Readings for this Sunday: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 (the death of David’s son, Absalom); Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (living in love, not letting the sun go down on our anger); John 6:35, 41-51 (Jesus speaks of himself as the bread of life).
There is a lot to digest in these readings and their connection to the world around us.
In fact, there is a lot to digest in the teaching of Jesus, in the ‘bread of life’ which he offers in and through his own self. It was not an easily digestible diet then, and it still gives spiritual and moral indigestion today.
Jesus teaches of self-sacrifice – uncomfortable for a culture that has become dependent upon the acquisition of stuff to sustain its frail economics.
Jesus teaches of reconciliation – uncomfortable for a culture that loves division and discord as a way of creating and defining identity. Just look at the deliberate intent in the press to incite “outrage” about a portion of Songs of Praise coming from a refugee camp in Calais. Christians, managing to sing songs of praise in an improvised church in horrible surroundings might not look as appealing as well-dressed British suburbanites, but that is exactly the sort of place where we ought to expect to find Jesus, offering his bread of life.
We are into Lammas-tide, when we celebrate God’s abundant generosity in the harvest-time, and ponder hunger and food – physical and spiritual. The Lammas-tide readings from John’s gospel are about Jesus as the bread of life – but they have as a sad second theme the inability of those who heard the message to digest it. Fortunately for them and us, Jesus did not give up. He kept offering himself as the bread of life, which is limitless.
We celebrate this bread through ritual consumption in the Eucharist – a thanksgiving.
The bread of life is an antidote to the sinful self-absorption and self-interest that results in consequences such as the death of David’s son Absalom – possibly an anticipatory parallel for the loss of God’s son, except that the seeds for that are sown in human sinfulness, not God’s.
Examples of such consequences in today’s world abound – but on the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we remember with particular sadness humanity’s discovery of enough secrets of the universe to turn light into darkness – the unimaginable flash of burning, bright light of the atomic explosion that left a cloud of darkness through destruction, suffering and death that still overshadows our world.
The bread of life points us towards reconciliation, and mutual respect and support, to build up the body of Christ, as described in Ephesians. This bread is available to turn us away from human instincts for anger (on which we willingly let the sun set and rise again), for selfishness, division, violence and destruction.
Are we willing to eat? And can we digest this bread of life?