Prayers of Approach
Lord God, you have the bread of life for the hungry and living water for the thirsty. We come hungry and thirsty for your word, with a desire to know your will and to love with your unconditional love. Help us to be fed and to learn from you.
Bread of life, complete sustainer and provider of all that we need, we come to you now – seeking you, believing and trusting – so that we may never hunger and thirst again. Amen.
Limitless God, thank you that we cannot contain you, that you are unfathomable and always up to something! We worship and adore you. Just when we think we have worked it all out, you surprise us! Gracious God, we are truly blessed by you. Thank you, that as we bow down humbly at your throne, we know that only you can satisfy our needs. Praise you, Lord God. Amen.
Hymn: To God be the glory (R&S 289)
Readings: 1 Kings 19:4-8
John 6:35, 41-51
Elijah, after having triumphed over the priests of Baal, is on the run, afraid for his life as Jezebel is out for revenge. As he collapses under a tree, ready to die, we read of another desert feeding when he is woken by an angel, given bread and told to eat. The food gives him energy for a forty day journey to Horeb where he will meet with God. It is another instance of God providing bread for his people, with echoes of the exodus, and anticipation of Isaiah’s prophesies of restoration, and it resonates with what Jesus has to say about the bread from heaven and the ‘bread of life’.
Hymn: Jesus the Lord says, ‘I am the bread’ (R&S 199)
Can you solve these anagrams and work out what connects them? Cier; satap; nocaim; lusesp; attopseo; azemi; abder; eralesc; (answers at bottom of next page). Actually I’ll make it a bit easier and tell you the connection now – they are all staple food items in various places and cultures around the world. They are foods which would have been considered essential in sustaining life in those places.
In the Gospel reading today we find Jesus continuing a discussion about what is essential for life and comparing God’s feeding of his people in the wilderness with his provision for them now. He describes himself as the ‘bread of life’ a claim which causes much muttering, complaining and consternation among the crowds, and especially the Jewish leaders. There is a very real sense of disbelief that the son of a carpenter could do anything other than follow the family trade, and certainly not talk about having come from heaven. As he explains his claim and compares himself to the bread their ancestors ate in the desert he tests the very limits of their thinking. And for many it is just unbelievable.
The discussion reminds me of a programme on Radio 4 called ‘The Unbelievable Truth’. Four panellists in turn each have to give a short lecture which is totally untrue except for 5 ‘unbelievable’ facts. The other panellists have to try to identify these five truths and win a point for every truth they correctly identify but lose points if they identify a lie as true. Various ‘lectures’ might include statements such as – ‘slugs have 4 noses’, or give a list such as ‘species of bee include carpenter, digger, leafcutter, mining and mason bee’, from which you would have to pick the correct one (actually they are all genuine species of bee, and slugs do have 4 noses!).
Jesus proclaims ‘unbelievable truths’ but we don’t have to try to pick out what is true from what isn’t because, like our bee species they are all true. However, Jesus’ assertion that he came from heaven, that he is the bread from heaven, the living bread, the bread of life, and that the bread which he gives is his flesh is just too big a leap of faith for the crowds to take. So much of what Jesus said and did went against what they thought they knew and what history and tradition taught them that they couldn’t even begin to accept the truth of who Jesus says he is, and they are further constrained by what they think they know about Jesus himself – the local boy, son of the carpenter.
All of this prevents them from accepting his words,
‘Whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,’ and ‘I am telling you the truth: whoever believes has eternal life.’ This eternal life moreover is not something that is to come, not something in the distant future, after death, it is in the present, here and now – ‘whoever believes has eternal life.’ For the crowds listening to Jesus this was something radical and new. It was an enormous challenge. If we had been there how might we have responded? How do we respond to Jesus’ promises and his challenges to us today?
Hymn: I want to walk with Jesus Christ (R&S 367)
Prayers of thanksgiving and Intercession
We thank and praise you, Lord God, that despite our assumptions and judgements and the way we sometimes treat others, you never stop loving us. Bread of life, you are always with us. We praise you that as we draw near to you, you quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger, so that we never need hunger or thirst again. Thank you that you equip us and resource us with everything we need for this journey of life. We thank and praise you, Lord God. Amen.
Lord God, there are so many people who need the difference in their lives that only you can bring. Lord, sometimes we feel so useless when faced with all the needs of our world. We forget the important part we play just by opening our lives to you, praying to you, and being your hands and feet. We pray today for our families, our friends, our peers, our teachers. Help us to share through our prayer and through our care. We pray for everyone who has helped us grow closer to you; for our church family, and our ministers. Help us to share… We pray for our community, the world in which we live and work and have our being. Help us to share… We pray for people who feel they have nothing to share, nothing even to live for; the homeless, prisoners, people at the end of relationships, the sick and those who mourn. Help us to share through our prayer and through our care. Amen.
Hymn: Will you come and follow me (R&S 558)
We thank you, Lord, for believing in us and for giving us all we need to do your work, even when others may tell us we are ‘only’. As we go through this week may we be adverts for you, so that others can see that you also believe in them.
And may your blessing rest on us and flow through us. Amen.
Prayers and other material adapted © ROOTs for Churches Ltd. Used by permission.
Anagram answers:- rice; pasta; manioc; pulses; potatoes; maize; bread; cereals.