Letter to parishioners, 30 July 2021

Friday, 30 July 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

In this week’s bible readings we will here Jesus say: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. These powerful words come at the end of an exchange in which Jesus is challenged to provide some sort of sign as a way of proving that he was really from God. To put this demand for proof into its wider context, Jesus had just fed five thousand people from five barley loaves and two fish, and he had just walked on the Sea of Galilee. Despite these miraculous events, people still demanded proof that Jesus was someone worth following. Before declaring himself to be the bread of life, Jesus had been asked: What must we do to perform the works of God? A question to which he replied: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent, that is Jesus himself.

As members of Christ’s Church we may well think it obvious that belief in Jesus is a core feature of true discipleship. Sadly, that is not always the case. Too often we are among that crowd demanding another level of proof; demanding that Jesus does something else that will increase our ‘certainty’ in his divinity. This level of human scepticism is not new. The human capacity for doubt has been part of our persona since the beginning of time. It is because of that doubt, that uncertainty and that scepticism that God came to earth to share in the human condition and to bring his forgiveness and salvation into our lives: to feed and sustain us for ever.

As well as hearing the gospel account of Jesus’ declaration that he is the only true food that will sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage, on Sunday we will also hear of God’s giving of his manna to feed the Israelites who were fleeing Egyptian oppression. We will also hear of Paul’s advice to the people of Ephesus. In our reading from the book of Exodus, we read of the Israelites lamenting the fact that they had been rescued from Egypt because they were no longer being given their food without some sort of personal effort and commitment. They complained against Moses and Aaron. In turn Moses took their need to God who answered their prayers with divine food: manna from heaven. This is a parallel situation to the account we will hear from John’s gospel. The people were in need of food, God provided that food, but then they questioned that which was unfamiliar and miraculous.

In our reading from the letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges us all to lead a life worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called. He urges us to set aside our scepticism, cynicism, doubt, uncertainty and desire for our own way in all things, and to live a life that is full of 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.

Of course, Paul’s prescription is not an easy one to swallow. We like to be ‘in control’; we like to believe in our own abilities and judgement; we like to dominate those around us. However, it is the list of qualities we are offered by Paul that will lead us into the life of true faith. Then we will begin to perform the works of God because of our humility, gentleness, etc.

I pray that we might all come to set aside our self-interest and heed the words of Jesus; that we might truly believe in him whom God sent to redeem us; and that we might live a life which demonstrates true Christian love to all.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen