The Twelfth Sunday of Pentecost – Sunday, August 12, 2018

August 12, 2018  

John 3:35, 41-51

Weeks ago, when I was preparing the service for today I ran across a quote that seems to have gotten stuck in my thinking. Attributed to Martin Luther, the quote is

We are all mere beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.

This operates on so many levels…
There’s the bread that we eat.
There’s the “bread” that, back when I was growing up, was slang for money.
“Bread” can mean that which sustains us, physically or spiritually.

Jesus said “I AM the bread of life” (John 6:35).

Are we begging for food?
Are we begging for money?
Are we begging for that which sustains us?
Are we begging for Jesus? Not on behalf of Jesus but for Jesus—to have Jesus.

Do we want to answer yes to one of those questions, to two of those questions, to all of those questions? Our answers will vary but the truth is, we need all of those things, in varying amounts.

We are all mere beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.

When Jesus said “I AM the bread of life, he had already fed 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and some fish. He had already walked on water, terrifying his disciples and yet calming the storm they were caught in.

When Jesus said “I AM the bread of life” his words harkened back to words God spoke to Moses, generations before. God called out to Moses from a burning bush, saying “Moses, Moses! And he [Moses] said “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4) God went on to tell Moses God wanted Moses to free the Israelites from slavery. Moses asked

“If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘the God of your ancestors has    sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to    them?” God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ God said further, ‘thus you shall say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:13-14).

“I AM WHO I AM.”
“I AM has sent me to you.”
“I AM the bread of life.”

We are all mere beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.

Henri Nouwen was a Roman Catholic priest who wrote in his book The Road to Daybreak “The gospel of John… was written for mature spiritual persons who do not want to argue about elementary issues, but who want to be introduced into the mysteries of divine life” (p. 58).
Here we have a mystery. What bread do we seek? Do we seek the bread of life?

To paraphrase Nouwen, again from The Road to Daybreak (p. 71):
There is a way of living, there is a way of praying, there is a way of being with people, there is a way of caring, there is a way of eating, there is a way of drinking, there is a way of sleeping, there is a way of reading, there is a way of writing in which Jesus truly is center.
Perhaps we should say, there is a way of begging wherein we seek that which we need to be our center, that which is Jesus.

We beg for the I AM.

In the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread, and gave thanks; broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying: ‘Take and eat; this is my body, given for you… (Words of Institution, ELW p. 108).

This bread is ours.

This bread has been given for us and for all people.

The I AM is ours.

Finally, we reach the truth of the mystery:
There is no need to beg. God’s gift has been given to the world. God gave us Jesus. The bread of life. God gave us Jesus, who longs to be at the center of all we say, at the center of all we think, at the center of all we feel, at the center of all we do.

The I AM is ours. Given for us and for all people. Thanks be to God.
Amen.