Lord, give us eyes to see – to really see; hearts that believe – really believe; minds that understand – really understand; and lives that proclaim you as the living bread to all who are in any kind of need. Amen.
H&P no. 437
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah
Let us pray. Christ the living God, we adore you and bless you, for you give us the essentials in life – but most of all you give us yourself, the living bread. Help us to be slow to complain and quick to share. And lead us from being believers to believers in you, our Friend, our Teacher and our Saviour. Amen. Mysterious God, we come looking for a sign of your power and greatness and find you come among us as one of us. We come looking for proof that you are the God of our salvation and find you crucified upon a cross. We come wanting a miracle to make you known to us and find you present with us as we share our bread. Amen.
Jesus said: I am the bread of life. What is one of the things we say every time we say the Lord’s Prayer? We pray: Give us this day our daily bread. One of the essentials of life for many people on this planet. We now say together the prayer that Jesus taught us: Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
This follows on from the reading about Jesus feeding the 5,000 and then him walking on the water to join his disciples in their boat to reach the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
24 Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, ‘Rabbi, when did you get here?’ 26 Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ 28 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ 29 Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ 30 So they asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’ 32 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34 ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’ 35 Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Let us pray. How we grumble, generous God, when the difficulties of today, like clouds in summer, obscure the constant light of your love. How we grumble, patient God, when all that is to be, takes longer than we thought, and the journey seems so long. How we grumble, loving God, when love is hard to bear, to give and to receive. Free us from our grumbles, generous, patient, loving God, and let our hearts be filled with praise. For you feed us in the desert place, and journey with us on our way. Forgive us such a lack of vision, and heal our inner sight, that we may catch a glimpse of hope, that lifts our hearts to love. Amen.
Many of us probably remember the TV series from about 15 years or so ago called Grumpy Old Men/Women. The series ran for about four years and gave the various participants the opportunity to vent their feelings on a range of pet hates – we all have some of them, don’t we? If we delve a bit further back into TV history well there is one name that springs to mind in the realms of fiction – the stereotypical grumpy old man, one Victor Meldrew, from the series One Foot in the Grave which ran from 1990 to 2000. Would it be fair to say that in real life we all know somebody just like him, somebody who, behind their back, we might call a professional moaner, somebody who always seems ready and willing to complain about anything and everything – and does so constantly?
And in our reading for today we meet other people just like them, people who grumbled and moaned, who were never satisfied with their lot. Maybe our Gospel reading was not so much about people grumbling but still, it seems, about people never being satisfied with what they have or are given. Jesus and his disciples wanted to get away from the crowds that had been following them and went across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, but the crowds came after them and found them the next morning. It was then they asked for a sign to see and make them believe! What had happened just the day before? What more of a sign could they possibly want or need? Jesus had worked the miracle of feeding the 5,000, as we normally refer to it. Most accounts say there were 5,000 men, so I think the true number present would have been much greater taking women and children into account. We know there were children present because that young boy with the loaves and fishes played a central part in the miracle. But even having seen all that they still wanted more! Eventually Jesus concluded his explanation with words that are quite familiar to us: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
What relevance does this story have for us today? Surely we can’t be likened to those Jews in the time of Jesus? They don’t call us Victor or Victoria Meldrew, do they? Can you honestly say you’ve not already moaned or grumbled about something already today? Can you? And in the here and now of your church life, what are you thinking? Stick a small number of present-day Methodists together to discuss how their Christian journey is going and what soon happens? Doom and gloom descends, doesn’t it? There’s not enough of us, we’re all getting too old, there’s not enough young people, we’re running out of money, this church is too big for us, we can’t maintain it properly, we don’t like the new songs …. we don’t like the old hymns. And I’m only scratching the surface aren’t I.
Because before too long we get round to asking what is God doing about it? And because of what is going on around us in the world, from natural disasters to acts of terrorism, we sit and wonder and worry. We ourselves fail to see the signs from all the good things in our life, those good things which are in the majority, and outweigh all those troubles we also have. Jesus turns the question of what is God doing about it back on itself and effectively asks us: What are you doing about it? What are you going to do about it? The onus is on us to put our grumbles to one side and get on with what God through Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit actually wants us to do.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, the crowd came to hear good news. They came expecting to be fed. We pray for those in our world who wait expectantly to be fed. We pray for those who hunger for words that will feed their spirits, words that will change the situations that they live in. We pray for areas of the world where peace is hard to find. The crowd came, as many still come, We pray for all who work to bring food to a world where many are still waiting to be fed. We pray especially for the work of Foodbanks and similar groups. The crowd sat and were fed. Lord, we pray that we may use all the resources we have to feed the world, to share and support one another, we are all part of your family. We pray for those we know who are ill or for whom we have concern. May all be fed with your living bread. Amen.
I have chosen our closing hymn for the words in verse 2: O feed me, Lord, that I may feed Your hungering ones with manna sweet. However, I also particularly like this hymn for the broader mission statement in verse 3 that: I may stretch out a loving hand To wrestlers with the troubled sea….as I always feel those wrestlers include myself and many others.
Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhZ-TpBKNM8 (additional v6)