Becoming Bread – Open your Hands

  • 2 Kings 4:42-44 – Share bread for others to eat and have some left
  • Psalm 145:10-18 – “You open your hand and satisfy desire”
  • John 6:1-21 – Jesus feeds the 5000 with bread and fish

2 Kings 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to [Elisha], the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, “Give it to the people and let them eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” So he repeated, “Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the Lord , ‘They shall eat and have some left.'” He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord .

God of abundant bread

“Give them bread and let them eat…..They ate and had some left.”

God provides abundantly! God’s abundance embraces and embodies all dimensions of life. The question of biblical faith is: Will we receive and share the gift and grace of God’s abundance with thanksgiving?

That in summary is what our worship today and this fall offers us. It is a call to us that we “Become bread.” God’s abundance is the “Bread of Life.” When we receive bread and break bread we “become bread” for the world with Jesus who is the “bread of life.”

Eat bread and have some left – 2 Kings 4:42-44

The second book of Kings tells us that when Elisha was being prepared to succeed Elijah as a prophet of Israel, the two crossed over the Jordan River alone. The old prophet Elijah asked the young prophet-to-be Elisha a last question: “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you?” Elisha made a hard request, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit” Elijah gulped and said, “You have asked a hard thing.” You can read this fascinating story in Second Kings chapter 2 that leads to the story we heard today.

Elisha received a double blessing of the spirit from God and literally and figuratively “picked up the mantle of Elijah” (2:13) and took his prophetic place in Israel’s history.

The story continues with God providing through Elisha’s miracles. In chapter 4, Elisha participates with God in four miracles:

  1. A widow owes a debt she cannot repay because her husband died and the creditor wants her two children as slaves in payment. Elisha miraculously multiplies her last drops of cooking oil to fill many jars which she sells, pays off her debt and has some left over to cook with again.
  2. A barren woman, who longed for a son, built a guest room for Elisha so he had a place to stay whenever he passed that way. In her generous hospitality she bore the son she longed. Tragically the boy died but Elisha miraculously brought him back to life.
  3. A group of prophets met with Elisha when there was a famine in the land. Elisha instructed one prophet to make some stew for all of them. The prophet made stew with wild herbs and vines but tasted horrible and was poisonous. The prophets protested, “There is death in this pot.” Elisha threw some flour into the pot and lo and behold they could eat it.
  4. In the fourth miracle we heard earlier, a servant generously brought “20 loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain” for Elisha. As hungry as Elisha was, he tells the servant to give to the people. The servant protests that this isn’t enough food for a hundred hungry people. Elisha repeats his instruction to give it to the people and quotes scripture: “They will eat and have some left.” So the servant did and they ate and had some left……just as we have had here in worship.

Jesus feeds 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish – John 6:1-21

Years later Jesus repeats Elisha’s instruction to share the food and let them eat. And “they eat and have some left.”

When Jesus begins ministry, according to John’s gospel, many hungry people flock to hear him and see great signs and wonders. Here they were a large crowd listening to Jesus by the Sea of Galilee. It was absurd to think that a little boy’s meager loaves and fishes could feed this crowd of hungry people. To add to the absurdity, the boy’s 5 loaves were barley rather than the more nourishing wheat loaves. Already we see echoes of the Elisha story.

But Jesus would not let the absurd stop God’s abundance. Jesus did 3 things to feed the hungry in the face of the absurd (v 11):

  • he took or “received” the bread,
  • he “gave thanks” for the bread…”thanksgiving” is the meaning of Eucharist ,
  • and he “distributed” the bread to the people.

“Receiving” and “giving” embracing “thanksgiving” becomes “the way” disciples are to respond to Jesus: to receive, to give thanks, and to share the bread of life. As chapter 6 of John’s Gospel unfold with Jesus this form takes on full rich meaning. It is a eucharistic gospel moment where hungry people eat and have some left. (Wes Howard-Brook, Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Dcsipleship , p. 145.)

As we prepared this first worship in this “Becoming Bread” series, Pat reminded me that no matter how we hear these biblical stories something miraculous is taking place and God is providing food for hungry people. Both Elisha and Jesus help the crowd share the little bread that they have and it becomes abundance for everyone to eat with some left over.

Again we ask: Do we believe in the miracle of God’s abundance? Do these miracles convince us that God is a God if miraculous abundance?

Bridgefolk Breaking Bread!

We experienced a peculiar form of the miracle of God’s abundance with bread early this summer at the Mennonite Catholic Bridgefolk gathering at Saint John’s Abbey. Our theme was about making peace at the table. Something happens when we gather around the table and break bread together in Christ’s name. This can happen around the table in our home or in the community or in the world. Jesus invites us to the table to make it happen around the Lord’s Table.

On Saturday afternoon after two days of sharing stories of making peace around our home tables and community tables and global tables, we had spent that day sharing how we as Catholics and we as Mennonites come to the Lord’s Table separately and differently and have not experienced God’s abundance together. We can make peace in every other way except at the one table of the ultimate blessing, breaking, receiving and becoming bread, right here at the Lord’s Table.

At the end that afternoon we gladly gathered around a table of ice cream and shared a joyful abundance. We had planned to join an early evening mass in a parish nearby and return for our evening session which was part of a 150 th anniversary celebration of Saint John’s Abbey. By that time we realized there wasn’t enough time to do all that before the evening session. So we canceled going to the nearby mass together.

Then God took over and before we knew it we were invited to a small beautiful chapel to break bread at the Lord’s Table. This Eucharist was lead by the Abbot and the music was led by a Mennonite all out of our new Mennonite songbook Sing the Journey ! It was the first true Mennonite Catholic communion in nearly 5 centuries of a divided church.

We could never have planned it. We could never have imagined it. We simply shared the bread and ate and there was some left.

Pat and others were talking with the Abbot after this communion. The Abbot himself asked, “How did this happen?” But we knew. It was a spirit-filled miracle of sharing bread at God’s invitation and from God’s abundance. It was a miraculous Eucharistic moment.

Receiving Bread in Abundance from God

Bread is a staple of life. Bread is sustenance for life. The simple everyday act of breaking bread invites us to remember and celebrate God’s goodness.

“The most common biblical image is food. God gives all living creatures their food; God feeds the church at the eucharist; Christ is called bread; feeding the hungry is a fundamental description of the Christian life. The Bible describes God’s beneficence as feast, God’s displeasure as famine, and our penitence as fasting. The church is called to actualize the image of bread in both its liturgy and its daily life” (Gail Ramshaw, Treasure Old and New: Images in the Lectionary (Augsburg Fortress, 2002), p. 179. Quoted by Karmen Krahn & Marlene Kropf, “Becoming Bread” worship resource, Leader, Summer 2006, p. 25).

“As we break bread together, we receive and enter into the life of the body of Christ, and we become bread for the world. Through this giving and receiving, we share our faith, our lives, and our resources with all whom God loves” (Krahn & Kropf, p. 25).

Here in this worship we come face-to-face with God in the bread – the bread that Susan made and shared, the bread of God’s Word, and the bread of being the body of Christ. We become the bread that we share and eat as we will each Sunday in this worship series.

We eat, we give thanks and there is much left to share. We are “Becoming Bread” with Jesus for the world.