By Clarke Campbell-Evans
Director, Missional Engagement of the Florida Conference, UMC
Have you ever noticed when you are in the midst of reading a great novel that you are drawn into a larger tale that is far greater than the narrative itself would at first imply. The Gospel writer John is really good at that. Over and again he is in the midst of telling us a story of Jesus’ life, and before we know it, he draws us into the depths of a larger encounter.
Like when a question to Jesus about a miraculous moment so the people might believe references a sign that is part of the greatest story of liberation from the Hebrew tradition — God’s provision of Manna following the Exodus. Jesus takes it and opens it up to a new provision of God: “I am the bread of life,” Jesus proclaims. Not a provision of food, but something that will satisfy our deepest hunger and will quench our deepest thirst.
Sally and I traveled to San Francisco for our vacation a year ago. In exploring where we might go to church the Sunday we were there, we learned that Sara Miles, an Episcopalian deacon would be preaching at her church, St. Gregory of Nyssa. Sara was once a confirmed atheist, writer at Mother Jones magazine who was drawn out of curiosity into worship one day at this Episcopalian church.
In her book, Take this Bread, Sara describes the moment when she first took the bread in the Eucharist meal. She explains that it wasn’t just being fed, it was feeling a deep connection that was feeding not just the meat on her bones, but her deep down, somewhat unexplored soul.
After Sally and I listened to the sermon and celebrated the Eucharist at St. Gregory’s, the altar table was cleared and bread and other food for the hungry were brought to the altar table that would serve the needy for the week to come.
As we sat over lunch overlooking the Bay, Sally and I reflected on our morning: Manna was referenced in the liturgy, bread was broken, a reconstituted Passover meal in our Christian tradition is transformed into a meal to celebrate a new Exodus, our new liberation in Jesus. This bread transforms us. And then we become God’s continued provision of bread for the hungry. The liturgy, the literal work of the people, does not stop with the benediction, but with taking Christ from the communion table to be the bread of life, in all that that means, in the world.
Link: For further information on Sara’s story and her book, see https://www.cokesbury.com/product/9780345495792/take-this-bread/
Prayer: Holy God – May we remember that the bread of life is more than just food. It is an offering of Grace, to all people, that the bread of life has come to fulfill hungry souls. Amen.
Questions for Discussion/Reflection:
1. What is the deep hunger in your life?
2. Where do you see God’s provision in your faith community, campus ministry, small group or church to meet the deep spiritual hunger of those like you?
3. Write down a couple of places where physical hunger exists in the community where you live. Are there food deserts that surround you? Are there pockets of poverty where there is not enough nutritious food available?
4. Where are people putting feet to their faith to feed the hungry in your community? As a part of this Lenten season, what might you do to learn more about this ministry and maybe offer to volunteer.
5. Take a picture for the #PictureLent project to post in social media that highlights a hunger ministry in your part of the world.