Sermon at St James Colwall, Trinity 10
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of
this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the
life of the world is my flesh. John 6:51
Every day most of us make journeys: to work, school, the shops, to visit friends. There's not much preparation needed for these journeys. Then every so often we make a special journey of some distance for a holiday or to call upon a relation or friend. Last weekend I made a journey to deepest Somerset. It looked somewhat complicated on my motoring atlas and not having a satnav I resorted to the AA route finder on my computer. What had seemed fairly simple at the start of the endeavour became quite complicated. Journeys like these need more preparation than I was prepared to give it, though we did only arrive about an hour late.
Some years ago there was a song with the words, “I love to go a-wandering with a knapsack on my back.” This traveller wanders with freedom and a spring in the step, but prepared for the journey with food and drink to supply nourishment and refreshment on the way. The point is that without preparation, planning and proper provisions, the unwary traveller can land in considerable trouble.
We are on a journey of faith – and that journey deserves careful attention. Every day we are asked to set out once more in the company of Jesus, living his life, allowing his light to shine in our relationships with one another, in our work, our relaxation, in all we think and do and say.
St Paul spells out something of what is expected: speak the truth, share with the needy, be kind to one another, be imitators of God and live in love.
Jesus asked people to make a journey of faith; to travel towards him and to believe he was the Saviour, the Son of God. He had made already the biggest journey by “coming down from heaven” to reveal to us the loving face of God. In calling people to follow him in faith, Jesus was well aware that the journey of faith needs its supply of nourishment and support no less than any physical travel.
When my eldest son was eight or nine he undertook as part of our Mothers Union fund raising to bake bread and sell it to the congregation. Literally producing bread to help the children of an Indian family complete their journey through school. Each Saturday morning the kitchen and all the other downstairs rooms of the vicarage were covered with a dusting of flour. Not that we really minded because in a very literal way of Jesus, the bread of life which is to be consumed to give life now to the Thangiah family and forever to us all.
When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist together we are nourished by the Lord. He nourishes us first by his word when the Scriptures are proclaimed to us – this is the living Word that can enter our hearts and transform us, give us strength and encouragement on our way. It is real nourishment. And, of course, as one family at this act of worship, we are nourished by the Lord as he give us himself; we share the same bread, the same Lord. He is well aware of all our needs.
So many people can be weary of life's pressures and pains: unemployment, loss and separation, family troubles, health, bereavement. At times it is very hard to have a spring in the step and a joy in the heart for the journey. It is then, most of all, that we can lean on Jesus and he will support us and help us along the way.
The journey we make and the time we set aside to listen to the word of God and celebrate our communion in the bread of life together, are important for the development of our faith.
If we are to imitate God as we are invited, indeed called, to do, then we need to become encouraged and challenged by his words and be fed by the bread of life. This gift is freely given not because we are particularly holy or worthy but because God loves us and offers himself to us. And we recognise his goodness and try to be holy as we are called to be, through and with whatever troubles and struggles we experience along the way.
However downcast we may be, a word of encouragement and some food can renew our vigour for the journey of faith. The word of God and bread of life don't give us a false joy and hope or remove the struggles but we are given strength to cope, to hope and to win through.
In the words of the psalmist, we are invited to “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” and the Psalm goes on “happy are they who trust in him!” Let us begin our daily journey with a prayer of confidence in the Lord's presence and ask for the grace to walk with him.