John Emmett – 26 July 2015
There is this thing about fresh bread…
the look of a freshly baked, glistening golden brown crust,
inviting warmth of a spongy interior,
smell of the baked flour and egg wash,
sound of gently cracking seeds,
promise of a soft, cloud like texture.
My favorite bread memory
is of first right to the kissing crust.
That’s the freshly exposed soft inner ends
That occurs when a loaf is broken in the middle.
Cut a thick slice.
Add fresh strawberry jam…
And always, beyond the immediate sensation
Of that taste bomb,
the promise of hunger well satisfied.
So ordinary, we take it for granted.
So basic, we eagerly add tasty butter and jam.
Easy to overlook in favour of more tasty, filling or exotic food.
No.. look beyond
for something more satisfying…
Mark’s symbol to represent the good news for Israel
Indicated by the feeding 5000. and all other nations
indicated by feeding 4000.
John loads his bread symbolism even further.
Where Mark uses bread as a symbol of God’s ‘good news,’
John identifies Jesus himself as the bread of life.
He makes Jesus the embodiment of God’s good news
Where Mark applies his symbol of bread to Israel and all other nations…
John applies his bread metaphor to Jesus’ impact universally on all creation.
Both Mark and John adopt bread as a symbol because they want to point those who hear or read their stories beyond the symbol used.
Beyond the bread… For Mark it’s about seeing Good news contrasted to Caesar’s propaganda of the benefits of life under an occupation force.
Mark’s bread invokes images of God’s daily supply
of manna for dessert journeying Hebrews.
Jesus is portrayed as a Shepherd King,
bringing desert military discipline to social organization, providing abundant food, and attending to the leftovers.
Beyond the bread for John
is about seeing who Jesus really is – more than a prophet, such as Elisha;
more than a King, such as David.
John’s challenge is to see beyond bread
to recognize Jesus as God’s Word,
And today, John continues to challenge us to see beyond stories, symbols, strange ancient words to see beyond the mythology, beyond propaganda of every age…
To see beyond the feast,
beyond the bread,
to behold the Holy One.
To enter into the truth
that God, in Christ changes lives.
That God, through Jesus,
accomplishes reconciliation, restoration and renewal
in the lives of those who see beyond and allow themselves to be re-born.
The journey of a disciple begins in such a rebirth!
Mark’s Jesus shows us how to live
how to establish ourselves,
unconstrained by expectations,
alive and responsive to our calling to God’s mission.
John’s Jesus invites us to embrace a spirituality
beyond the limitations of human existence,
immersing us into the very life of God.
Mark – how to live an authentic life.
John –journey into the source of life.
So, what does seeing beyond the bread
look like in everyday life?
If we listen carefully,
We might hear John saying something such as:
“signs are easy to see,
but seeing beyond the sign to the which the sign points
is much harder”.
Those who participated in the bread story would have found it difficult to see beyond the meal they ate.
That’s why they began to talk about
Grabbing Jesus and crowning him King.
RS Thomas’ poem The Bright Field would remind them, and us that
‘Life is not hurrying into a receding future
nor hankering after an imagined past.
It is the turning aside like Moses
to the miracle of the lit bush.‘
We are disciples of Christ.
Our disposition as disciples
is critical to seeing beyond the bread.
To see beyond takes disciplines, requires practice.
Christian practices addressing
and nourishing our disposition
are well known – prayer, meditation and contemplation.
Ephesians 3:1-21 helps us to see something of these practices through a prayer of tumbling phrases and petitions
that ends in an exclamation of God’s glory.
It is a pattern prayer for us today.
Observe it’s petitions:
God’s life overflowing through you,
receiving ‘new steel’ into every fibre of your being,
grounded firmly in Christ life and love,
recognizing the universe of God’s mysteries
intimately acquainted with the love of Christ,
and pumped full with the rich, vibrant life of God
Christian practices of prayer, mediation and contemplation
help us to attend to God and notice our context in ways that everyday activities do not.
These practices help us to see what is not yet real as if it is real. and to live into that different reality.
Or as Hebrews states:
“Now faith is the assurance
that what we hope for will come about
and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.”
Prayer is that ‘seeing beyond’ practice
whereby we seek to faithfully align
our minds with the heart and mind of God…
Ephesians 3:19ff reminds us the result of prayer is not information or knowledge, but love,
And love which flows from God through Christ.
Prayer is the practice through which we get to know God.
And ultimately, we praise the God we get know.
God, who is community,
Listens as we speak…
Speaks and invites our listening.
God, who is mission,
receives our deepest imploring,
calling and sending us to be God’s agents of change.
Contemplation enables us to imagine beyond our context, culture and circumstances.
It’s a form of ‘mental prayer’.
Seeing beyond with God.
Referring to the ‘riches of his glory’,
Ephesians 3:16 notes that it is our inner self, our inner life that is connected and communicating with God.
This is what contemplation is about.
The discipline is to remain with images other than words.
Contemplation is about gazing with your inner eye and is often called the prayer of the heart; prayer that comes before church and action.
When yearning for social change,
contemplation takes us ‘beyond the bread’.
Informed by the gospel, and aware of God’s love, explore with your imagination, scenes that reveal the reality of the changes you and others yearn for…
As each scene comes to mind, and you are lifted up into the reality of it notice who is included, what is happening, the quality of relationships and where you are in this scene, what you are doing…
Be aware of your emotions.
Be aware of the presence of God.
Coming away from the contemplation, hold onto the scene, God’s presence and your part in it.
Ask your self: What is God saying to me? How then will I act?
Meditation enables us to focus our thoughts on the love of God, revealed in creation and supremely in Jesus.
In Meditation we explore the meaning of this love for the whole creation
in our everyday existence.
In meditation we use words, ideas and associations of both
as they are brought to mind
to know God in everyday experience.
Ephesians 3:14-21 has reminded us that God has a way of exercising authority
Different to and even very much at odds with the powers of our times.
In meditation, our goal is through God’s grace,
to experience ever deeper union with Jesus,
the incarnate Word of God,
Ephesians 3:16-17 suggests that we know God’s presence, influencing and impacting people
As the Spirit,
Christ amongst us,
In, but also beyond the bread.
God is present
Coming away from meditation,
Be aware of being repositioned by the practice. Attend to the differences you now notice and are called into for the sake of God’s mission in the world.
And that mission is the beyond to which God calls and sends us…
So, now to a little heart warming
Beyond the bread…