By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of John 6:27-40
27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave 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 that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
“Do not labor for the food that perishes…” our lesson begins. And yet, what choice do we have? We have to eat. Somehow we have to get food. Even if we pay someone else to provide it, we had to labor for the money to do so. This must stand out to me because I have a couple of growing children who ask me for a snack about a thousand times every day. All the mothers reading this know what I mean: there are days you barely leave the kitchen. Yet Jesus says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes.”
The rest of the lesson is Jesus going on to explain how the Father sent him, as he had manna in the wilderness, to give life — this time eternal life. But then the twist. And, oh, what a twist! Jesus himself becomes food. He makes himself bread, and that bread is still — wait for it — perishable. Communion bread can go stale. It can get moldy. That’s the insane humility of Jesus, not only does he makes himself our food, but he doesn’t keep it from going bad if we don’t eat it soon enough.
Everyone — including the handful of saints who have lived for extended periods of time on nothing but the Blessed Sacrament — has to eat. And eating entails labor. For some of us, it’s a lot of labor. But the Jesus who can become bread can also take that menial shopping and chopping and washing and make it into something not perishable. It becomes memories and comfort and hospitality and joy and so much more, when we do it, as he does it, for love.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
Episcopal Church of our Saviour, Jacksonville, Fla.
The Church of the Province of Myanmar (Burma)