The bread we had with lunch was delightful. Focaccia, with savory seasons and a bit of butter. The conversation we shared was even better, more deeply nourishing. She came hungering for goodness, hope, clear purpose amid all the events of her life and news of the world.
She’s like a lot of people who came to Jesus, hungering for life. He said, “I am the bread of life.” I’ve heard that in Asia, Jesus says, “I am the rice of life.” The most simple, staple nourishment of any society. To complement any occasion. Some form accessible for all people.
For what do you hunger today? For a fresh start after mistakes, broken relationships, disappointed plans? For the world to be the way you think it should be? For good, vibrant health as you were at age [you fill in the blank]? For an always kind, beautiful, blissful church experience? For some other thing that would make like perfect?
Jesus had just shared the miracle of what started as a few loaves and fish feeding a huge crowd of people, with baskets full of left-overs. The people wanted to make him king. (Who wouldn’t want to live in a kingdom with that kind of food service?! Especially when you’re poor and living meal to meal.) When Jesus escapes their attempts, they follow like Pavlovian dogs, waiting for another morsel. When they catch up again, he tries to reprogram their taste buds.
Beyond perishable staples of food to provide instant gratification, Jesus urges: seek the real nourishment of eternal life. You see, often we taste and even feast on something of goodness in life that satisfies some immediate hunger pain. And we expect more of whatever it is will surely make our lives better. More personal accomplishments, close relations. More legislative policy or government action to go our way. More 29-year-old fun and invincibility. More epiphanies or emotional highs in church. More stuff to bring pleasure. Trouble is, all of that is perishable. Human life is imperfect and frail. We fail. Our leaders get corrupted. Policies and practices prove to have unintended consequences. People say or do something insensitive in church. Things break or simply lose their appeal.
Jesus urges us all to get a taste for grace, forgiveness, an outpouring of loving service—that is life with God. That’s what he really offers in all the ways he lived and taught, healed and gave his very life in loving others. You know, it’s really a miracle that this “bread” continues to nourish us in our time and place, so different than Jewish culture in Palestine under ancient Rome. It was a good meal with my friend from church. It will continue nourishing us, inasmuch as we choose to keep feeding our hearts with the loving presence of God we shared. There may be others we know who are “starving to death.” Let’s eat.
Grace and Peace,