A Sermon about the Incarnation, Our Bodies, and Being Enough

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St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Midlothian
26 August 2018 + Lectionary 21B (Pentecost 14)
John 6.56-69, [70-71]


Jesus has said a lot of unusual, stunning, even downright shocking things these past five weeks we’ve spent reading our way through John 6:

“I am the bread of life.”

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”

“The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

And these sayings have solicited just as many scattered reactions:

Misunderstanding: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”

Complaining and offense: “Does this offend you?”

Disbelief: “Among you there are some who do not believe.”

Abandonment: “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.”

Betrayal: “…Judas son of Simon Iscariot…though one of the twelve, was going to betray [Jesus].”

Jesus has said a lot of things, and he’s gotten some strong reactions. This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? It’s not as though Jesus’s followers were along for the ride, keeping up with the bizarre things he’s been saying, and then suddenly one teaching gives them pause. This momentum has been building. We’re only six chapters into John, and yet there is precedent for this hesitance to Jesus’s teachings. Jesus’s earlier conversation with Nicodemus by night leaves Nicodemus asking, “How can these things be?” Misunderstanding, disbelief, even complaining and offense to the point of betrayal and abandonment, are all hallmarks of the reaction of the crowds to Jesus’s teachings in John.

And yet, what is it exactly that elicits such strong reactions? Granted, the Bread of Life discourse, as this chapter from John we’ve been reading for five weeks is called, is notoriously difficult to understand. Jesus is repetitive. He speaks with metaphor and language we might not otherwise encounter in normal conversation. Yet, it’s the crowd’s initial reaction that holds the key.

This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? …might better be translated more literally as: This word is hard; who is able to listen to it?

This word is hard to listen to. The Word is the starting point of John’s gospel. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… begins John 1. Then a few verses later: The Word became flesh and lived among us.

This Word is hard to listen to! This is the message of John’s gospel: The eternal Word of God has become flesh to live among us, entering into all of our reality and the grit of human existence. This is the great I AM who is beyond all time and space who has become one of us, the Creator becoming the creation, crossing thresholds and subverting boundaries, drawing all people to himself and calling them friends.

Oftentimes, John’s gospel gets a reputation for being the hyper-spiritualized gospel with a head-in-the-clouds Jesus whose divinity outweighs his humanity. That couldn’t be further from the truth. John’s Jesus is literally a down-to-earth Jesus, 100% human even as he is fully divine.

And that, I think, is why this teaching, this word, is so difficult to listen to and accept. It is inconceivable that God should become like one of us, fully human and experiencing everything that entails. It is inconceivable that the extraordinary God should enter into the ordinary stuff of human existence: bread and wine and even human flesh, our very bodies.

This is the perfect and the holy entering into the imperfect and the flawed. God becoming flesh has implications that are offensive to us, just as much as to Jesus’s first followers:

God became flesh in the body of a 1st-century, dark-skinned, Palestinian, Jewish carpenter living under the occupation and oppression of the powerful Roman Empire.

God became flesh in the body of one of society’s nobodies.

God became flesh in the body of someone we would rather ignore for who they are or what they look like or what they believe or where they live or where they come from.

For the past two weeks, I have served as the event coordinator for the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) Orientation, a program of our denomination that sends young people from across our church to ministry partners around the world to live and work alongside bodies that are different from their own for a year. At closing worship during orientation, hours before these YAGM would board their flights for their countries of service, my colleague and friend preached a sermon that reminded us: Wherever God calls us into this work of ministry, in whatever form that work takes, we are enough, just as we are.

Before we leave these precious few weeks of abiding in John’s gospel, let this be our reminder today, too: The God who has become human flesh and entered into the ordinary stuff of human existence in the body of Jesus Christ calls us enough, just as we are.

The bodies of society’s nobodies are enough. Our bodies are enough, not in spite of but precisely because of what they look like and what they believe or don’t believe and where they live and where they come from.

Our bodies are enough because they are enough for God herself.

Indeed, that is the message of John’s gospel and the whole point of this thing we call the incarnation, the “taking on of human flesh” — that God loves God’s world so much that God became one of us, giving us God’s very self as the bread of life, sustenance for the sake of our life, life abundant, life eternal, life and liberation and flourishing in relationship with each other here and now.

This word is hard to listen to and understand. But that’s exactly the point. If ever this mystery of God becoming flesh and everything it implies starts to make sense to us, something has gone wrong. It is nothing that can be or even should be understood. It is an act of love. It is an act of grace. It is enough. It just is.

There’s one last reaction to this word, this teaching, today: Peter’s confession of faith and trust. When asked by Jesus, “Do you also wish to go away?”, Peter’s response is stunningly simple yet profound: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Where else can we go? When the world degrades our bodies and calls into question our existence and self-worth, when our bodies hurl insults and violence at one another, when our bodies are told they are not good enough. Where else can we go but to the one who took on an imperfect, flawed human body and in so doing implicitly called it enough?

The Word became flesh and lived among us. The Word became flesh and called it very good. The Word became flesh and said it is enough.

Thanks be to God.

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A Sermon about Being Bread for Each Other

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Wicker Park Lutheran Church, Chicago
19 August 2018 + Lectionary 20B (Pentecost 13)
John 6.51-58


When I started seminary four years ago, I learned a lot of new words: Eschatological. Pneumatology. Exegesis. Hermeneutics. (Not to mention all the Greek and Hebrew vocabulary I memorized.) It doesn’t really matter if you know what any of those words mean. There are days I’m not sure I even know what they mean.

There’s one word I learned, though, before classes even started: YAGM. Now, some of you might actually know this one. Four years ago, I definitely did not. YAGM. I couldn’t even begin to guess. But as it turns out, YAGM is not even a word at all. It’s an acronym, short for “Young Adults in Global Mission.” Y-A-G-M. YAGM.

Before seminary, a few of my new classmates had just come from a year living and working abroad through this program of our denomination, the ELCA, that places young people from across the country into new and unfamiliar contexts to live and work alongside our partners in the gospel in the ELCA’s companion churches and organizations.

This past week, I’ve had the delight to serve as the event coordinator for YAGM Orientation. It has been inspiring and encouraging to see nearly 80 young adults from across our church descend on Chicago for a week-long orientation ahead of their year of service in various countries around the globe. And the premise of their work, as any YAGM will tell you, is accompaniment — the idea of walking together, to work alongside, to accompany, to bear the good news of Jesus Christ, the message of liberation for the oppressed, in our bodies.

Oftentimes, the church is called the body of Christ. It’s an idea that medieval Christian mystic and saint Teresa of Ávila captured in her short poem:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world…

We, the church, are the body of Christ for each other and for the sake of the world.

Teresa understood that we carry in our bodies the same work and compassion and blessing that Jesus embodied. Indeed, we the church are, quite literally, the very body of Christ for each other and for the sake of the world.

In Jesus’s words: The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

What began as the feeding of the five thousand, a miracle of abundance, has become something more.

Jesus’s society was a society living under the occupation and oppression of the Roman Empire, a society that privileged the few at the expense of the many, a society plagued by food shortages and insecurity, malnutrition, and disease. Scarcity, not abundance, was the order of the day. In the midst of this scarcity and oppression, Jesus recognizes a deep hunger for bread and more than bread. Jesus offers loaves of bread in abundance, and then he makes the stunning declaration: I am the bread of life.

The bread that Jesus offers is more than bread. It is indeed life itself, abundant life in the midst of scarcity. The bread that he offers is indeed his very self — the eternal Word of God who became flesh and entered into our reality, the grit of human existence, the great I AM who crosses thresholds and subverts boundaries and draws all people to himself and calls them friends.

The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

Here, in this place, we hear this Word of Life and are fed by the Bread of Life. If there’s any truth the phrase “you are what you eat,” it’s here: Around this table, we become what we receive — the body of Christ, raised up for the world. We are the body of Christ for the sake of each other, bread for a world so desperate for the promise of life abundant.

Gunilla Norris writes these words in her poem “Plenty”:

Having shared our bread,
we know that we are
no longer hungry. It is enough

that you see me for myself.
That I see you for yourself.
That we bless what we see

and do not borrow, do not use
one another. This is how we know
we are no longer hungry… that

the world is full of terror, full of beauty
and yet we are not afraid to find solace here.
To be bread for each other. To love.

To be bread for each other… To be the body of Christ for each other…

The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

We are that bread, friends. In this thing called church, we are continually feeding and being fed by each other, having been fed first by the one who calls us and draws us to himself.

Just prior to YAGM Orientation this past week, I spent several days at a retreat of my own, a gathering of about 70 openly LGBTQIA+ Lutheran deacons, pastors, and seminarians who are all a part of Proclaim, an organization of nearly 300 of us in all. In worship, over meals, in discussions and fellowship with friends and colleagues, this is one of the highlights of my year. The Proclaim Gathering is always a time of rest and sabbath and being fed by our community, but this year especially: We gathered together from many places. Daily we heard the Word of Life and tasted the Bread of Life. In our time together, we were fed, by Christ, by each other, refreshed and revitalized, in order to feed others, sent forth to bear witness to the promise of abundant life in a world so desperately in need of that good news.

There is joy and community at this table. At YAGM Orientation opening worship, we literally danced as the altar furnishings and communion bread and wine were brought forward. At this table, whether at YAGM or Proclaim or Wicker Park Lutheran Church, God forms us into a beloved community, sent to accompany God’s people in this broken, beautiful world.

Jesus says: The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

We are that bread, and we are that flesh. We are the body of Christ raised up for the life of the world. Indeed, we are bread for each other.

Food, Grace, Abundance: A Sermon for Bread of Life Sunday #1

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Lutheran Church of the Cross, Arlington Heights
29 July 2018 + Lectionary 17B (Pentecost 10)
John 6.1-21


Last week, I preached a sermon about rest. In the midst of so much busyness and hurry and important but exhausting work, Jesus bids his disciples to come away and rest… And in the midst of our own lives — all the important but exhausting work we do — we hear echoes of our shepherd Jesus bidding us to come away and rest. Rest. Take care of your spirits and your bodies. The work of the gospel, proclaiming good news to the poor and the oppressed, is important — but so are we, bodies made in God’s own image, bodies God calls very good, bodies that need care.

And so in that sermon just seven days ago, I encouraged us to take time for ourselves, to rest, to recharge, to replenish our bodies. And yet, I must confess: Not five minutes after the final “Go in peace,” I was already out the door, off to work: driving to my office, taking a Lyft to the airport to pick up a rental truck, driving back to the office, loading up boxes upon boxes, and finalizing last-minute details for a conference the following day — work that kept me in the office for three hours on a Sunday afternoon, awake until nearly 1 AM that night, and nonstop on-the-go throughout the majority of the next day. In the midst of work, I took no time for myself, no time to notice the needs of my own body and spirit, no time to rest. Quite literally, I didn’t do a very good job of practicing what I preached.

Then on Tuesday morning, something happened. As I sat in the chapel on our retreat campus for day two of the conference I had been so hurriedly planning, our morning devotion leader invited us to ponder a relationship in our own life that had somehow shaped or transformed us. My mind went immediately to the church home I had found after college — a place that welcomed and embraced me for who I was, exactly as I was, no strings attached. The community that enveloped me in those two years helped me imagine a new way of being church together that was bold in our proclamation of the gospel, radically inclusive in our welcome of all people, and relevant in our Monday-through-Saturday lives. That community is, in many ways, the reason I am standing here today as a child of God called to be a pastor among God’s people.

Tuesday morning devotions invited me into a moment to pause, to reflect, to rest. Our devotion leader also invited us to recognize these relationships as experiences of abundant grace. Together we sang a short call-and-response refrain that became something of a theme for our time together this past week:

All who are thirsty, come to the waters.
All who are hungry, come here and eat.
All who are thirsty, come to the waters.
There’s enough for all.

Today’s gospel reading takes us on a detour from our year of Mark into the beginning of five weeks of John — reflecting on what it means that Jesus comes to us as the Bread of Life, or, to use a favorite word of John’s, abiding in these enigmatic texts for an extended time. But today, before we even get to Jesus’s declaration “I am the bread of life” (that comes later), we have a miracle of abundance. The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle story common to all four gospels, and I suspect that should tell us something about how significant this story is.

Before we try to figure out what this miracle means, I think what happened is just as important on its own: five thousand hungry people were fed — not in some spiritual sense — but with bread and fish, satisfying physical hunger. Karoline Lewis, a scholar on the gospel of John and a favorite theologian of mine, suggests that being literally fed, as Jesus does for the crowd, is a hallmark of the presence of God. She says, “Where people are fed, literally, is where you can expect to experience grace — see it, taste it, smell it, feel it.”

At the conference this past week, our time together was punctuated by meals — breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each day. Every day we ate together, and every day we talked with each other over meals — forming relationships and strengthening community by sharing food. Then on the last night of the conference, we gathered for a banquet, one final celebratory meal together, where we heard the stories of ELCA missionaries who have completed their service in countries around the globe. It was a sacred time to experience stories of what God is up to in the world through the missionaries of our church, a time to experience the abundance of God’s grace in our lives, and a time to eat a meal together.

The intertwining of God’s people, around food, experiencing grace in abundance.

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ELCA Summer Missionary Conference Banquet, Thursday, July 26, 2018 (photo credit: Josh Evans)

The first time I came here to preach, way back in May, which feels like ages ago, the fellowship hall was filled with USPS boxes overflowing with food collected for your food pantry, which I would later learn is one of the largest food pantries in your neighborhood, feeding your hungry neighbors in need. Every week that I’ve been with you since then, you have gathered as a community after the liturgy to share coffee and treats and catch up on one another’s lives. And every Sunday you meet, you gather around this table, to eat and drink and experience God’s grace given for you, shed for you.

Food and grace in abundance are the hallmark of God’s presence and living together in the community of the church.

The poet Mary Oliver, in one of my favorite poems, writes:

Why worry about the loaves and fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

For now, this first of five Bread of Life Sundays, we rest, we abide, in the miracle — the abundance of loaves and fishes and grace. We don’t need to understand it, to analyze it, to spiritualize it. It is enough to experience it. Food and grace and abundance — taste and see that God is good.

A Sermon about the Bread of Life and God’s Abundance in the Midst of Scarcity

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A sermon preached for ML 502: Preaching the Gospel of John at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, October 25, 2017

John 6.35, 41-51 (Proper 14B)

If I’m being completely honest, the prospect of going on internship to Omaha, Nebraska, didn’t strike me as particularly exciting. I mean, really? Nebraska? As someone who grew up in the near suburbs of Detroit and had spent the past nine years in the Chicagoland area, never having so much as set foot in Nebraska, I had a lot of images of cornfields and prairies and not a whole lot else. You might say it didn’t exactly strike me as a picturesque image of abundance.

Abundance. It’s at the heart of today’s gospel. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves and start talking about “the bread of life” and “eternity,” concepts that have been hyper-spiritualized and are prone to mis-interpretation, the miracle story that jumpstarts the entire conversation that follows centers on real hunger and real bread. The abundance of the miracle is heightened by its numbers: with only five loaves and two fish, five thousand people eat as much as they want, with leftovers to fill twelve baskets. It’s simple math: that’s more food than we began with! But above all, this is real bread for real people with real hunger.

And yet: There’s something more going on. The next day the crowd chases after Jesus: How did you do that? Can you do it again?! And then a twist: “I am the bread of life.” Suddenly, it seems, we’re not talking about real bread anymore, and yet these words are a continuation of the miracle story, rooted in real, physical hunger.

In the midst of real hunger, Jesus senses something deeper going on, a deeper hunger and yearning. His was a world where abundance was not the norm, a world infused by empire, an empire that saw itself as a “golden age” that would presumably last forever. And yet: Despite Caesar’s agenda of “making Rome great again,” for the vast majority this was a society plagued by food shortages, restricted access to staple foods, malnutrition, and disease. Real bread was hard to come by. Scarcity, not abundance, ruled the day. We might even say that bread, which should be an image of abundance and sustenance, had become just the opposite.

If a society of scarcity, in a system controlled by an oppressive empire, sounds familiar, consider Houston resident Mary Maddox, whose home was flooded with nearly two feet of water after Hurricane Harvey hit her city in August. On her back porch sits a Lady of the Night plant, native to Puerto Rico. Pausing by the plant, Mary holds one of its leaves, says a prayer for those in the island nation still without water or electricity, and expresses her deep frustration in the drastically different disaster response she has benefited from in her own hometown.

The effects of empire are stark: While life slowly returns to normal in Mary’s Houston neighborhood, those in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have seen fewer resources and federal aid directed their way. Throwing a package of paper towels at a crowd of second-class U.S. citizens doesn’t exactly cut it when the very infrastructure of their homeland has been decimated.

Whether in modern-day Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria or in ancient Rome, empire privileges a select few at the expense of the many. It is in the midst of this scarcity, this devastation, this oppression, that Jesus senses a deep hunger for bread and more than bread, a deep yearning to be filled. Uttering six simple words — “I am the bread of life” — Jesus reclaims the imagery of bread from the clutch of empire to proclaim God’s reign of abundance over Caesar’s reign of scarcity.

Jesus reclaims and identifies himself with the imagery of bread to proclaim abundance in the midst of scarcity. And the thing about abundance is that it threatens scarcity. Abundance threatens scarcity and endangers the very system that has set it up. Abundance threatens to eliminate scarcity and to take away the fearful control it holds on those in its clutches. Abundance in response to real hunger and more than hunger is precisely what Jesus offers.

I am the bread of life… the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. Jesus, the eternal Word of God, offers his very flesh, his body, for the sake of the life of the entire cosmos. Jesus’s flesh, offered in abundance, for all persons, without distinction, threatens empire. And try as empire might to push back and crucify the very one who threatens to undo its system of control, the abundant life that Jesus promises cannot be contained by cross or tomb. Abundant life breaks into the very places that we least expect it to thrive and says, no, this is not the way it has to be. Abundant life that foreshadows crucifixion promises resurrection and God’s decisive victory over empire.

This is the mystery we proclaim every week around the table before the Eucharistic meal: For as often as we eat of this bread and drink from this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The bread we share is the bread of life, the body of Christ, given freely and abundantly for the sake of the life of the entire cosmos. This is Eucharist is John. It is political, it is defiant, it is hope-giving, it is liberation-seeking. It proclaims life in the midst of death, liberation in the midst of oppression, abundance in the midst of scarcity.


Nearly every week during internship, I stood in the chancel at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha with a stream of people coming forward to receive a little piece of bread and a sip of wine. The words I would repeat are simple: “The body of Christ, given for you.” These words, evocative of Jesus’s own words in our gospel text, offer the promise of abundant life, but more: that abundant life is lived among the community that makes up the living body of Christ, for the sake of each other and for the sake of the world.

The body of Christ that offers abundant life in the midst of scarcity is the body of Christ that I encountered each week around a table of bread and wine, at our first Sunday potluck meals, in the mutual support of the community in times of grief, and in celebration as we marched in the Heartland Pride Parade. The body of Christ that offers abundant life, freely, to all, without exception, is in our midst, among the people we are called to serve and who in turn minister to us.  This is an abundance that satisfies real hunger and more than hunger. Even in the midst of empire and all the forces that would try to tell us otherwise, the body of Christ, the bread of life, offers us abundance now and continues to do so with each new day.

A Sermon about Awkward Holiday Dinners, Miracles, and Giving Thanks

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Preached at St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE, for a multi-congregational community Thanksgiving Eve service


St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
23 November 2016 + Day of Thanksgiving (Eve)
John 6.25-35



A quote from a recent New York Times article sums it up this way: “The election is over, but the repercussions in people’s lives may be just beginning as families across the United States contemplate uncomfortable holidays.” Some have canceled their plans to see family entirely, while others continue to exchange pointed jabs on social media and in text messages. [1]

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Holiday dinners with family have long conjured up images of discord and conflict between relatives over political or religious differences. And while these family gatherings have often brought a touch of comic relief in Saturday Night Live sketches, for many the anxiety and stress that they bring are very, very real — with some even preferring “Friendsgiving” dinners, not because they can’t physically get to family but because they don’t want to or don’t feel welcome at the table.

It all seems like a far cry from Norman Rockwell images of Thanksgiving dinner, with everyone gathered around the table, each sharing in turn those things for which they are thankful. But the truth is that Americans have become increasingly divided. We prefer to remain in our silos, surrounded by like-minded people, even digitally “unfriending” those with whom we disagree. And really, who can blame us?!

So what does our gospel text have to say about Thanksgiving? Not a damn thing, or so it seems.

Bizarre questions posed to Jesus, and even more bizarre answers in return, leave us scratching our heads. I think we need a little context.

The entire sixth chapter of John centers on one simple but profound statement: “I am the bread of life.” It’s the first of several “I am” statements uttered by Jesus in John’s gospel, and while we might be tempted to read some overly deep spiritual meaning into it, Jesus is indeed talking about actual bread. Well, sort of.

The chapter begins with the only miracle story found in all four gospels: the feeding of the five thousand. It’s a familiar story: Lots of people, not a whole lot of food. But somehow, they make it work so that everyone is fed, and with leftovers. It’s a miracle!

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No wonder the crowds look for Jesus the next day and corner him with their questions: How did you do it? Can you do it again? What do we need to do to make that happen?

Actually, on second thought, maybe this is a lot like Thanksgiving: Everyone’s stuffed, there’s way too much food, and now begins the awkward chit-chat.

And like Thanksgiving dinner conversation, each side here seems to be having two different conversations at once.

Yes, there was real hunger. Yes, it was real bread. But there’s also so much more going on—and the people just don’t seem to get it.

Between the feeding miracle and the subsequent dialogue, there’s another miracle story. It’s nighttime, the disciples are at sea, and suddenly the wind picks up. Understandably, the disciples are afraid—and then they see Jesus, coming towards them, walking on the water.

Unlike Matthew’s and Mark’s versions of the same story, the storm in John is never calmed when Jesus shows up. Because that’s not the miracle. The miracle is in what Jesus says. Literally: “I am; do not be afraid.”

I am. Words that automatically connect Jesus to the divine name of God and that provide a glimpse of Jesus’s own divine nature. Words that get repeated only a few verses later, with a slight twist: “I am the bread of life.” Bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

Suddenly we’re not talking about real bread anymore, but something much more profound. And yet these words are a continuation of the miracle stories, and they’re grounded in very real aspects of human experience: the need for food and the need for safety.

When the crowds are hungry, Jesus feeds them. When the disciples are afraid, Jesus comes to them, in the flesh. These miracles are “moments of glory for the sake of grace,” as one commentator puts it. [2] That Jesus comes to us in the ordinary experiences of life is deeply sacramental, a union of both a profound truth and an outward sign.

Yes, it is and always will be ordinary bread, but it is also rich in metaphorical meaning. The bread from heaven is intentionally evocative of the manna the ancient Israelites received from God in the desert, and like that manna, it also underscores God’s faithfulness to provide. It’s ordinary bread, but it’s so much more.

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Ordinary bread—staple food—becomes the means of conveying divine presence. Unlike the other gospels, nowhere in John do we get a picture of the upper room where Jesus hosts the first Eucharist with his disciples. We instead get Eucharist right here. Jesus feeds the crowds himself with bread and fish, and then he claims that he is that bread: Jesus offering his very self, his very presence, in the ordinary stuff of life.

It’s all a little bit overwhelming, and more books and essays than even a seminary student like me can ever read have been written on the meaning of the Eucharist (a word, by the way, whose Greek root appropriately means “to give thanks”). When theologian John Calvin was once asked to explain it, he replied, “I’d rather experience it than understand it.”

So after all that, maybe the point is that we don’t have to “get it.” That Jesus is the bread of life is a truth that is so radical and especially timely for our divisive times and anxious holiday meals:

In the meal we celebrate every Sunday, we receive Jesus’s very presence in ordinary bread. In John’s gospel, that bread is given by Jesus himself, mediated by no one, not even the church, making the radical claim that all are included in the offer, regardless of beliefs or identity.

That is much to give thanks for, which is maybe exactly what we should do. Instead of trying to wrap our heads around it, maybe it’s enough to just accept the miracle and dwell in the mystery.

Thanks be to God.


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/us/political-divide-splits-relationships-and-thanksgiving-too.html

[2] Gail R. O’Day, “The Gospel of John: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 9 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995).