The Baking Of The Bread
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” 28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
The Bread of Life by Hermel Alejandre, 2011
There are those who have nothing to prove their age
except the number of their years;
And there are those who prefer to show how they got ahead.
Whether it is about survival or ambition,
the true ingredients to life
are in the baking of the bread.
Once, there was a priest who attended a men's breakfast in the middle of a rural farming area of the country. The group asked an older farmer, decked out in bib overalls, to say grace for the morning breakfast. Everyone removed their caps, bowed their heads in silence and closed their eyes. "Lord, I hate buttermilk", the farmer began. The priest opened one eye to glance at the farmer and wonder where this was going. The farmer loudly proclaimed, "Lord, I hate lard." Now the priest was growing concerned. Without missing a beat, the farmer continued, "And Lord, you know I don't much care for raw, white flour." The priest once again opened an eye to glance around the room and saw that he wasn't the only one feeling uncomfortable. Then the farmer added, "But Lord, when you mix them all together and bake them, I do love warm fresh biscuits. So Lord, when things come up that we don't like, when life gets hard, when we don't understand what you're saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be even better than biscuits. Amen."
There is a popular hymn that refers to the hunger we all share for knowing our purpose in life. It is called, “I am the bread of life.” And the lyrics get right to the batter. “They who come to me shall not hunger and they who believe in me shall not thirst.” As we all know, things come up that we don’t like. Life gets hard when we don’t understand God’s will. We all find it hard to relax and wait.
Many will get caught up in the purpose driven life, in an attempt to prove how they did so. They are either survivors by age or creators by their drive. We see this in many churches today, whether in the big city or out on the farmland. People who come together thinking that life is about holding on to a tradition or growing beyond into something new. The ingredients sometimes do not appear to agree, like buttermilk, lard and flour, but when baked together, they can be mighty good.
We follow the story of King David once again today. A shepherd boy who had no future course other than survival was now in a position of power to which was to be his finest hour. What did he do with it? He committed the sin of adultery. His hunger and thirst for temptation became great and he sinned. It also cost another his life, Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. The prophet Nathan, successor to Samuel, confronted David with the story of the rich man with a large flock of sheep, who stole the only sheep from the poor man. “He deserves death,” said David. “That man is you,” replied Nathan. David took an important ingredient out of the bowl and ruined the bread.
How many woke the next morning on the shore where Jesus miraculously fed them all, wondering where he had gone. They had a taste of the loaves and fishes that was remarkable. They wanted more. Many got in their boats and they oared and sailed to Capernaum, where they found him and the disciples. “We want more!” What was it? Jesus said they got their fill of bread, but that would not last unless they were able to use the ingredients he gave them to bake it themselves. The Bible said many were healed. They may have believed that if they ate the bread that Jesus gave them, if he were to touch them, then that physical, direct contact would heal and feed them further. It would help them survive. It would possibly help them get ahead. Do you see what is happening here? People grasping solely on the outward and visible signs as expressions of their purpose. The reception of God’s virtues is meaningless without the expression of God’s virtues. That is what the stoic philosopher would say. Our hunger and thirst are satisfied by not only receiving but giving.
The ingredients are the virtues of fortitude, perseverance and charity. Alone, they do not constitute the full offering God makes today. Together, baked in the heat of sacrifice, they become united as one body. St. Paul emphasizes this mixture. He says, we are, “called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”  If coming to church and worshiping God is about adding the ingredients, afterwards, our common fellowship is about the baking. Many churches are trying to prove their purpose, through what? The number of years they keep their traditions? The number of people they have, the amount of money they have, or how many programs they offer?
May we all pray for God’s help in the things we may not like, but we should pray that Christ remains at the head. After all, there is more to life than survival or ambition, it is about the baking of the bread.
 Seneca the Younger, Roman stoic philosopher, Minor Dialogues, IX.8
 The Rev. Jon Roberts
 Suzanne Toolan, “I am the bread of life,” 1982 Hymnal, #335.
 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13
 John 6:24-35
 Ephesians 4:1-16