August 06, 2018
Rev. Kristen Provost Switzer is the Associate Pastor at Newtown Congregation Church.
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.
Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
“You just don’t know what it’s like until you’ve experienced it yourself,” he said.
The man lay in the hospital bed, frustrated and sad. Sure, his life was no longer in danger after his recent stroke, but as he continued his recovery in the in-patient rehabilitation unit, he had other things on his mind. He had been gardening when his stroke symptoms began, and now the realization was setting in that perhaps he would never recover physically enough to ever garden again. He was grieving deeply. That garden was life itself to him.
Like the man recovering from the stroke, Jesus understood that there was more to life than simply... living. Jesus, who spends much of the sixth chapter of John trying to convince his followers that the sustenance from the feeding of the five thousand did not come from the fishes and loaves but the miracle itself. Jesus, who tells his followers that nourishment takes many forms. What Jesus was saying was radical. During a time when survival was easy for a few and difficult for most, Jesus believed that life was a mind, body and soul experience, and that God was the source of a life that transcended mere survival.
Just as there are fates worse than death, there are fates better than simply living. We have lost sight of that as a society.
Families separated at United States borders and incarcerated in detention centers are alive, but they've lost the human right of living together as family units. Society claims that Black Lives Matter, but then uses the sanctity of “all lives” to deny life itself to bodies that are not white. People on opposite sides of the partisan divide aren’t necessarily going around killing each other (...except for when they do...), but we’re not living as a cohesive, caring or even coexisting society. We’ve lost the arts of disagreement and dialogue. We’ve lost Imago Dei, the image of God, in one another. We have forgotten that we are all deserving of the good life that Jesus promises to each person who simply asks for it.
Just as our faith allows our spirits to transcend the physicality of mere living, just as we can find God in a beautiful garden and know God’s gift of life abundant, Jesus’ mandate to love, really love one another, will save us.
Continue to speak truth to power, but do it in a way that fosters empathy and connects the divide. Continue to love the least among us, but teach others to do it too, especially those who do not find merit in it. Know that you won’t win them all, but also know that you’ve begun to plant seeds of curiosity in people who can change for the better. People can and do change, this I know to be true.
And find your own garden, that thing that connects you with God and brings more meaning to your life than you could ever put into words, because God’s gift of life abundant is one for you too.
Dear God, help us to savor the bread of life. Help us to be life-transcenders to those around us. And let our example, our joy, our love plant life-bearing seeds in the garden of our world, that we may all live our fullest lives and help those around us live their fullest lives too. Amen.
This Week in History:
Aug 9, 1974 (44 years ago): President Nixon resigns in the face of mounting public and congressional pressure and impeachment proceedings underway against him. Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president minutes after Nixon left the office. Ford eventually pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed during his term.
Starting With Scripture: August 06, 2018 , by Kristen Provost Switzer.