Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15, Year B)
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Jesus said, “I 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.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Faith from the Margins to the Web Authors: Mary, Willie and Charles
Mary, Willie, and Charles are regular attenders of the weekly healing prayer service and feeding program of a local Episcopal church. All three are now older adults who live a short walk from the church; all three have experienced homelessness in their own lives, families, and communities.
We gathered as a small group to discuss the lectionary readings for the 11th, 12th, and 13th Sundays after Pentecost, which pivot around this central point: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” This is the third and final week that we’ll hear from this group.
Our conversation turned to the idea of Jesus as “The Living Bread” and how that image might help us better understand our relationship with God, and each other.
“We’re all God’s children” said Mary. “Especially children and old folks. Sometimes we feel like we’re on the outside of all that is happening. I used to be a CNA, until I hurt my back, lifting before we had all the technologies to help with that. There was a lot of help that people needed and they felt outside, cast out. My job wasn’t just to lift them but to help them feel inside and welcomed. I think that is what Jesus wants to do. To be the living bread that helps us feel like we are inside.”
“That’s right” said Willie, “and when we are on the outside, its hard to feel like you belong, you know, like you’re really family. It might be the thing that people need the most. When we take in Jesus, we begins to see that we ARE family, and to want to treat each other the way we would want to be treated.”
“Treat people like you would treat your own” said Charles.
“See, I was from the country, and we were used to taking care of family” explained Mary. “People who I took care of when I was a CNA, they often felt on the outside of their families. So, I spent time not just doing for them, but helping them know that they were loved, that they were family. It’s the way that we should be towards each other, and I think Jesus knew that. Jesus loves us, so we can be the ones to share that love. That’s what he means by being the Living Bread.”
“Yes! It isn’t just doing what needs to be done, but doing it with love and care, treating each other like family. And if we’re all the people of God, then that means we need each other” said Willie.
This is food for thought for all of us who engage in ministries of feeding, helping, and hospitality. We can so easily get caught up in the mechanics and logistics of what is needed: food, shelter, physical care. But, there is a need for family and community which flows from these ministries. When we walk as Jesus walked, and feed as Jesus fed, we are not merely responding to physical hunger or caregiving. We are sending a message that together, we are one family. In our sharing…not in spite of, but with full awareness of our differences…we live into that possibility of being one family together. God’s presence is made known in us.
Mary closed the group with a prayer of thankfulness for this family that gathers in the name of Jesus, the Living Bread who draws us all near as beloved family.