2 Samuel 11: 26- 12:13a; Psalm 51: 1-13; Ephesians 4: 1-16; John 6: 24-35

Last week I was fortunate enough to spend a week at Sorrento and the Anglican Conference Centre. If you haven’t been there I encourage you to go. Situated on the shore of Lake Shuswap, a lovely location and a chance to take a course on a huge range of topics related in one way or another to our faith. There is an impressive list of opportunities from hiking to painting to journaling to liturgy to prayer. There are children programs and youth programs, really something for everyone and the food is great. There are regular worship services each day but you can partake in some or all of the activities, it is quite relaxed and relaxing.

So last week I was there with others of my family and I took a course on Anglican Liturgy and some of the new trends and plans looking forward. There was a mixture of people in the class but quite a number were clergy from different parts of Western Canada. Now when you get a group of clergy together to talk about worship and liturgy, it is really quite fascinating. We can talk and talk and talk. We can argue the finer points about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin or the temperature of the water used at Baptism or the colour of the oil of chrism used at Baptism or the location of the readings in church or the thickness of the paper of the Bible or the length of a sermon or the length of a service or the correct order of things or the number of notes in a hymn or… well you can probably imagine. Whenever a group of people in any field get together and compare notes it is always an intriguing conversation. We talked about many things as we looked to how the worship services in the Anglican Church continue to evolve. We also talked about bread at Communion and how that has changed over the last number of years. At one time we only used wafers and now we have also added real bread and a gluten free option. Our group talked about how important the significance of this is. Communion bread should represent the type of bread we would eat at home. Bread that should be recognized as bread, a sign of God’s presence in the ordinary and extraordinary places of life. The bread and wine of the Eucharist are two symbols chosen by Jesus to form one of the main sacraments of the Church. Two simple signs that point to something much deeper and greater. From two ordinary elements of life we see the presence of Christ, the blessing of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These two signs offer us a shorthand of our faith: the presence, hope and love of God in our lives. The teaching and conversation that I had with some colleagues last week was really trying to get to the heart of this as well. We can fuss about what we might use for bread or how the bread is given to those receiving the Eucharist but the core detail is that this simple symbol points to the greatest treasure we can discover in life. Liturgists and clergy talk about these things not just to keep ourselves busy but because we feel that we have been given a treasure, a treasure to be treated with a deep and awesome care. A treasure that holds the key to life and should not be taken lightly. A treasure that reaches from the depths of the earth to the heights of the life to come. A treasure that is worth more than all the gold and possessions of this world. A treasure that every human being craves but for some odd reason we hesitate about honouring it in our lives. Strange as it sounds this treasure is often disregarded; seen as unimportant or unconnected with our lives or irrelevant to our living where in fact it feeds the very core of what it is to be human. We have this deep and earnest craving within each one of us to draw closer to God. Our hearts are restless until they find rest in the One who calls our name.

David, King David, knew this treasure well in his life. He danced and sang and played music to deepen his connection to it. He had a faith in God that shaped and guided him. But in our Hebrew Bible reading for today we heard a continuation of the story from last week where David ordered the death one Uriah so that he, David, could be with Uriah’s wife, the beautiful Bathsheba. David, the great king, the honoured servant of God eventually with the help of Nathan came to see the sin he committed and the depth of the corruption but I am fascinated that this story is even in the Bible. Why not simply not write about it? Why not avoid the whole thing? Or even if it is in the Bible why not disregard it, it is rather awkward. The reason is that this story shows us that David was human. Even though he had a deep and a devout faith he made some terrible mistakes. He put things before his love of God. He was human in that each one of us has or will make some terrible decisions. We too have erred and strayed but the point in the story it seems to me is that even so God loved David and even so God loves us. God continues to offer us food, food that will feed our heart and soul. God blesses us and holds us even when we make some very poor decisions. And this too is a central part of the treasure that we honour and celebrate each week: the treasure of the sacrament of the Eucharist. We are offered bread as a sign of God’s love, forgiveness and hope in us. Bread to feed our soul.

Recently I read an article in the New York Times which fascinated me. It was about two ex-convicts who have been hired for a job with a simple mission: picking up inmates on the day they are released from prison, and guiding them through a changed world. It described how if someone has been in prison for the past 25 years, the world they come out to is very different from the one that existed when they went in. It described how these two ex-convicts try to guide those recently released in how to use a cell phone or how to unlock a car with the buttons on the key or even go shopping in a large department store with the huge and overwhelming selection we have now. They would usually take their new friend out for breakfast and the article described the scene in this way: “Been a long time since I looked at a menu,” Dale Hammock said. He was sheltered in a corner of a booth at a Denny’s near the prison. The restaurant was overcrowded, loud and full of the kind of hyperdifferentiated nonsense that ordinary Americans swim through every day, never assuming it can or should be fully understood. But Hammock was having trouble sorting the breakfast menu from the lunch menu, and the regular Denny’s menu from the Denny’s Skillets across America limited-time menu. There were two kinds of hot sauce and four different sweeteners on the table. … The first meal after a long prison sentence is an ostensible celebration laced with stress. The food tastes incredible. This scene really hit me. This was like a Eucharist, perhaps not with bread and wine but this first meal outside of prison is a sign of forgiveness, a sign of hope, a sign of looking forward, a sign of peace for the soul, a sign that indeed you are not alone, a sign that indeed there is this true treasure that all of us crave but we are not always sure how to gain it.

In the passage from Ephesians that we heard a little while ago, the author used these words to try to name the un-nameable gift from God: I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all 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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in all.

In the gospel passage assigned for this day, Jesus is asked “Rabbi, when did you come here?” As in many parts of our Bible, a simple question is not as it appears. It was not just asking about the time Jesus came but also why Jesus came. Jesus replied, “I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Those words have echoed down through the centuries as the Church has continued to share this bread each time we gather. My conversation with colleagues last week was really trying to get to this heart of the matter. This holy treasure is ours to distribute as we continue to offer bread that feeds heart and soul. It is a treasure that is too often ignored or overlooked in this overplanned and overstimulated world. It is a treasure that one needs to investigate slowly, tenderly, methodically, carefully as it touches our complete self. It is the treasure that all people seek out, one that gets to the core of life instead of simply speaking to surface things.

Jesus used the image of bread to describe this connection with God which defies words but connects us with all that is holy and all that has meaning in this world. Jesus used this image to portray the hunger that many can feel, a hunger to deepen a connection to God and the meaning of life. May this bread that we will soon share feed you, heart and soul this day and nourish your faith and trust in the love of God for you on this day and always. The body of Christ given for thee, may it preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.