A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 02 August 2009 by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Exodus 16:2-4; 9-15 and John 6:24-35.
Prayer: God of life, we ask for your divine presence. Open our heart and mind to hear your words. May the Holy Spirit inspires us to understand the truth and the mystery of life in Christ.
Eternal life is an important theme addressed by the author in John’s Gospel in the New Testament. In the gospel account we read this morning, Jesus had taught the crowd about life by using bread as a symbol.
In the narrative accounts, we have read interesting dialogues between Jesus and the crowd. In the conversation, Jesus had shared with us significant messages that are relevant to believers of today.
When the crowd discussed with Jesus about life, they asked Jesus two important questions.
1 What must we do to perform the works of God?
2 What sign are you going to give us, so that we may see it and believe in you?
Jesus answered the crowd, in a way that was to change their paradigm of thinking.
The crowd referred to their Israelite tradition when they asked Jesus the questions. Obviously, the Israelites referred to God’s signs and works of what they knew: that was, God provided their ancestors manna through Moses. Jesus, in answering them, pointed out it is the source of power and provision that matters. Jesus said this was not Moses, the leader on earth that gave them food. But it was the Father from heaven that gave to the people. Jesus stressed that the true bread that gave life was from heaven.
The crowds were ordinary human beings, they understood life as they see it, and understood it by their previous experience and cultural traditions. Jesus however directed the people who believe in him to see something beyond human understanding, beyond what we see and the norms of society.
Jesus had directed the people, that included each one of us here to know the source of this universe and the source of life is God. When Israelites complained to Moses of the lack of food when they were in the wilderness, God listened to them and give them manna. God is “our parents” who created us, God will take care of us and provide us with everything we need.
Therefore the believe in Jesus implied that people should have entrusted in God, that our spiritual parent will not let us suffer from inadequacy.
Come to look at our world today, we live in an extremely competitive world. Profits making and economic growth are the golden rule in a capitalist society. Our society becomes more and more instrumental. People are marked with a price according to their market value.
One day, I heard a man who is fifty two said he is old and cannot speak good Cantonese in HK. Therefore he cannot get a job. I see disappointment on his face. It is very true that age discrimination exist in our society in HK. Our society is very instrumental and treats people as non-person. What I mean by non-person is that people are judged by their level of salary, amount of profits they can make for their company, their qualification, their social position etc. (these are kinds of external things). In many circumstances especially in the commercial world, people’s intrinsic value as a human being is no longer regarded as important. If the persons do not have any market value, they would be taken away from the job market. Such a scenario looks horrible.
Jesus talked to the crowd in his teaching that it was the Father in heaven that provides bread and gives life to the world. This is the good news to all people especially those who are looked down upon by society and not treated well by society. Bread from heaven is a free gift from God and everybody is entitled to it. The bread from heaven gives life to the world, to all humanity, disregarding their social status and qualification, age and gender, race and nationalities.
Therefore for those who are lacking in different ways in life, let’s uphold the belief that our Lord God, parent of all lives, will provide and protect. At the same time, we as people of God should be ready to share with others of what we have and what we are.
Another teaching by Jesus was, “do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
HK is an affluent city. At the same time, many people pay great cost for they work very long hours even at the expense of their health and family relationship. Many of them may enjoy pretty good material life and yet, their spiritual life could be very deprived and poor. They may not be happy and contented.
Jesus taught the people to take food that endures for eternal life. He continued to say to the crowd, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. How can it be if we come to Jesus we will never be hungry and if we believe in him will never be thirsty. How is that possible? The way Jesus shared about the bread of life is something beyond the physical world and biological body. Jesus’ message in here emphasized the close connection between his people and himself, between God and God’s people.
Jesus claims himself to be the bread of life, he was sent by God to reconnect people’s relationship with God (2 Cor 5:19), and to give people life, a life in full (John10:10). Jesus Christ welcomes all people, to come to him and take the bread of life from him, disregarding their background and social status. In reality, many people are not only hungry for bread/food, but hungry and thirsty for love. Because of sins of alienation amongst people, there are separation and hatred in different kinds of relationship. It has created a lot of wounds awaiting for healing. Jesus Christ is a great healer and full of mercy. If people come to Jesus for healing, God’s unconditional love and acceptance will touch their hearts and heal their trauma.
Jesus as the Bread of Life, another important aspect is his nature of life giving. Bread is one of the major staple food to nourish people’s life. Only when it is broken and eaten, will it nourish life. A piece of bread if not consumed cannot bring life, but bring bacteria and mould.
As a result, bread of life conveys a meaning of life sharing, giving and sacrificing.
Bread of life : break it and share with others
Jesus has used bread as a symbol to represent his body and life. He has broken the bread that represented his great intention and love to share his life with others.
On first Sunday of every month we celebrate Holy Communion in our congregation at Kowloon Union Church. The bread in the Communion symbolizes the body of Christ that is broken for his disciples and all people on earth. All Christians who belong to the community of faith in Christ should do the same as Jesus in our own life and for our contemporary world.
When we are able to share the bread/our lives with others, that means we are not in a state of inadequacy. Only when we have are we then able to share with others. Therefore the more we share indicates the more we have.
I had heard a touching story from Mrs Heung. In the 60’s when Hong Kong was in general very poor. Many families had large number of children but without adequate means to support lives. Mrs Hueng was one of those poor families in that decade. She was a widow taking care of several children then. One day when she noticed that two children lived next to her were starving, without hesitation nor worry if tomorrow her own family has adequate to eat, she gave a cup of rice to her neighbours.
From Mrs Heung, we can see that richness in life is not a matter of how much you have, but of how much you want to share.
Jesus Christ is definitely a giver. He has even given his life to others out of love and compassion. When we are able to come to Jesus, and learn from him to give and share with others, we will be blessed. The joy that we are able to help others is beyond word of expression.
Life is not only for survival. When there is love in life, life becomes more fulfilling and joyful.
Mrs Heung told me her life story when she was in hospital awaiting for an operation. I was so impressed by her optimistic and happy outlook. Mrs Heung is a very devoted Christian. She has demonstrated being a good witness as Jesus’ disciples to share her bread with others so as to bring life and hope to others. I trust that her faith in God and commitment to Jesus Christ has led her to live a life in full. I feel strongly of Mrs Hueng’s joy and happiness in Jesus’ love and grace.
Dear friends, are you hungry for something that is important to your physical life and thirsty for love right now? Do you know any of your friends face similar life situation?
Today, Jesus had promised those who come to him and believe in him, that their needs will be fulfilled. They will be given the bread of life. In Christ, they will never be hungry nor thirsty.
The mystery of this bread of life is that, our God is the source of life and love. Through Jesus Christ, all who believe in Christ will be given this eternal life of love and hope.
For all who have committed to Christ, they will be given the power of love and life through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The mystery of life is giving. The more we give to others, the more we have, and we are able to lead a life of abundance. A life of giving, serving and believing is the essence of eternity.
After the crowd heard Jesus’ teaching, they said to Jesus, in John 6:33 “Sir, give us this bread always”. Today is the Communion Sunday, every month we celebrate Holy Communion in church. The bread in the Communion symbolizes the body of Christ that is broken for his disciples and all people on earth. We need to do it in the remembrance of Jesus. Friends, are you prepared to ask God for this bread of life and take it and to follow Jesus as his faithful disciples?
God of Divine, may the bread of life gives your people faith that enables them to face hardship in life.
May the bread of life gives your people hope and peacethat take away all their fears and self-doubts.
May the bread of life gives your people love and joy that they follow Christ’s deeds to lead a life of giving. To the glory of your name. Amen.