Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
Apparently not satisfied by Jesus’ feeding of thousands, some who were there press him for a sign of his power; perhaps it is daily manna they want. As always in John’s gospel when people want a sign, Jesus offers himself. He is the bread come from heaven to give life to the world. He calls us to come to him and believe in him, and through that relationship to know the one who sent him.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity,☩ one God,
the God of manna,
the God of miracles,
the God of mercy.
Drawn to Christ and seeking God’s abundance,
let us confess our sin.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God, our provider,
It is hard to believe there is enough to share.
We question your ways when they differ from the ways
of the world in which we live.
We turn to our own understanding
rather than trusting in you.
We take offense at your teachings and your ways.
Turn us again to you.
Where else can we turn?
Share with us the words of eternal life
and feed us for life in the world.
Beloved people of God:
in Jesus, the manna from heaven,
you are fed and nourished.
By Jesus, the worker of miracles,
there is always more than enough.
Through Jesus, ☩ the bread of life,
you are shown God’s mercy:
you are forgiven and loved into abundant life.
Prayer of the Day
O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
A food crisis becomes a faith crisis for the Israelites in the wilderness. The hungry people forget God’s saving work in the exodus, and they wish for the food they had in Egypt. Nevertheless, God miraculously meets their needs, with manna for bread and quail for meat.
2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.”
9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” 10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12“I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”
13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”
Psalm: Psalm 78:23-29
God rained down manna from heaven; so mortals ate the bread of angels. (Ps. 78:24, 25)
23So God commanded the clouds above
and opened the doors of heaven,
24raining down manna upon them to eat
and giving them grain from heaven.
25So mortals ate the bread of angels;
God provided for them food enough.
26The Lord caused the east wind to blow in the heavens
and powerfully led out the south wind,
27raining down flesh upon them like dust
and flying birds like the sand of the seas,
28letting them fall in the midst of the camp
and round about the dwellings.
29So the people ate and were well filled,
for God gave them what they craved.
Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16
Christians share fundamental unity and diversity. Our unity consists in the one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. Our diversity is expressed in various forms of ministry whose goal is equipping the saints and building up Christ’s one body.
1I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.”
9(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Alleluia. One does not live by bread alone,* but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Alleluia. (Matt. 4:4)
Gospel: John 6:24-35
Many of the five thousand people Jesus fed in the wilderness continued to follow him throughout the countryside. Jesus challenges them to consider the real nature of their quest.
24When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were [beside the sea,] they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
How often does Jesus turn our expectations on their heads? There were those during the time He walked this earth in human form, who thought the Messiah was going to be a military leader who would free them from Roman rule. Some thought He’d be an earthly king in the style of David and be the head of a government. In today’s Gospel, the crowds came looking for Him because He had fed them with the loaves and fishes from last week’s readings. Jesus recognizes this and tells them to “not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life”. Jesus did not come into the world so that he could give us regular bread, but rather to be the bread of life which will nourish us for all eternity. The manna that God gave to the Israelites in the desert was meant to sustain their earthly bodies, something that eventually passes away. The bread of life that is Jesus Christ is not meant to sustain us just in this lifetime, but for our eternal life with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven.
Our celebration of Holy Communion is meant to remind us of this fact. The bread that we eat is the body of Christ and the wine we drink is his blood. Both are intended to nourish not just our earthly bodies, but our spirits as well. I tend to prefer celebrating communion at the rail, where we receive the elements separately and physically experience them as two distinct parts of the whole. That’s not to say, however, that communing by intinction is any less fulfilling, spiritually.
In these earthly bodies, we need our daily bread, or to put it another way, we need to eat. This is a desire that isn’t really that hard to fulfill. We do this as part of our Church’s mission all the time. We have a weekly collection of food that is distributed to those less fortunate than ourselves. We also help to supply them with some of the other necessities of life, including school supplies. And while helping our neighbors is important, that is not all that we are sent into the world to do. Our mission to care for others should also include caring for their immortal souls. We are meant to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. God cares about these bodies, which He has given to us. He knows our needs for them, and Jesus is well aware that our bodies need food, but He wants to shift our focus away from these desires to have a focus on the things that are eternal. When this life is over, we will have a new life with Him. In this new life, we will have no need for the types of food and drink that we need now. Jesus came into this world not to satisfy our physical desires, but to show us how to do those things which can be done here in service of Him. Things like treasuring Him, loving Him, following Him, living for Him, rejoicing in Him and making Him the focus of all we do.
In last week’s Gospel, Jesus fed the crowds with just five loaves of bread and a few fishes. The fact that He was able to do this was a sign of His divinity, which should have drawn the people to Him as the Son of God. Instead, the people saw Him as a source of food. This must have frustrated Him because they saw Him as useful in satisfying their need for food and not someone to be treasured. When I worked at the prison, I taught a class called victim awareness. The idea was to have the offenders develop a sense of empathy for those whom they had hurt in one way or another. This class included sections on things like murder victims, violence against women, sexual violence and drunk driving. There was even a section on how their families had been hurt by their crimes and ultimate incarceration. Some of the offenders took this message to heart. I could see that there were others that didn’t. They took the class in order to satisfy a programming requirement, or to get time off their sentence. The final project in this class was to write a letter of apology to their victims. From the content of these letters, it wasn’t too hard to see who took the message seriously and who was there just to satisfy some other need. I always felt as though the few guys I reached in this class made it worthwhile to teach. When I did reach someone, it was very satisfying to me. When I didn’t, it wasn’t because I had failed. It was because the offender was just not receptive to what was being offered. It’s like that for us too. We can be receptive of what Jesus is trying to teach us or we can view Him as a source of something to fill a need in our lives. May we all reach for what Jesus is offering to us.
Prayers of Intercession
Rooted in Christ and sustained by the Spirit, we offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all of creation.
A brief silence.
You call your church to be the body of Christ. Bless Daniel & Elizabeth, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor. Awaken all the baptized to the gifts you provide for carrying out the work of ministry. Where the church is divided, knit us together and restore the unity of the faith. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You command the clouds above and cause the wind to blow in the heavens. Watch over deserts and wilderness places. Regenerate rain forests, defend species at risk of extinction, and strengthen the work of conservation organizations, especially groups like the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You summon leaders to respond to the needs of your people. Instill those who govern with patience when confronted with grievances and perseverance in seeking what promotes the well-being of the community and Your world at large. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You draw near to those who cry out for help. Feed those who are hungry, reassure those who are despairing, and accompany those who are imprisoned. Rain down the true bread from heaven that gives life to the world. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
You receive all who come seeking a sign of grace. Make this congregation a place of hospitality for those accustomed to rejection. To those who have felt excluded here or elsewhere, prepare us to welcome them in the name of Christ. Bless the work of our call committee. Guide them in the calling of a new pastor who will help us in our efforts to become a welcoming community. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
Watch over Pastor Howard as he is away from us on vacation. Grant him rest as he seeks a respite from the struggles of daily life and return him to us safely and well rested. Hear us. O God.
Your mercy is great.
You provide food that endures for eternal life. Sustain us each day with the bread of life until we are gathered with all the saints and feast together at your heavenly banquet. Hear us, O God.
Your mercy is great.
We lift these and all our prayers to you, O God, confident in the promise of your saving love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The blessing of God,
who provides for us, feeds us, and journeys with us,
☩ be upon you now and forever.
Go in peace. Share the good news of Christ.
Bless the world by being God’s grace.
Thanks be to God.