In her book, Lent in Plain Sight, Jill Duffield identifies the way in which God works through the ordinary. She states, “God is often at work through ordinary people and ordinary objects. God communicates, reveals, saves, and reconciles through the mundane.” Using ordinary objects like break, coins, oil, dust, rocks, towels, thorns, and the cross, Duffield invites readers to pay attention to how God’s presence and the redeeming work of Christ is at work right before their very eyes.
We begin with bread, which raises the question, What are you hungry for? What is that ache in the pit of your stomach or the gnawing in your soul? What would it take or what sign are you looking for to address the hunger pangs you feel when you look at your life, your family, our community, the church, the state of our world, and any number of other situations and circumstances around the nation and world.
It wouldn’t take long to fill a page with what people hunger for. If what I hear as a pastor is accurate, people are hungry for honesty; just be honest with me. People are hungry for kindness; can’t we all just get along like we were taught in kindergarten? People are hungry for acceptance, truth, balance, good health, a sense of hope, a sense of normal, a sense of direction, answers, unity, energy, peace and quiet, love, respect, compassion, and purpose.
Those are the same things the people of God hungered for long ago. The same things the first followers of Jesus hungered for and the same things the crowds that gathered to listen and watch Jesus hungered for. They wanted a sign to satisfy their hunger and need of assurance, direction, and purpose. We have been asking God and Jesus to satisfy the hunger in our souls since things went bad in the garden and Adam and Eve were hungry for more and tried to satisfy that hunger with everything but God.
We do the same thing. We feast on accomplishments, accolades, and attainment. We fill our plates with distraction, entertainment, and collectables. We top it off with a bowl full of complaints, comparisons, and criticism. We lick our plate clean as if in a competition and soak up the crumbs with judgment, cynicism, arrogance, and resentment. Then we get up from the table and wonder why we don’t have room for anything else or why we are hungry again in a couple of hours. We keep looking for more.
We are hungry because we, like believers before us, seek after Jesus, even follow him, observing his example, tasting his words, sipping on his truths, and yet fail to realize the fullness of who Jesus is. We fail to comprehend that it is not just his actions and his words, but whoJesus is that ultimately satisfies our hunger for meaning, purpose, identity, belonging, hope, community, and life abundant.
Jesus’ proclamation of being the bread of life is found within a set of three experiences, “signs,” or moments in which Jesus interacts with the people. Earlier in John, we read of Jesus feeding the large crowd - physical nourishment. We then read of Jesus walking on water - a display of his power. Next he proclaims he is the bread of life, which is immediately followed up with him stating he is not only fulfilling the will of God, he is the will of God. He did not come with his own agenda but with the will of God. Jesus did not satisfy their physical hunger only to show what he could do or to flex his divine muscle. He wanted them to come and see that their physical hunger was only made complete when their spiritual hunger was satisfied in him, the son of God. It is not only what he did, it is who Jesus was - the fulfillment and very presence of God. That is our true sign and source of complete satisfaction.
Bread sustains life. Without it, life can not go on. And Jesus wants our life to be more than physical existence. Jesus wants for us a full and abundant life in relationship with him. This passage tells us that without Jesus there may be existence, but not life. We can exist and fill ourselves with things we think sustains life, but only Jesus can satisfy our soul hunger. “One commentator put it this way: The hunger of the human situation is ended when we know Christ and through him, we know God. The restless soul is at rest; the hungry heart is satisfied.”
The loaf of bread on the shelf. The breadstick next to the salad. The rolls waiting to be passed. Warm biscuits waiting to be buttered. A slice of toast. Jesus in plain sight.
A loaf of bread. A cup of wine. Nourishment for the soul.
A loaf of bread. A cup of wine. Food to sustain more than our body.
A loaf of bread. A cup of wine. Jesus in plain sight.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine