Bread of Life: A Connection
Pastor Leta Arndt Behrens
Sermon Scripture: JOHN 6:35, 41-51
35Jesus 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. 41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I 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.”
Jesus says, many times, throughout this section of the gospel , “ “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” What bread then is Jesus talking about?
According to ELCA World Hunger even though there is an abundance of food resources–enough actually to feed the world one and half times over we still in 2018 live with these numbers as well:
815 million people around the world – that’s more than 1 in 10 – can’t access the food they need to live active, healthy lives. 
According to the most recent estimates, 766.6 million people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 per day. That’s 10.7% of the world’s population. 
These are worldwide numbers, there are numbers for the US as well:
At some point in 2016 (the most recent year available), more than 41.2 million people in the United States were unsure where their next meal might come from. 
40.6 million Americans were living in poverty in 2016. For a family of four, this means their annual household income was below $24,563. 
And numbers for our own community according to the Larimer county foodbank:
14% Larimer County residents live at or below the Federal Poverty guideline.
40,200 Larimer County residents are food insecure.
8.4% of seniors are food insecure.
30.8% of single mothers live in poverty.
33% of school-aged children in Larimer County receive free or reduced meals.
Hunger is real right here in our community, in our own church. Weekly there are those who stop by for food from the cart, who rely on this community’s collections and gifts. Daily our schools offer nutrition that is not available elsewhere. We have hunger right here and we gifted to live in a community that cares and tries to face this issue together with food banks and the FoCo cafe, food backpack programs and education in our schools, Homeward Alliance and the murphy center as well as countless churches, synagogues, mosques and nonprofits working indivudally and together. And we have a church who responds on the local and global levels to raise awareness, educate, and work to create sustainable living for all God’s people, and let’s remember they-we are all God’s people.
And yet, we still may ask, what is this bread of life that Jesus offers and what does it have to do with the reality and the numbers we live with today? Jesus in this gospel is taking on those who do not see, do not want to know or believe that he has come to cross the lines into feeding and bringing life to all people. The Judeans who are against him, are not able to wrap their heads around the idea that God has come in person to be in this world and to offer this life beyond one set of people, beyond one set of rules, beyond one set of culture norms. Maybe they too, were blinded or disillusioned by all the numbers of their world or the reality that surrounded them. Perhaps that is why Jesus keeps repeating, I am the bread of life–God’s abundance is for all–and all means all–the ones struck by poverty and the ones who’s plates are full, the ones who have grown up in a faith and the ones who have never heard a word of grace, the ones who hope for more to come and the ones who cannot see past the next hour.
These stories from ELCA world hunger are like pretzel stories that we shared with the children because as we connect to God, as we pray and sing and talk together, we are more able to have full openness to engage and know this world around us. . They are stories that we need to hear because they build connections in a variety of ways: connections with people we may never meet but serve, connections to our money-how it moves from our individual bank accounts to the church to the national church back to individual people like Kanchan, connections to one another as we hear this story as those gathered in an ELCA congregation we are connected to something bigger and to one another in our mission, and connections to our faith, our spirituality, the reason we gather and are sent as the light of Christ.
Kanchan’s story and the story of this place in India is striking to me because it goes beyond what we might typically think of as bread for life. Yes, this woman was cared for with bread–with nutrition and medication for her child. And she was cared for with education, time, and resources to not just be fed once, but to be fed and to offer living bread again to others in her community. And she was also fed by the connections of a community–of a communal way of living and understanding what bread of life is and how it expands into our ways of living, our call as followers of Jesus and how we interact in our faith with the numbers of this world.
Jesus promise of bread of life is about the abundance of God and the promise of God to take action and draw us close to her. It is not up to us to entice God to come. We don’t have to convince God to be in this world. God is here. The holy spirit is moving in the words of this scripture, the videos we see, and our stories together to help us see that as we come together in the name of the triune God–the one who creates who comes as emmanuel-God with us- and the one who continues to live and breath as the spirit today–we come together in a communal way around the bread of life for the sake of the world.
Think about this communal aspect of bread in your own life for a moment. What are some of your favorite memories with loved ones? What are the times that you gather and what do you gather around? Often times the answer is food–it’s a connecter. It’s something we all have in common as a need in some way. I was talking with a member this week and asked if she liked seafood–and she answered, ‘sure, when i see food, i like to eat it!’ Food is for life and celebration. Food is brought for comfort and support of those in need. Around a table is where we check in as a family, where we connect with neighbors and friends, where we meet strangers and they turn into friends. It’s why we have donuts and coffee each week. It’s why we create community lunches and picnics and potlucks. And it’s why we are called around a table each week, as a community, to hear again the words of life and promise–this bread, my body, this cup, my blood, this promise of grace, love, forgiveness and mercy is for each and every one and connects us in a tangible and spiritual way to God and one another.
And it’s from this place of gathering around a table that we are formed as community and sent out to be that promise, that bread, that mercy for someone else. This the bread of life. The promise that this love of God will feed and nourish beyond our own selves and into the world. This promise that we carry the bread of life in us and we are so loved that we can connect others and gather and invite them around this bread of life with us. Amen. May it be so.