone, but when the snows came and the often brutal winds of Chicago seemed to bend them into submission. But in the spring the trees seemed to speak to me saying, "Notice that we kept our branches lifted towards where our help comes from." To me it seemed that they praised God with or without leaves, as if they knew that keeping their branches up was a means of patient waiting faith, and it was in the spring when the buds appeared on their branches that those trees seemed to say to me, "We told you. We told you that our help comes from above."

So not only does this text tell us that God provides through Jesus not what we want but what we need and that God's promise can sustain us through all times, but, finally, the text tells us God's presence through Jesus allows us room to grow in grace.’

Ozzie E. Smith, Jr., What Do You Want?
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12. Spiritual Awareness

 In a broadcast address in London, T. S. Eliot talked about "spiritual awareness." He observed that many persons aspire to become Christians and believe, presumably, in the efficacy of the Christian faith, but never reach the stage of actually experiencing it. Aspiring towards real belief, i.e., becoming truly Christian, is one thing, whereas complete awareness of it is another. Aspiring can easily become an end in itself. And, as Charles H. Duthie of Edinburgh remarked: "It is a matter of living forever in the preface and never becoming involved in the story."

This condition of spiritual awareness is clearly defined by Jesus in the words of our text. It is a state of soul devoutly and eagerly to be aspired to, in contrast to what Lord Cecil of Britain once referred to as "believing in God in a commonplace sort of way." And, it becomes the gift and possession of any persons who are utterly dissatisfied with themselves, and who decide to fulfill those important requisites that make them completely satisfied in Christ.

Donald MacLeod, Know The Way, Keep The Truth, Win The Life, CSS Publishin
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ILLUSTRATIONS:

1)    Clothed in Human Flesh

Next to the Bible, my favorite book is Harper Lee's award-winning novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." I love both the book and the movie. The main character, the one who tells the story, is a little girl named Jean Louise Finch, who goes by the name of Scout. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the town's lawyer and a man of deep principles and integrity. I always wanted to grow up and be like Atticus Finch.

One day, Scout came home from school and told her father about some problems she was having with the teacher and several other students. In an effort to help her get along better with others, Atticus gave her this advice:

"First of all, if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

That's exactly what Jesus did. Clothed in human flesh, Jesus felt pain as we feel pain. He suffered as we suffer. He even experienced death. Jesus climbed into our skin and walked around in it.

Billy D. Strayhorn, Beyond Skin Deep

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2)    Our Christian Landmarks

 During World War II allied armies marched into Germany on their way to Berlin. Retreating German soldiers switched road signs and destroyed landmarks in an effort to confuse their enemy. And, to an extent, it worked, for many a G.I. followed a false marker only to end up in the wrong place. That just goes to show the need for landmarks, the importance of reliable signposts by which to steer.

Here locally, landmarks like the courthouse, the river, the college, or the bridge are important in helping us find our bearings. Why, if some villain came in one night and removed our signposts, the next day would become a bewildering jumble of uncertainties, and we'd all be lost.

The text is about landmarks. It refers to the Jewish custom of setting boundary stones to mark out property. Just as we do today, so our Hebrew forefathers did then. Wells, fords, buildings, and stone sentinels were their guides. Hence the strict law: "Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have set."

We live in a day of rapid change, and this law is being grossly ignored. Our history is being bulldozed to clear the way for development. Some professors are twisting the guideposts in the minds and hearts of our students. Traditions are forgotten, manners ignored. The result is a kind of chaos -- social confusion and rootless individualism. We live in a society that's lost its bearings and is adrift on a sea of change.

The Lord's Table is a landmark. For nearly 2,000 years Christians have been gathering to eat this meal. And, for all, it can be the means of getting one's bearings.

Stephen M. Crotts, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing
 
3)    A Reminder of Our True Home

The influence that food can have on us appears in a Chinese story originally told by Linda Fang. She presented this story at the Smithsonian Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., March 19, 1988.

At the foot of a great mountain in China lived a father and his three sons. They were a simple and loving family. The father noticed that travelers came from afar eager to climb the dangerous mountain. But not one of them ever returned! The three sons heard stories about the mountain, how it was made all of gold and silver at the top. Despite their father's warnings, they could not resist venturing up the mountain.

Along the way, under a tree, sat a beggar, but the sons did not speak to him or give him anything. They ignored him. One by one, the sons disappeared up the mountain, the first to a house of rich food, the second to a house of fine wine, the third to a house of gambling. Each became a slave to his desire and forgot his home. Meanwhile, their father became heartsick. He missed them terribly. "Danger aside," he said, "I must find my sons."

Once he scaled the mountain, the father found that indeed the rocks were gold, the streams silver. But he hardly noticed. He only wanted to reach his sons, to help them remember the life of love they once knew. On the way down, having failed to find them, the father noticed the beggar under the tree and asked for his advice.

"The mountain will give your sons back," said the beggar, "only if you bring something from home to cause them to remember the love of their family."

The father raced home, brought back a bowl full of rice, and gave the beggar some as a thank-you for his wisdom. He then found his sons, one at a time, and carefully placed a grain of rice on the tongue of each of them. At that moment, the sons recognized their foolhardiness. Their real life was now apparent to them. They returned home with their father, and as one loving family lived happily ever after.

Today we gather in this church to receive a reminder of home, a taste of food that will help us remember who we are. I mean the bread of life, our Father's gift to us. This is the food of God's kingdom, and reminds us that this kingdom is our true home.

Charles Hoffacker, Food from Home
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4)    Missing the Point

The German theologian Helmut Thielicke told of a hungry man passing a store with a sign in the window, "We Sell Bread." He entered the store, put some money on the counter, and said, "I would like to buy some bread." The women behind the counter replied, "We don’t sell bread." "The sign in the window says that you do," the hungry man said. The woman explained, "We make signs here like the one in the window that says ‘We Sell Bread.’" But, as Thielicke concludes, a hungry man can’t eat signs.

Life sometimes fools us too. Bread isn’t always found where it seems to be. Today’s Gospel lesson picks up where we left off last week in John 6. Like the crowds looking for something else or that man looking in the wrong store, we often miss the point when God offers us enduring life in Jesus.

Michael J. Heggen, The Bread of Life
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5)    Spirit and Life

Years ago, Harry Emerson Fosdick, then at the height of his influence as minister of the Riverside Church, New York City, was making a tour of Palestine and other countries of the Near and Middle East. He was invited to give an address at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, where the student body comprised citizens of many countries and representatives from sixteen different religions. What could one say that would be relevant or of interest to so mixed and varied a group? This is how Fosdick began: "I do not ask anyone here to change his religion; but I do ask all of you to face up to this question: What is your religion doing to your character?"

This was a call to consider one of the great issues of human belief: religion and life, Christianity and character, word and spirit. Emerson once said, "What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear a word you say." Jesus' discourse in this whole sixth chapter of the Gospel of John had two foci - spirit and life. "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." By this he meant that those who appropriated his spirit, i.e., fed upon him as the bread of life, would find, thereby, a fulfillment and satisfaction no other means could give.

Donald Macleod, Know the Way, Keep the Truth, Win the Life, CSS Publishing Company
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6)    A More Wholesome Grain

Turkey Red Wheat. The hard wheat from which a high quality flour is made has an interesting history. Mennonites lived in the Ukraine, a part of nineteenth century Russia. Because of their opposition to war arising from their Christian faith, they decided to emigrate when Russia introduced military conscription. As families packed to leave, they selected the best of their Turkey red seed grain and filled a trunk to take with them.

When the Mennonite refugees migrated to the prairie provinces of Canada and the plains states of the United States, they brought the seed with them and found the prairie land receptive. From these trunks of wheat have come the hard flour that is preferred for many purposes over the soft wheat which was the only kind available earlier. This wheat made the prairies a breadbasket that has shipped wheat and flour all over the world.

William E. Keeney, Preaching the Parables, CSS Publishing Company
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7)    Human Knowledge

Listen to this statistic: Knowledge is exploding at such a rate--more than 2000 pages a minute--that even Einstein couldn't keep up. In fact, if you read 24 hours a day, from age 21 to 70, and retained all you read, you would be one and a half million years behind when you finished (Campus Life)

 An amazing statistic. Now tell me when do you suppose this information was compiled? It will alarm you that these statistics do not take into account the Internet…

 8)    Homily from Father James Gilhooley

 Henry Fehren tells a wickedly delicious story. It is set in Africa, but it also could be your own community or my own.

A great chief was planning a mammoth banquet. He invited everyone in the phone book. This was to be the party of the season and then some. All the best people would be there - even Tarzan and Jane. The invitation spelled it out loud and clear. The chief would supply all the meats, salads, and an overflowing dessert cart. But each guest had to bring a bottle of wine. It was your standard BYOB affair. Each couple's wine would be poured into a huge vat and so there would be plenty for all. 

One enterprising couple decided they would save a few dollars and bring but a bottle of colored water. No one would know they were El Cheapos. Party day arrived. All the guests put on their party clothes. One man wore a T-shirt that read: "Life is brief. Eat dessert first." They came to a giant tent and poured their wine into the vat. The time came for the first toast - to the chief of course.  The Baccarat crystals were filled. Everyone raised a glass to drink deeply. Disbelief registered on the face of all. They sipped again, but they were right the first time. Each couple had had the same brainstorm. They had reasoned their bottle of colored water would be lost in the giant vat.  Yes, everyone had brought a bottle of water. They got back exactly what they had brought - a glass of water.

Fehren cleverly applies his story to those people who cry out in something approaching pain, "I don't go to Mass because I get nothing out of it." They are a nickel a dozen at the college where I was chaplain. In turn, I am sure the students were simply articulating what they heard at home from Mom and Dad from a very early age. 

The story line indicates very nicely, thank you, that such people get nothing out of the Liturgy precisely because they bring nothing to it. They approach the church with empty spirits and holes in their minds. They come as empty vessels. Given those givens, what did they really expect to get from the Eucharistic celebration? All they bring with them is a bottle of colored water. Some come with a bottle with a hole both at the top and the bottom. Can you think of any other slice of life where we get something when we bring nothing?

    Dolores Schirh writes: "'Eat my body. Drink my blood.' is not just another metaphor...When Jesus said, 'I am the vine,' He didn't tell us to eat twigs. When He told us, 'I am the light of the world,' He didn't tell us to eat light bulbs. But when He said, 'I am the bread of life,' He said, 'Eat this bread.'" 

Thus we come to the Eucharistic celebration because the Teacher invites us. We come to participate in a divinely free banquet. We certainly do want to be raised up on that famous last day that today's John 6:44 promises. Each of us wants to say with Gerard Manly Hopkins: "In a flash, at a trumpet crash, I am at all at once what Christ is...and this Jack...is immortal diamond." And it is later than anyone of us dare think. 

Check out what He does not promise. Christ does not say the celebrant will behave like a vaudeville comedian. He has never been quoted as saying the music will be of Mozart quality. Nor does He promise the Liturgy will be something choreographed by Barishnykov and the church structure will be designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Even the flowers may be faux.

If one is getting the body and blood of the most provocative person in recorded history, are we really coming up with a bad hand? And, if we feel we are, are we not saying something about our own empty selves? Each weekend everyone of us is invited to attend a banquet. And, unlike the one thrown by the African chief, we do not even have to bring the wine nor even a bottle of colored water. Relax and party!

The emperor Napoleon was asked what the greatest day in his life was. It was expected he would mention one of his great victories. But he answered the day of his First Communion.

And, while you party, reflect on the words of St Francis de Sales. "Only two kinds of people need frequent Communion - the not so good that they might become better and the good that they might stay that way."

 9)    Two Fat Ladies.

Clarissa Dickson Wright is a British celebrity chef She and Jennifer Paterson, are best known as the Two Fat Ladies  on the British television cooking show  of that name.  They  preached the joys of cooking that accurately, if irreverently,  described them both.   The  show  was  heavy on  humor as  well  as calories.  Avoiding popular low-fat diets, the two fat ladies  sought to reclaim traditional home-cooking.  They themselves  were the best  advertisements for their recipes, which usually featured heavy doses  of butter and cream.   The  two fat ladies  are part of a growing trend to forget food deprivation and  just  say  yes  to bacon. Dietitians now  argue that fat-free foods are high  in sugar and calories - which explains why  people  on low-fat or no-fat  diets get  fat.    Gwen   Shamblin's  The  Weigh   Down   Diet,  which  advises using   spirituality  to  avoid overeating, has  already sold  more than 1.2 million copies  to overweight Christians.    The  bottom line  is  that people  are scrambling like  crazy to find the diet that is  right for them.   But there is  another diet not many people  talk about, presented in today’s gospel: the "Bread of Life Diet."  It's spiritually high-carb, but offers full nutritional value.  Jesus  says, "I am  the bread of life," and  promises that people  on  his  program “will never hunger or thirst again!”  These  are extravagant claims, like  the kind  you  might find on soy  milk or fat-burners. But Jesus can deliver on what he promises. 

10)  He died arguing with them that the canisters were empty. 

John  Krakauer wrote a book  entitled Into Thin Air, the story of an expedition to Mount Everest during the spring of 1996  which resulted in a great loss of life. One of the most unfortunate stories was about a young man  named Andy  Harris, who  was one of the expedition leaders. He  had  stayed  at the peak  past  the deadline that  the leaders themselves  had  set, and  as  he  was coming down, he was  in  dire need  of oxygen. He radioed his  problem to the base  camp  telling them what he needed  and  told them that he had  come  upon  a cache  of oxygen canisters left by  some  of the other climbers, but they were all  empty. The  problem was  they were not empty - they were absolutely full, but because  his brain was  already so  starved for oxygen and  he  wasn't thinking clearly, he  died  arguing with them that the canisters  were empty  when   in  reality they were full. The  problem was  that the lack  of what he  needed   so disoriented his  thinking that, even   though he  was  literally  surrounded by  what he  needed, he  never took advantage of it. The very life that he needed  he held  in his  hand. He just  didn't take it. What  oxygen is to the body  the bread of life is to the soul. Without that bread, you  will  never satisfy your real spiritual hunger which is why  every day we need to feed daily  on the bread of the word of God. 

11)  Pastors  bread of life:   

President  Woodrow Wilsons father was  a preacher who  eked out a meager living. One day, when  he was  riding his  horse, he stopped  to chat with a member of his  parish. Thats a handsome looking animal you  have  there, said  the latter admiringly.  But why  is that your horse is so  big  and  strong and  you  are so  thin?” Perhaps,  replied Wilson, it  is  because   I feed the horse and  the congregation feeds me.

12) I am  going  to be a preacher: 

After his return from church one  Sunday a small  boy  said, "You know  what, Mommy? I'm going   to be  a  preacher when  I grow up." "That's fine," said  his  mother, "but what made  you decide   to be  a  preacher?" "Well,"  said  the boy  thoughtfully. "Since I have   to go  to church every Sunday anyway, I think it would be more fun to stand up and yell  than to sit still and listen."
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From Sermons.com:
Before we read the text for this morning I am going to ask you to do something a little different. I want you to listen to the reading not with a heart of faith but with a skeptical mind. If it helps, imagine that you do not know that Jesus is anything else but a teacher. You are a first century person who has just been introduced to him. [Read John 6:35, 41-51] 

Pretty incredible isn't it? For someone to make such claims. What if, later today, you were introduced to someone and that someone said, "Hi, I am the bread that has come down from heaven." You would look at your friend who just introduced you to this person and you would say, "I'm sorry, what did he just say?" Anyone who seriously made such claims would easily be labeled a kook, a nut, certifiable.

C.S. Lewis, in his book "Mere Christianity," makes the following statement about Jesus: "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg -- or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us." 

Throughout the book Lewis argues for the truthfulness and importance of the Christian faith. But before we go any further, let me recommend this: If you have a friend who has doubts about the Christian faith, go get this book "Mere Christianity" and give it to them. If they are honest in their doubts it will overcome many of them. In the book you will find the following idea put forth: Jesus was either a liar, lunatic, legend, or Lord...
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There is an old, old story about a cantankerous, crabby old man. His neighbors avoided him. His four boys moved away from home as soon as they could. You get the picture. His poor wife stood by him, but it was not easy.

One night he went to bed and just slipped away. 

His four boys were called in. What should they do? "He was hard to live around," one of them said, "and no one could get along with him, but he was our pa. We owe him a decent burial, out in the meadow beyond the field."

So they went out to the barn and found some boards and made a casket. They put the box on their shoulders and carried it out past the barn. As they passed through the gate, one of the boys bumped into the post and this caused them to drop the box. The casket broke open and the cantankerous, crabby old man sat straight up.

 He was alive! He had only been in a very deep . . . sleep!

 Well, life got back to normal. He lived two more years, just as ornery and mean, cantankerous and crabby as ever. The boys could go back to their homes, but his poor wife had to stay and put up with him. 

Then one night he went to bed and just slipped away . . . this time for good.

His four boys were called in. What should they do now? "Well," said one of them, "he was hard to live around, and no one could get along with him, but he was our pa. We owe him a decent burial, out in the meadow beyond the field."

So they went out to the barn and found some boards and made a casket and put the old man in it. They put the box on their shoulders and started out of the house. And as they did, their mother--the old man's wife--said sternly, "Boys, when you get out by the barn . . . BE CAREFUL GOING THROUGH THAT GATE."

That cantankerous old man should have read our lesson for the day: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." 

Do you imagine that bitter, cantankerous people have no idea that their attitude is an offense against God?...
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 Our Christian Landmarks 

During World War II allied armies marched into Germany on their way to Berlin. Retreating German soldiers switched road signs and destroyed landmarks in an effort to confuse their enemy. And, to an extent, it worked, for many a G.I. followed a false marker only to end up in the wrong place. That just goes to show the need for landmarks, the importance of reliable signposts by which to steer.

Here locally, landmarks like the courthouse, the river, the college, or the bridge are important in helping us find our bearings. Why, if some villain came in one night and removed our signposts, the next day would become a bewildering jumble of uncertainties, and we'd all be lost.  

The text is about landmarks. It refers to the Jewish custom of setting boundary stones to mark out property. Just as we do today, so our Hebrew forefathers did then. Wells, fords, buildings, and stone sentinels were their guides. Hence the strict law: "Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have set."  

We live in a day of rapid change, and this law is being grossly ignored. Our history is being bulldozed to clear the way for development. Some professors are twisting the guideposts in the minds and hearts of our students. Traditions are forgotten, manners ignored. The result is a kind of chaos -- social confusion and rootless individualism. We live in a society that's lost its bearings and is adrift on a sea of change.

The Lord's Table is a landmark. For nearly 2,000 years Christians have been gathering to eat this meal. And, for all, it can be the means of getting one's bearings.

 Stephen M. Crotts, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing
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A Reminder of Our True Home 

The influence that food can have on us appears in a Chinese story originally told by Linda Fang. She presented this story at the Smithsonian Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., March 19, 1988.

At the foot of a great mountain in China lived a father and his three sons. They were a simple and loving family. The father noticed that travelers came from afar eager to climb the dangerous mountain. But not one of them ever returned! The three sons heard stories about the mountain, how it was made all of gold and silver at the top. Despite their father's warnings, they could not resist venturing up the mountain.

Along the way, under a tree, sat a beggar, but the sons did not speak to him or give him anything. They ignored him. One by one, the sons disappeared up the mountain, the first to a house of rich food, the second to a house of fine wine, the third to a house of gambling. Each became a slave to his desire and forgot his home. Meanwhile, their father became heartsick. He missed them terribly. "Danger aside," he said, "I must find my sons."

Once he scaled the mountain, the father found that indeed the rocks were gold, the streams silver. But he hardly noticed. He only wanted to reach his sons, to help them remember the life of love they once knew. On the way down, having failed to find them, the father noticed the beggar under the tree and asked for his advice.

"The mountain will give your sons back," said the beggar, "only if you bring something from home to cause them to remember the love of their family."

The father raced home, brought back a bowl full of rice, and gave the beggar some as a thank-you for his wisdom. He then found his sons, one at a time, and carefully placed a grain of rice on the tongue of each of them. At that moment, the sons recognized their foolhardiness. Their real life was now apparent to them. They returned home with their father, and as one loving family lived happily ever after.

Today we gather in this church to receive a reminder of home, a taste of food that will help us remember who we are. I mean the bread of life, our Father's gift to us. This is the food of God's kingdom, and reminds us that this kingdom is our true home.

Charles Hoffacker, Food from Home
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Missing the Point

The German theologian Helmut Thielicke told of a hungry man passing a store with a sign in the window, "We Sell Bread." He entered the store, put some money on the counter, and said, "I would like to buy some bread." The women behind the counter replied, "We don't sell bread." "The sign in the window says that you do," the hungry man said. The woman explained, "We make signs here like the one in the window that says 'We Sell Bread.'" But, as Thielicke concludes, a hungry man can't eat signs.

Life sometimes fools us too. Bread isn't always found where it seems to be. Today's Gospel lesson picks up where we left off last week in John 6. Like the crowds looking for something else or that man looking in the wrong store, we often miss the point when God offers us enduring life in Jesus. 

Michael J. Heggen, The Bread of Life
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 Spirit and Life 

Years ago, Harry Emerson Fosdick, then at the height of his influence as minister of the Riverside Church, New York City, was making a tour of Palestine and other countries of the Near and Middle East. He was invited to give an address at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, where the student body comprised citizens of many countries and representatives from sixteen different religions. What could one say that would be relevant or of interest to so mixed and varied a group? This is how Fosdick began: "I do not ask anyone here to change his religion; but I do ask all of you to face up to this question: What is your religion doing to your character?"

This was a call to consider one of the great issues of human belief: religion and life, Christianity and character, word and spirit. Emerson once said, "What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear a word you say." Jesus' discourse in this whole sixth chapter of the Gospel of John had two foci - spirit and life. "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." By this he meant that those who appropriated his spirit, i.e., fed upon him as the bread of life, would find, thereby, a fulfillment and satisfaction no other means could give.

Donald Macleod, Know the Way, Keep the Truth, Win the Life, CSS Publishing Company
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A More Wholesome Grain

Turkey Red Wheat. The hard wheat from which a high quality flour is made has an interesting history. Mennonites lived in the Ukraine, a part of nineteenth century Russia. Because of their opposition to war arising from their Christian faith, they decided to emigrate when Russia introduced military conscription. As families packed to leave, they selected the best of their Turkey red seed grain and filled a trunk to take with them. 

When the Mennonite refugees migrated to the prairie provinces of Canada and the plains states of the United States, they brought the seed with them and found the prairie land receptive. From these trunks of wheat have come the hard flour that is preferred for many purposes over the soft wheat which was the only kind available earlier. This wheat made the prairies a breadbasket that has shipped wheat and flour all over the world. 

William E. Keeney, Preaching the Parables, CSS Publishing Company
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Human Knowledge

Listen to this statistic: Knowledge is exploding at such a rate--more than 2000 pages a minute--that even Einstein couldn't keep up. In fact, if you read 24 hours a day, from age 21 to 70, and retained all you read, you would be one and a half million years behind when you finished (Campus Life) 

An amazing statistic. Now tell me when do you suppose this information was compiled? It will alarm you that these statistics do not take into account the Internet. They do not even take into account the personal computer. And, why not? It is because the statistics are from 1979.

It is crucial that we learn not the glut of information that is screaming down towards us on the information super highway, but that we learn something that will sustain us for the days to come. The Prophets from of old proclaimed: They will all be taught by God. Are we listening? 

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
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 A Piece of Him

At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the famous British Admiral Horatio Nelson was due to be buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. His sailors lifted his casket over their shoulders and majestically carried his body into the cathedral. Draping his coffin was a magnificent Union Jack. After the service, the sailors once more carried his body high in the air, this time to the graveside. With reverence and with efficiency they lowered the body of the world's greatest admiral into its tomb. Then, as though answering to a sharp order from the quarterdeck, they all seized the Union Jack with which the coffin had been covered and viciously tore it to shreds, each taking his souvenir of the illustrious dead. A swath of colored clothe as a memento. It would forever remind them of the admiral they had loved. "I've got a piece of him," one sailor remarked, "and I'll never forget him." 

In like manner you now can have a piece of Christ - living bread - physically, spiritually, personally. Reaching out to receive him in faith is all that's required.