Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday 12 August 2018 - 19th Ordinary Sunday

Theme(s): Bread of life, Bread which gives eternal life, God nourishes us, Jesus came from God, live in love.

Sentence: "Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God' (Ephesians 5:2).


Merciful God,
you gave your only Son
to be both a sacrifice for sin
and an example of godly life;
help us gladly to receive
all that he has done for us
and follow in his footsteps;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Readings (related):

1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:1-8
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51


1 Kings 19:4-8

Elijah has striven mightily with the prophets of Baal and won. But his strength is expended and he asks that he might die. God sends an angel to nourish him with food and drink. Not once but twice. That food sustains him for his long journey to Horeb.

God always sustains God's people for God's work along God's way. In a different way, Jesus will nourish his followers, according to our gospel reading today.

Psalm 34:1-8

When we consider what Jesus offers us as the living bread, this psalm assists us as we praise and exalt God!

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

We are in the 'application' chapters of Ephesians. But the theology is never faraway. Paul's first instruction here, about speaking truthfully, is: 'for we are members of one another' (25).

Later, still on the theme of speaking, Paul wants wholesome, edifying talk to come out of the Ephesians' mouths 'so that your words may give grace to those who hear' (29).

In 30 the Holy Spirit is invoked and in 32 being forgiving is 'as God in Christ has forgiven you.'

In the end, the whole living of a holy Christian life (including verses not mentioned above, 26-28, 31) is imitative of God (5:1) and summed up - as elsewhere in Scripture with 'live in love' (5:2).

Love here being the love with which 'Christ loved us and gave himself up for us' (2). We also meet this language of giving himself up for us in the gospel reading.

John 6:35, 41-51

You have got to feel for Jesus. The people who want to make him king are always complaining (41).
But their complaint is rational. They know Jesus as an ordinary human being, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?' (42). So how dare he say 'I am the bread that came down from heaven'? (41, 42).

Jesus says that they should not complain among themselves (43). As complainers, they are rather like their ancestors in the wilderness who complained about the lack of food and then complained about the lack of variety in the food (Exodus 16:2; Number 11:1). So Jesus saying that they are not to complain is to attempt to steer them out of the tradition of grumbling against God.

If they grumble against God, might God refuse to draw them to himself? (44a) If they are not drawn by God to him, they will not be raised up on the last day (44b). What is at stake is not what Jesus is daring to say but what Jesus is offering, which they might miss out on.

In what Jesus' says, there is a strong sense of the initiative of God in salvation. This continues in verse 45 when Jesus quotes Isaiah 54:13 and interprets this as 'Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.' Implicitly this is critical of his hearers: as Israelites, they should know the Father, but their attitude to Jesus suggests they do not.

Yet Jesus himself is the key to knowledge of the Father since he has come from God (46). With this stated, Jesus can return to a recurring theme in his discourse, 'whoever believes has eternal life' (47, cf. 29, 35, 40, 50, 54, 58, 68). When the Israelites ate the manna, they died (49). But the bread of life (48) is 'the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die' (50).

All of this teaching is summed up in v. 51: Jesus is the living bread that comes down from heaven, whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread for the life of the world is Jesus' flesh.

Here Jesus' connects his coming to earth from heaven with his death. It is not his coming per se which makes him the life-giving bread but the giving up of his flesh for the life of the world.

With this statement we have to reckon with Jesus not generally talking about himself as the bread of life but specifically talking about himself as the eucharistic bread of life and thus John is offering to his readers his understanding of the eucharist: Jesus' body is the bread (compare with the Synoptic gospel accounts of the last supper: the bread which Jesus breaks is his body).

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