February 11, 2005

Spiritual Nourishment

Jesus notices that the crowd gathered before him had nothing to eat. He teases Phillip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" though this wasn't a serious question, he said it to test Phillip. Jesus had a different kind of food in mind. What did the crowd hunger for? I believe they, as all humans do to some degree, hungered for spiritual nourishment. And Jesus was able to nourish this huge crowd with very little tangible offering. Indeed, everyone received as much as they wanted.

When we share spiritual nourishment, just as we are doing here, the six of us could feed multitudes. Indeed, what does it matter if it were 5,000 or 10,000? Even if we were just two people, with only two fish (spiritual offerings), we could still share this sustenance with a multitude of people. Without spiritual nourishment, we would all be hungry. Genuine, heartfelt sharing, even if just a small amount, is nourishing. That we do this for one another, and that we offer it to others, is a spiritual gift, and it matters. In this kind of sharing, nothing is wasted.

John goes on from this passage to the “I am” statements attributed to Jesus: (35) “I am the bread of life,” and “ the bread of God …that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” As God fed the Israelites with manna from heaven as they journeyed through the wilderness, Jesus provides bread in the wilderness. The manna, however, did not give life – but what Jesus gave is the “true bread” or "living bread." It could be said that Jesus was/is this bread, and that people consume him, as in take him in to be spiritually nourished. What Jesus provides the multitudes is this living “bread,” as in his living word, providing real and true nourishment.

Jesus will later say, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never be hungry.” “And whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (35)

How beautiful this is – that Jesus’ essential truth is satiating to the multitudes who hunger and thirst for God. Eating and drinking of him this way is to become one with him. What is also so lasting about this rich story is that is as true for the time it was written as it is for us today. We are these masses who are nourished, we are also participating in the sharing of this spiritual nourishment.


At 8:34 a.m., Blogger Larry said...

This is beautiful and exquisitely meaningful. The entire chapter is about the two kinds of bread. The people continually think in terms of physical bread while Jesus constantly talks in terms of spiritual bread. Eventually he will tell them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to see God, and many of them turn away.

Like those people of his day, interested in physical bread, we have only an attentuated spiritual consciousness and awareness of the true import of his deeds and actions.

But Meredith is right: we are providing the bread of heaven to one another, and God could use our efforts to feed the world.

At 12:14 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

Meredith, I echo Larry here -- your post was beautiful and its so nice to take a moment and think about what we are really doing here, sustaining ourselves and maybe others in spiritual community.

An administrative aside -- blogger has an interesting new comment field. Its nice that I can now see both the post and any comments. It was a bit frustrating before when I couldn't see the other comments.

At 1:11 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

Hi Meredith. Spiritual nourishment - great post :-). It's interesting too how Jesus seems to be compared to Moses - Moses brought (from God) manna, physical bread, but Jesus is bread, the bread of life himself.

At 8:43 p.m., Blogger david said...

Although I usually resist spiritualizing a passage I think this particular story practically begs us to do so and Meredith has pointed an important spirituals ense of this story.

Barclay used to say Quakers could bear witness to the scriptures being fulfilled within them. And something like that is happening here (I hope).


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