The Body of Christ, Given for …

This is an adapted version of the sermon I preached Sunday, July 29. The gospel text was John 6:1-21, John’s telling of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and of Jesus walking on the sea. 

I wonder what those five thousand people were hungry for? Just food? Perhaps also peace. hope. Comfort. Healing. And Jesus fed them. All of them.

I wonder what people in our world hunger for today. The same things? Something different? And I wonder if Jesus seems to be feeding them right now or not.

If you would answer no, I see where you’re coming from. It sure doesn’t look like they’re receiving what they need, does it? If you would say yes, you must have a lot of faith. Faith sees things differently. Faith sees hope where there was despair. Faith sees opportunity where there was tragedy. Faith sees God where our eyes do not.

The English writer G. K. Chesterton wrote, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.” The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder. I think what he meant was that there are miracles, wonders, out there. But not everyone sees them for what they are. The one who sees a miracle as a miracle is the one sees with the eyes of faith.

Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote something similar: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: but only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit around it, and pluck blueberries.”

So Jesus tested Philip, to see if Philip saw with eyes of faith. Jesus looked out at the large crowd, and said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for all these people to eat?” Philip did not pass the test. He said, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Andrew almost got it. He said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.”  But then he failed the test too, saying, “but what are they among so many people?” Philip and Andrew missed the wonder. They were plucking the blueberries instead of seeing the burning bush for what it was. But then look at the miracle that happened. Despite the disciples’ lack of faith, Jesus still fed all the people. Despite the disciples’ lack of faith, they still collected twelve baskets of leftovers. Jesus still works miracles through people, even when they don’t see it.

What if Jesus asked us the same question he asked Philip? What if he asked us, “Where can we get all the resources we need to feed all the people around us who are so hungry for so many things? What would we say? Would we say, “We’re just a little church struggling to meet our budget. There’s no way we can do that,” like Philip? We might. Would we say, “Well, we have a little bit here, but it’s nothing at all compared to the need,” like Andrew? We might. But I wonder, I wonder if Jesus would still, nonetheless, go about his business feeding the world, with or without our trust. And I wonder if God would still use us to do it. I believe God would. Because I have sometimes seen it. Not always. Sometimes I miss it; sometimes my faith falters, and slips. But in those moments when my faith is strong, in those moments when God’s grace fills me with faith, I see it. I see Jesus nourishing and feeding this world. And I see him using you to do it.

Because I think we’re not just the disciples in this story. We tend to see ourselves as Philip, as Andrew, and wonder, as I just did, “How would I respond if Jesus said this?” But I wonder if it might be even better to think of ourselves not as the disciples, but as – the bread.

What if we are the bread? What if Jesus takes the little bit that we have, no, the little bit that we are, and does amazing things with it? What if the same Jesus who fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish also takes us in all our fears, our doubts, our insecurities, and feeds the world not with our stuff, but with us? What if Jesus takes you, and you, and you, takes us all, gives thanks, and gives us to the crowd? And what if, by the miracle that only Jesus can perform, we are enough? What if we, weak and small as we are, are enough for Jesus to feed this whole community, this whole world? What if we are the bread of the world?

Look – (at this point I held up the communion bread) – this is the bread we use for communion, and when we distribute it to all, we say, “The body of Christ, given for you.” When we share this with one another each week, we proclaim that we are partaking of Christ’s very body, and we proclaim that is here for you. But remember: there is another definition of the phrase “the body of Christ.” Paul wrote several times in his letters that you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it. This is the body of Christ. And you are the body of Christ. And when we leave this place, perhaps what God says to the world is this: “The body of Christ, given for you.”

I wonder. I wonder what would happen if that were true? If we really are the bread of the world? I wonder what would happen if Christ really is using us to feed the world, even without our knowing it? What if we did know it? What would change? What if it were true? What if we believed it?

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