Bread of Life
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life..."
John 6:35, 41-51
August 8, 2021, Words By: Margartia Solis-Deal, Image By: Philadelphia Mural Arts, the Viaduct
“300 murders in 196 days: Philadelphia mourns a grim milestone.” That was a recent headline in my city. It’s no surprise that we often respond in fear to this kind of news. When statistics about violence increase, we have a tendency to turn inward, viewing others suspiciously and tightening our grip on everything around us. At the same time, this kind of news also amplifies the hunger for peace in our own families, our communities, and in our cities.
In this week’s lectionary text, Jesus provides a different kind of headline: “I am the Bread of Life.” The message is clearly incarnational and seems positive. Yet, many who heard it reacted with fear and doubt, as if it were grim news.
Why would the power of His incarnational presence cause the type of reaction we find in verse 42? “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’”
Fear, it appears, has just as much to do with our own disposition as it does with the message itself. The headline of 300 murders solicited a fear of destruction and violence. Jesus’ headline of a new, albeit very diiferent kind of life, released a fear of change among those listening: a fear of letting go of beliefs that bound them, a fear of what might happen if the way of Jesus really was true.
However, there is an intersection between these two headlines. Can we see? In the center, fear meets the power of incarnation, and we find the place where transformation is possible — where we can move from fear to freedom.
I am new to Philadelphia. The busy streets, city landscape, local accent, and the Philly cheesesteaks are all foreign to me. At times, it is hard to find solid ground; everything seems transitory.
I have been given the opportunity to direct a retreat center located in the northeast side. As I read the daily headlines in my new city, fear tries to capture me. I am hungry for peace even as I allow fear to be my daily companion.
Like many retreat centers across the United States, the center where I work closed its physical doors at the onset of the pandemic. We are gently reopening them now. As the community returns, they do so with masks and social distance between them.
Yet they come with a desire to reconnect, to gather, and to share with each other the ways they can impact the communities in which they live and serve. They come to the center, in part, because it’s a place of refuge and a symbol of peace in the community.
When I read this week’s text, I too feel like those who heard the message of life-giving bread for the first time. I want so much to hang on to the old, to return to the familiar. Fear takes hold and its grip clouds my vision.
Yet I try to find the intersection between the headlines; the place where the Incarnation meets my fear. And even as I stumble, my community returns to the retreat center and shows me how the Holy Spirit continues her work of moving us from fear to freedom. Fear starts to lose its grip as I witness the community’s fervor. The headline is true: “Jesus is the Bread of Life.” This is indeed Good News.
Dwelling Among Us
This week, you are invited to read the daily news with the Good News that Jesus is the Bread of LIfe. As you read, look for the intersection of these two headlines. Rest there and in God’s perfect timing, move with the guidance of the Incarnation that moves us from fear to freedom.