1 Kings 19:4-8, Ps 34:1-8, Ephesians 4:25-5:2, John 6: 35, 41-51.

You gave your people angels’ food and sent them bread from heaven … That the children you love might learn, O God, that not through cultivating crops are they fed but all those who trust in you are sustained by your Word alone. (Wisdom 16:20-21, 26, Mattins OT canticle, Thursday week 3).

How familiar those words that we’ll be singing this week at Mattins on Thursday and how relevant for this Sunday and every day, when indeed we are fed by The Word Himself. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

The Gospel, like the Old Testament, is good news  - for the poor.  Archaeological analysis of burials in ancient Palestine shows that bread was their principal food. You can sleep on the street if needs be but you can’t eat thin air. So having enough bread is quite simply a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven, when all our hungers will be satisfied – and how.

The Old Testament shows how God provides for those who have no other resource and more often than we might think: the widow of Zarephath, Hagar in the wilderness, Jonah under the gourd, were all provided for. Elijah, like Moses, shelters in the Rock and is fed by ravens. 

Paul’s writes to the Ephesians about the vices destructive to community life – bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, slander, malice. (We could all add to the list).  In place of them, here is the recipe for the Christian life: be kind to one another, tender to one another, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. This is what life in community is about, however difficult that may be, itself a foretaste of the life to come. The Christian life cannot be lived except in community of some kind, sustained, directed, centred on The Word Himself. I am the way, the truth and the life.

“Live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”

Between Paul and the Old Testament, there are Apocryphal writings, among them Joseph and Aseneth – perhaps 4th century AD -: the unlikely story of how Joseph, in Genesis given a pagan Egyptian wife and her conversion – they were the parents of Ephraim and Manasseh. The God-fearer is given “to eat blessed bread of life and blessed drink of immortality and is anointed with blessed oil of imperishability” – by an angelic being. This is the idea Jesus builds on, He who is something more than the Angel, more than Manna in the wilderness.

They murmur when Moses gave them the manna and they murmur when Jesus tells them “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” I am of course is the name of God, the name he revealed to Moses.

How hard it is for us to believe that getting on in life - in our competitive way we will get there in the end (whatever that end might be) - but to have more than enough of everything we need and think we need, all the time: a better position, become a celebrity, someone who really matters, that is what matters in life.

We have to trust, to have faith, that doing the will of God, as Jesus not only taught but lived and died to show what that will is, is more than food and drink, more than getting on but is life eternal, life in the kingdom of heaven, in the here and now and to come in all its fullness, when He will be all in all. All good things around us, they come from heaven above and are so wonderful because that’s where they point to. Wonderful as they are they are given to show us,  what to look for, what to long for – wonderful food, wonderful drink, wonderful friends, wonderful scenery, flowers, trees, scents and sounds, wonderful music and more, point us to what is to come.

        Antony Grant CR