Monday, 27 August 2018

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 26 August 2018 Pentecost 14

Readings:  Psalm 84   John 6:56-69

We pray: Holy God, as we hear your Word for us today, open our hearts and minds to your teachings, that we may know your presence and be open to your voice in our very souls.  In Jesus name.  Amen. 

Today we conclude our series of Gospel readings from John 6.  And we hold today’s verses in relationship with Psalm 84, the psalm for today.  One speaks of a strange and difficult faith journey, of people deserting because it’s too startling, too hard for them, of the people of who chose to stay and become a community.  The other gives pointers into the reason that some chose to continue the journey, the compelling presence of God who enters our world and our lives in love.

We continue in John with the ‘I am..” statements, with the problematic concept of Jesus flesh and blood being the path to eternal life, the analogy of Jesus, the bread of life in whom we live forever, the relationship that the Word has with the Father and with us.   
The lectionary doesn’t take us to the last two verses of the 6th chapter of John – where Jesus reminds those who have stayed, the twelve, that one of them will deliver Jesus up to be killed.  Another problematic and discouraging moment for the faitithful. John is reminding us throughout that Jesus has come to us both as the sign and the interpreter of the sign – and it is a difficult thing he is asking of us.

There are three things from this reading today that I would like to explore.  The strangeness of the life we are to live in Christ, the choice we make to stay or go and the shape of the community for those who stay.

Our calling to walk the way of Christ takes us on a journey that is difficult, counter-cultural, often counter intuitive, and asks much of us. 
It strangely asks of us not just our loyalty but our very lives. It wants more from us than simply following the rules for good living, asking instead that God’s law be imbedded in our hearts. A quote from Dawn Wilhelm: our calling is more than skin deep, it reaches beneath the surface of our lives and into our workplaces, bank accounts, family relationships, eating habits, daily practices and all the other ways we choose to live and die for Christ and our neighbours.[1]
Walking with Jesus demands of us that we care for all people, hands on, and that we challenge the powers that do otherwise.
Our calling expects us to walk into situations where we feel vulnerable, helpless, where we need to trust in God to see us through.
And lastly it asks us to put aside much of what we thought we knew and to be open to other ways of being.
These were the words that Jesus was preaching to the disciples who flocked to hear him speak – and some of them were leaving, quite a few in fact. 

We can’t of course be exactly sure what triggered the exodus – the language of flesh and blood would have been particularly loathsome for the Jews of the time – a capital crime according to their laws made even more horrendous by speaking of human blood to be drunk.   The fact that this man, this ordinary bloke was making claims of special relationship with God – claiming the right to criticize, to poke away their lives and their rituals of faith where he thought them off track would have sent some away I am sure.  And there was the sheer complexity and unexpectedness of the teachings he was putting before them – throughout the gospels we hear again and again that even those who were by his side all the time were confused, not able to get the point Jesus was making until it was explained multiple times.  Maybe it was just too hard for some.

It begs the question of what it is that has people walking away from God’s message of love and reconciliation today, away from the church that is supposed to live that message? There will be similar reasons: too hard, too much work, too complex, too uncomfortable, asking too much of us. Perhaps the added factor we need to consider today is that people might might not be walking away from God but rather walking away from a church that practices hypocrisy, irrelevance, bigotry, abuse: teachings that Jesus would have overturned in the same way he overturned those tables in the temple - in anger and despair. We have to recognise that what is called Christian today is all too often nothing of the kind – that there is chasm of self interest and false teaching that comes between, on one hand, God coming to us in the person of Jesus, and all that we know of his way – and on the other, the church which causes suffering  and division and treats ‘the other’ as having less value. Jesus weeps at pain inflicted by his church

But whatever it was that sent people on their way, some stayed.  Some wanted to continue the journey despite the difficulties. It is a particularly poignant moment – picture it.  Sitting here in church, Jesus is preaching a bit of a challenging message and people just start leaving – and it might even turn into a bit of a flood, some not quite knowing but following the crowd – until just a few are left – the core, the stubborn, the deaf (just joking).  And they are asked: Do you want to go too?  There is a silence – until one says what all are thinking: Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the holy one of God.[2]

There is absolutely no sense of the remaining saying ‘Yeah we get it. The teaching makes total sense and we understand it perfectly.’   It much more like: hey we too are confused and perplexed but what we do know is this – we have come to believe that You are…..the bread, the water of life, the light of the world, the way, the truth and the life…… And so we stay with you.

I once had someone walk out on me in church – and it was nothing I said, I hadn’t even got to the sermon.  The challenge was that I was a woman daring to lead worship and, after a suitable dressing down, the offended person stormed out.  We introduced a time of silence that day – for no-one had words to offer for quite some time.  But we stayed and we prayed and we came together as community in the name of Jesus in a way we would not have without that angry and rather sad young man.

The twelve stayed, for they, like the psalmist, understood what it meant to ‘abide’ in Jesus, an ’incarnational abiding’ where we are with and in the body of Christ, deep in  relationship, assured of the presence of God even in our perplexity and confusion. There are the words from the well known hymn Abide with Me[3] (the writer was dying of leukemia at the time):

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.      

And so community of faith was formed, recognising the difficulty, the strangeness, the unexpected, accepting if not always understanding the upside down wisdom that affirms vulnerability, grace, kindness and love to all people and in all situations.  We are that community – a people here because, for all our uncertainties and questions, we choose to follow a teacher who offers us deep abiding relationship in God, who gave of his all so that we might know the truth of God with and in us.

The so we revisit the psalm, letting some of the words invite us into that place of belonging, reminding us of why we stay, who we stay with – the Holy One of God. 

How lovely are your dwellings, O God, how beautiful are the holy places. ….they are the temples of your living presence.  And your Spirit makes a home deep within us; let us welcome and delight in your presence.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are your ways,
who trudging through the plains of misery find in them an unexpected spring, a well from deep below the barren ground, and the pools are filled with water.  They become springs of healing for others,
reservoirs of compassion to those who are bruised.  The end is glimpsed in the midst of the journey:
the fulfilment is beyond our imagining.
…One day lived in your presence is better than a thousand in my own dwelling. …You are ready with bountiful gifts, overflowing to those who follow you. Living God of love, blessed are those who put their trust in you.

Margaret Garland

[1] Feasting on the Word Yr B, Vol. 3 p. 383  by Dawn Ottoni Wilhem
[2] John 6: 68 NRSV
[3] Abide with Me  words by Henry Francis Lyte 1847

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 19 August 2018 Pentecost 13

Readings:  Ephesians 5: 15 – 20  John 6:51-58

We pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen.

The Lectionary, by which readings are selected for each Sunday is an interesting beast at times and certainly adds a layer of interpretation on how we read scripture – we sometimes forget that we preach on selected passages in a three year cycle – unless of course we choose to go outside the bounds occasionally. Some Presbyterian congregations of course do not follow it at all – preferring to choose their own focus – in the end it is another way of someone or a group of someones selecting what it is that we focus on in Sunday service.  It has both its dangers and its usefulness. And always it needs to be supplemented by other ways of reading scripture – such as focussing on a book at a time reading in our own time and listening to scripture in church and study groups – all scripture.  For me this is what makes the reading of the bible book by book each month so very useful – providing an overall context for the journey of the people of God that helps us fill out the gaps left by lectionary selections. 

Why start talking about the lectionary - because there has been a slightly unusual approach to lectionary readings from John over these few weeks. Two weeks ago the Gospel reading of John 6 ended with these words - ‘Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Last week our Gospel reading began with that same verse and ended with ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’  This week our reading begins with that same verse and ends with: ‘This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died.  But the one who eats this bread will live forever.‘  And next week we begin with the last three verses from today… and there it ends.
One more time today with Jesus as the bread of life – do you think that there might be something more than a simple metaphor at work here? Why such an emphasis? What is it that Jesus needs us to hear and the selectors of lectionary felt was important enough to repeat multiple times?

 And did you find today’s reading somewhat difficult to listen to? It appears that the people listening to Jesus did.  The cannibalistic overtones are hard to ignore.  We hear in the verses following todays reading that the disciples found the words difficult to accept and that, in fact, some of them walked away, never to come back.  They were perturbed that Jesus seemed to be offering his own flesh as food.  Shocking to both their sensibilities and ours. 

So, back to Jesus repetitiveness – what does that say to us? Well, first of all it says that what we are being told is an important point to grasp and secondly, that what is being communicated is difficult to grasp.  As the disciples found.

So how do we find our way into this passage of troubling scripture?  I didn’t find much to illuminate in the commentaries I read.  The theology was convoluted and diverse – in fact the most appealing comment was that of a theologian who confessed the practice of preaching from the epistle or Hebrew Scripture each time this Gospel reading turned up.

But we will persist.  So, how do we understand this reading in the context of holy communion and of eternity?
Martin Luther takes the viewpoint that the words of Jesus cannot be interpreted simply through the act of sacrament nor can the words of flesh and blood be taken literally. "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (John 6: 53) cannot be used to as the exclusive and only way into full life in Christ.  He believed when Jesus uses the language of eating and drinking his flesh and blood he is using a really common and familiar practice to make obvious what he does not mean ie this is not ‘the kind of flesh from which red sausages are made….nor veal or beef found in cow barns…’ 
Likewise, when Jesus is talking about himself as bread, he is not talking about flour, water and yeast – he is talking about something that has come from God, that Jesus come to us in the flesh, is in fact the bread that leads us not just through this life but into eternity.  We are, says Luther, to investigate with some vigour what these words mean, knowing that they are definitely not about one person devouring another. 

A helpful interpretation suggests that this confrontational metaphor is John’s symbolic ‘institution of the Lord’s supper’ with an understanding of eternity - one that takes it beyond simply a ritual to remember him.  It suggests that communion is a time of the coming together of the human with the divine and that through partaking in it we enter into life abundant now and for life with God everlasting– that in the sharing to the bread and wine to remember Jesus, we have a time when eternity mixes with humanity.  I found the words of George McLeod, founder of the Iona Community, helpful;  as a prayer of adoration preceding Communion he evokes the creator with these words:  The morning is yours, rising to fullness, the summer is yours, dipping into autumn; eternity is yours, dipping into time.[1]  At the table eternity breaks into time in a unique, unrepeatable way.  We are joined with the living Christ and thus we too are forever.

So are we any closer to understanding why this repetitive hammering of the message of Jesus as the bread of life has invaded our lectionary lives these few weeks?  At the time of writing I would be tempted to say no!  But actually maybe we do have an inkling.  It’s as if the shocking language is there to confront us – to challenge our natural inclinations of what is sensible and within our understanding as a people of spiritual and religious bent.  To say – there is more!  This is, according to William Willimon, Jesus beckoning us towards a thick, multilayered world where there is always more than meets the eye.  As a modern people, and I suspect for the people of Jesus time, we choose to live in a flattened, demystified world that is only what we can see or touch.  He suggests we live in a world where we love saying ‘this is only…’ statements – ‘This is only bread, this is only a day at the office, this is only a Jew from Nazareth.’  The fourth Gospel is trying to get them, and us, to expect more now that the word has become flesh and dwelt among us. Are we suitably mystified by that – are the shock tactics working?

In the incarnation the Word has moved in with us – in the flesh, in this world is where God meet us! Not on a promise of some futuristic eternity but now Jesus is the bread come down to heaven to be among us. And Jesus references to himself as the bread invites us to ingest, consume, have deep and intimate engagement with Christ in the same way we take bread into our bodies – but as the bread of heaven, not of the fields.   
Are we willing to go beyond mere belief or intellectual assent and invite that mingling in our very self that is the Word come to dwell in us and through us and of us.

Jesus wants us all of us – body and soul – wants his truth to burrow deep within us, consume us, flow through our veins, to nourish every nook and cranny of our being.  We can hold nothing back for the Word has come to live within us – forever. Amen

Margaret Garland

[1] Worship Now 1978

Monday, 13 August 2018

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 12 August, 2018 Pentecost 12

Readings:  Ephesians 4:25-5:2   John 6:35, 41-51

We pray: may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen

I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their mind, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.  I believe that what self-centred [people] have torn down [people] other centred can build up.  I still believe that one day humankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and non-violent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every person shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.”  I still believe that We shall overcome….
Martin Luther King Jr, from his Nobel Peace Prize speech, 1964.  Four years later he was shot dead on the balcony of the motel he was staying in in Memphis, victim of the violence he preached against. And not much has changed – if anything violence has escalated, and you could argue has been increasingly justified in the highest places.

It does make you wonder if there is any hope!   Are we so inured to violence, so overwhelmed that we find it best to detach ourselves from concern for the state of the world and simply get on with our (relatively) peaceful lives?  It’s not that we don’t care of course – just that it is beyond our ken and so we lower our eyes to what we can do and be.  Yet there is inherent violence in our day-to-day lives too.  The story from the pool –two women talking about someone who had several times dissuaded others from swimming in ‘his’ lane, punching out and in-your-face abuse.  The story from the morgue where yet another baby has been unable to survive the beating, the slap or punch dished out by one of the family. The story of road rage, bar brawls, dairy robberies, angry words, bullying….
The story of the children – parents in the Philippines paid to rape their children by someone in Auckland who likes to watch that kind of thing, children sent to war, powerless children beaten and worked to the bone for profit.
The church is not immune – the threats and angry words and vile deeds done in the name of Jesus, of Muhammad, of Moses and Buddah are well documented and ongoing.

Where to then Martin Luther’s speech?  Where to Jesus words of love and compassion, the church’s teaching throughout history. Where to the scripture that tells us to: Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you (Ephesians 4: 31-32)
Those words from Ephesian challenge us both in our living as Christ followers and in our approach to the violence we see around us.  For we can honestly say that our hope for peace on this earth, goodwill to all, for peace insinuating itself into the fabric of the world in a meaningful and growing way – seems not to be gaining much traction despite our best efforts. 

As Christ followers our way is clear – peace, compassion, kindness, justice, forgiveness – all wrapped up in the unconditional love we both receive and give through God.  Examples given, rules taught, stories shared, life given so that we might truly understand what it means to live in the peace of Christ. 
At first glance the reading from Ephesians seems to set out for us a bunch of rules that we are to adhere to – this is what we are to do if we are to be faithful followers.  The writer of the epistle, however, is wanting to point out that just following rules is too simplistic, not sufficiently proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in our lives.  Its half hearted, open to slippage, to being highjacked by our own interpretations. We are told instead that it is not good enough just to be an observer, an adopter of a ‘how to’ but rather we are required to jump in boots and all, to be completely immersed in this new way of living because we have found the key (the key being Jesus)      that changes our behaviour from within, so that unwritten rules are intuitively understood and everything we do is ruled by love – always - because it is simply who or rather whose we are.

Paul and his contemporaries - and the church - understand this in the context of our baptism – that in committing our lives to Christ we are reborn, changed within so that these rules are not merit badges of Christianity, something we follow to become good Christians, but actually the outpourings of the presence of Jesus in our lives, ways of right living that we cannot help but be.  Those words that we sometimes express after communion – ‘take us out as changed people because we have shared the living bread and cannot remain the same.’

God in us, the living bread that nourishes every hunger and satisfies every thirst, gives us the capacity to turn our backs on the darkness and to focus on the light.  We no longer make our choices alone, we no longer work to our own wisdom but to God’s, we are held in the guidance and teaching of Jesus and the Spirit.  We do not need to have a rule book to know what is right and wrong – it is within us and we are to live it.   We need the teachings and the stories of Jesus to learn about and constantly remind us of our journey and we need the community of faith that we live in to give us strength to do what is set before us, to encourage and help each other when we are stumbling and to challenge us when we step off the path of peace and love.

And because we have that most precious and loving of relationships with God through prayer, through scripture, through the saints before and now present, we do not wish to do anything other than love, and grow in that love.  We do not wish to grieve God (although we do) and so we keep careful attention on our way of living, constantly re-orientating ourselves to the way of light and love.

In our living as Christ followers we are bound to live in this way of peace and love – in our personal lives and in our church community.  And it is hard at times.  We know we get it wrong, anger winning out over hard truth, comfort over justice, apathy over compelling need.  And we certainly know too many stories within the Christian church where rules have been twisted to enable and promote greed, exclusion, violence, hatred. And lets not just point to examples far away - here too in Aotearoa we know many examples where faith based loving kindness is both conditional and selective. 

But even where we get it right in our living as Christ followers, it is not all that Jesus calls us to – that is a puny vision, a severely limited understanding of God’s hope and love for the world. We are to be the voice and the example of peace in the world –active in speaking out and challenging the behaviours that promote violence and war, that give permission for anger and hatred and prejudice to be not just expressed but also encouraged.  And if we just keep our eyes on New Zealand – how are we handling TV shows that make fun of failure, suggest naked body viewing is a good basis for beginning relationship, cope with ads that encourage borrowing money for your slightest whim.  How about our poverty, our growing prison numbers, our market driven economy, our homeless…..  Oh yes there is much to speak into and work for here at home, here in our city, here in our local community. 

And just in case we are still uncertain of the power of God in we who have been made new in Christ – the power to transform, to make a difference to the violence and hatred that permeates this world and our communities, then I would finish with a story that explains to us how the smallest act of kindness can make a spectacular difference to our broken world – let this sit with you for a while if you can.

Called ‘The Heaviest Snowflake’ a fable from the pen of Kurt Kauter: New Fables – Thus Spoke The Carabou

 “Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” a coal-mouse asked a wild dove.  “Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer. “In that case, I must tell you a marvellous story,” the coal-mouse said.
“I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow-not heavily, not in a raging blizzard-no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say-the branch broke off.”  Having said that, the coal-mouse flew away. The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”
Amen.  Thanks be to God.

Margaret Garland

Sermon Opoho Church Sunday 29 July 2018 Pentecost 10

Readings:  2 Kings 4:42-44    John 6:1-21
We pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock and our sustainer.  Amen. 

We begin with a story – of an experienced church youth leader asked to speak to the children based on the reading of the feeding of the 5000.  Usually he could come up with something fresh – a new take on a familiar story – but this time – zilch.
Then just before the service began he found a way in – he just needed a few baskets.  He asked the children to each take a basket, head into the congregation and be prepared for a miracle.  There were blank looks all round until he explained.  One thing that they might not know about the adults, said the youth leader, is that a whole bunch of them were in the habit of having a lolly or two in their pockets to suck on during the service.  A widespread sheepish nodding of heads confirmed this.  So he asked everyone who had some to put them in the baskets – and lo, there was a multitude of them.  Then the children were asked to go and pass round the baskets with everyone taking a lolly each – and of course there was a whole lot left over which were then gifted to the food bank for special treats.  He had found a new way to make this familiar story meaningful to a new generation of children.

The feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water – two of the more significant stories of our Christian heritage – the feeding narrative is in all four Gospels and Jesus walking on water is missing only from Luke.
There is a not unexpected different rhythm to the stories in John - and there are some differences of course but the stories resonate throughout the Gospels.

There are a few challenges for us as we approach these miracle stories. 
We have the problem of over familiarity – looking for a new and fresh way to hear God’s word in these readings. 
We have the problem of how to approach miracles in this day and age.
We have the problem of how to interpret these teachings for today in a way that dig deeper than a simple call to share our food or learn to walk on water.

Will fifteen minutes be enough?  I doubt it.  But neither would an hour be so fifteen minutes it is.

There is a distinct familiarity – that is for sure. So much so that we might can easily be missing the pizzazz that is there for first timers to discover.  So much so that we might hear it only as a known entity where there is nothing new to learn or to shy away because of the difficulty we have in relating to these miracle stories in this day and age. 

The thorny issue of miracles.  The approach of some is to explain miracles away – you know the standard one ‘it encourages everyone to bring out their packed lunches to share’ -  and, coupled with the unwillingness in this day and age to see bread and fish suddenly multiplying before our eyes, we feel we have to choose between these two interpretations of disbelief or gullibility. 

I don’t know what happened on that day.  I do know how that there are layers of interpretation, perspective, context, symbolism implicit in this the finally written word and the way it has been since related to. We might understand that the presentation of physical miracle was needed at the time of the writing of the gospels to claim, to prove Jesus divine origin and nature yet there is no sense that the Gospel writers thought the events did not occur.  In our context as rational human beings, products of the enlightenment and modernity, we are inclined to either explain away the stories or simply leave them to one side, as parable rather than narrative.  Or we accept them as is, a literal truth. Whichever way we approach them, the miracle stories can be a huge barrier to belief for many people today. 
But this I would say: it would be a mistake to let our sceptical nature deprive us of the wonder and the mystery, the surprise that is a world and a life inhabited by Jesus, to live in a world that is so flat, where our imaginations and expectations are severely curtailed by the limits of our rational self.
So the answer is not to apologise for the miracles, neither is to feel we have to reject the stories completely if we can’t believe them literally. This is the Word we are talking about here.  The wonderful, gracefilled, spectacular Word that is Jesus Christ.
When we concentrate just on the veracity or not of these extraordinary events narrated to us, we are in danger of obscuring the truly miraculous found in Jesus Christ. I think it is clear that the gospel writers, all of them, used these stories in ways that went far beyond the focus on the detailed miracle.  John’s account in fact heightens the miraculous character of the story by emphasising the fact that Jesus knew what was coming: ‘for he himself knew what he was going to do.’[1]
John certainly had no doubt about Jesus miraculous power – he saw Jesus as the very logos, the word of God.
To quote Douglas Hall ‘For what is truly wonderful in biblical terms is not that a seeming human could multiply loaves and fishes in so astounding a manner but that this human being could represent, by his words and deeds, such a sign of hope and healing that hundreds of people would follow him about, and feel that their hunger for ‘the bread of life’ had been assuaged.
What is truly awe inspiring  is not that someone could walk on the surface of the water without sinking but that his presence among ordinary, insecure and timid persons could calm their anxieties and cause them to walk where they had feared to walk before – in the end, all the way to their own Golgotha.’

He goes on to say that when we concentrate exclusively on and respond to only the act of miracle, we neglect the divine grace that is the miracle of Christ in the whole of our lives. 

The words of Elizabeth  Barrett Browning say it best:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush alive with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes –
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

So, when we hear these words from John’s gospel, can we go beyond the detail to understand that, within the story of the bread and the fishes, we find a truly astounding truth that in Jesus all hunger is satisfied, that leftovers are considered neither insignificant nor abandoned.  That in Jesus no scenario is hopeless, what is seemingly impossible is, in faith, made possible. John is asking us to look beyond our stomachs and recognise the miracle that Jesus is the bread of life - filling our whole lives with full extravagant abundance and leaving no-one hungry.  We remember this story of the 5000 each time we share in holy communion – as we pass round the bread and the wine we are the people sitting on the ground, hungry, thirsty yet compelled to stay for it is certain that this man is who we need to be near, who we trust to sustain us.  Jesus said: ‘I am the bread of life’.[2]

And when we hear the story of Jesus walking on the water, can we think past the physical act to see that the power of Jesus over the deep, the unknown, the threatening is a statement of his victory over all that we fear. That his desire to accompany us through all that is tough and terrible is dependant only on our ability to recognise his presence – otherwise we end up labouring alone in the midst of our turmoil.  Jesus said to them: ‘It is I. I am….’

Jesus says: I am the bread of life.  I am the light of the world.  I am the resurrection and the life.  This is John taking stories from the tradition about Jesus, and moulding them so that they make statements about who Jesus is for us.  Using images of bread, water, life and light John is declaring that our deepest needs find a home in Jesus, that our sustenance, our shelter, our courage for right living and our hope for the coming of the kingdom is found in the miracle of  Christ for us and with us– and, through him, with God.  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God….
For this we say thanks be to God.  Amen.

Margaret Garland

[1] John 6: 6b
[2] John 6: 35