Sunday 1st August 2021

Hymn: Praise and thanksgiving                                                                                        

https://youtu.be/OyfJVWxrsMo 

Opening Prayers and Lord’s Prayer– Elder Hazel Flinn

Bible reading-John 6:24-35 -Read by April           

                                                                                              

Address: The bread of Life: Rev Stuart Scott      

   

“Jesus said: I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never be hungry.” John 6.35

The call to the church is to be a sign of God’s kingdom. In our living day by day, as in our life together in worship and service, we are called to be agents of change. We speak and act in the name of Jesus, bringing through our service the change that God wills. We are called in the name of Jesus to seek justice, peace and righteousness, and the reign of love as we see it in Jesus.

Today’s lectionary reading from John’s gospel follows the miracle we know as the feeding of the 5000 and deliberately recalls an Old Testament story, when God feeds his people. The people of Israel, fleeing from slavery in Egypt, complain of hunger and long to be back in Egypt. God responds to their complaint by giving them manna, bread from heaven. The writer of John’s gospel appears to assume his readers know this story and we conclude those readers were Jewish Christians, Jewish by birth and in background but now professing Christian faith.

In our profession of Christian faith, how well do we know the scriptures? We declare this is the word of the Lord. How do we allow the scriptures to speak to us and to inform and equip our discipleship? The more we know, the more we understand, the more confident we might be in our own faith and our readiness to share it.

The Old Testament story and the account in the gospel of John describe material bounty: God meets physical needs. This is God’s saving action and provision but there is a contrast between the physical, earthly bread that God gives to meet physical needs, and the heavenly bread which God gives in Jesus to meet spiritual needs.

In the Old Testament, bread points to God’s wisdom and revelation of himself. Eating the bread is a sign of the need to receive and to share that wisdom and revelation. In John’s gospel Jesus is not just the bringer of the word: he is himself the word. The gospel emphasis is not therefore on the miracle, what Jesus does, but who Jesus is as God’s gift to us. The focus of attention is not the bread, but God, who meets needs in body, mind and spirit. The physical provision of manna in the wilderness and the bread Jesus breaks for the crowds are symbols, signs which point to this deeper and more important reality.

The crowds in John’s account misunderstand and ask for further miracles. Jesus however is reframing the Old Testament story. The miracle may be the root of Jesus’s popularity, but his purpose is to go beyond the surface, and to make them go deeper. In our discipleship, do we sometimes settle sometimes for the superficial initial response? This is not to undermine the importance of meeting physical needs but God’s provision and purpose point beyond those needs to the call and the commitment to follow, to take up the cross in sacrificial service, to walk the way of Jesus day by day. The breaking of the bread after all is one of seven signs that John’s gospel presents: they beginning with turning water into wine and culminate in resurrection.

Each of those signs demonstrates the power of Jesus but more importantly reveal who he is. The crowds fail to recognise this deeper truth and the significance of the ministry of Jesus and God’s gift in him. What about us as the church today? Do we see and respond to physical needs and resources or the call to spiritual adventures and commitment? The ministry and mission of the church do not depend on us but on God’s gift to the world in Jesus, but we have a part to play in preparing the way of the Lord, the way to justice, peace and righteousness, the reign of love as we see it in Jesus.

Jesus says “I am the bread of life”. It is one of seven such sayings of Jesus that John’s gospel records. Physical feeding comes first in John’s narrative but when the crowd are no longer hungry Jesus gives spiritual food. Francis of Assisi is reputed to have said “Preach the gospel – if necessary, use words”. Social action is vitally important but it is only part of the gospel and its power to change lives. The sign of bread, broken and shared, reveals and opens to us deeper realities, the completeness of God’s saving action in Christ, bread for the whole of our life, life in body, but also in mind and in spirit.

“Jesus said: I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never be hungry.”

Amen.

Hymn: Break thou the bread of life                            

https://youtu.be/djc3MUpRY6U

Good news, birthdays, anniversaries, and how God has blessed us.

Prayers for the church and the world – Elder Hazel Flinn

Hymn: Jesus the Lord says                                                                                                                                    https://youtu.be/DfQElwRsyKs

Blessing: May God’s blessing surround you each day   

https://youtu.be/egAXy5kQKFc