- Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
- Ephesians 4:12-16
- John 6:23-35
For a middle-school science research project, my son decided that he would test the rates of mold formation on sliced white bread under different conditions to see how different storage methods impacted the molding process. So he put a slice of bread in a sealed plastic bag, one of which he placed on a countertop, one in a dark pantry, and another in the refrigerator. I can’t really remember which molded the quickest, but I know that all of them eventually grew some sort of mold. All I know is that there are few things in life more disappointing than to have a taste for a PB&J sandwich, only to find bread that has mold growing on it.
Our reading from Exodus and John’s Gospel fit together very well. In Exodus, we have the story of God’s feeding manna and quail the Hebrew people as they wandered in the wilderness. Our Gospel text picks up Jesus’ story soon after he has provided an overflowing abundance of bread and fish to a huge crowd of people. These folks ate their fill and are now asking for more.
Jesus refers to Moses’ work with the Hebrews and how he gave folks instructions on how much to eat and when to harvest their food. These instructions mention that the food is only good for a short period of time and then rots – one could say moldy.
There in the wilderness, God provided for the physical needs of the people as parents supply food for their children.
But Jesus now hints that God’s generosity was not a once and done thing; in fact, God continues to provide bread even today in Jesus. In fact, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” So we have moved from physical needs to more enduring spiritual ones.
The truth is that God is still sustaining us today in a spiritual way that should prompt us to reach out to others in a physical way. To actually BE the church of this day and age sometimes, we must first reach out to supply food and water to those in need. Some of the most genuine expressions of God’s grace occur when a hungry person is handed a plate of food that comes without judgment, condemnation, or expectation that they do anything but eat it.
We must also be willing to help meet the spiritual needs of others as well, and sometimes the ones most in need are the ones who have never been truly hungry for food in their entire lives.
As preachers ponder how to give spiritual nourishment to those who will listen to this sermon, they must first search for what type of hunger is present. What are you hungry for? What kind of food do you have to offer? What kind of bread can you give that will never grow moldy?