God loves and calls us all – John 6:24-35 and Ephesians 4:1-16

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” – John 6:35 .

These words from Jesus follow the story of the feeding of the 5,000. …

We have all probably experienced what is is like to be physically hungry. Just as those 5,000 who were fed by Jesus did. However, in the context of that miracle, Jesus talks about our hunger and thirst – not so much physical but spiritual.

Just as we feel hunger, all of us experience deep longings at the core of our beings which need to be fulfilled. Longings to be accepted, to be loved, to count for something, to make an impact, for others to see us as significant, as important or as strong.

Often these longings are well hidden away, but at times we encounter them in powerful ways. Perhaps in grief over the loss of a loved one, perhaps in the dark of the night when we are less in control of our emotions, perhaps at the point where everything seems to be going so well for us, yet something seems to be missing.

So many of us are driven to fulfil these longings for significance, for meaning in our lives. Perhaps we become workaholics, or we become demanding and jealous in our relationships, or we pursue success at the cost of everything else, or we turn to alcohol or drugs, or … some of us even go shopping.

And this is not a new problem – throughout the Old Testament – the people of Israel sought meaning, security and hope anywhere that they could. The prophets of old called their actions “prostitution.” For rather than being faithful to a God who had shown them immeasurable love, who had rescued them from slavery and had given them their own land, they wanted tangible security – gods that they could touch and feel. They sought solutions to their problems where no solutions would be found.

It’s part of the human condition! We long for our deepest needs to be met and we search for ways to make this happen!

Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Or to put it more succinctly, “I am all you will ever need.”

All those desires for meaning, for hope, for significance, for love – those thirsts, those hungers. Pursue me, get to know me, spend time with me – and I will meet them. This is not just some idle promise made by a preacher looking for something to say on a Sunday evening. These are the timeless words of Jesus. They are Jesus promise to us.

And note: he doesn’t say “I’ll find you something to do for me, and then you’ll feel better” No, Jesus is talking about our very being, the very core of who we are, the bit no one else can see. Right at the core of who we are, that’s where Jesus will be – meeting our deepest desires for wholeness. And not just sparingly, but overwhelmingly, generously, and, just as in the story of the feeding of the five thousand, there’ll be plenty of leftovers, flowing out of hearts that are truly loved. For once we really know that we are loved, we can really begin to love others.

This is what Paul talks about in the Ephesians reading set for today. …

Out of the joy of knowing that we are loved will always come a response ….

Some of us will have seen an excellent example of being surprised by joy this week as we watched some of the celebrations of the England cricket team at what, I guess, for them, as well as for us, is an unexpected victory. The Guardian had some great photos – the great hug between Joe Root and Ian Bell after the winning run had been scored, the leap of joy by Joe Root when he scored the winning run. A jump that was high enough to see the stumps under his feet. Amazing natural responses of joy.

For Christians, there is also an overwhelming response of joy to the unbelievable truth that each of as individuals is loved by God and that  we together are God’s people, loved and accepted by him.  Paul says that the natural outworking of that joy is worship and loving service. We respond in worship and service. We use the gifts that God has given us as part of God’s on-going mission in the world. We give of ourselves to others, just as God in Jesus has given himself for us.

Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” … In the Eucharist, I meet with you, I feed you. And in me you will find all that you need for life – and you are resourced to give of yourself to others in my church and in the world.

I want to leave you with Paul’s words from Ephesians …. as we read them, let’s remember that elsewhere in his letters Paul extends the list of gifts to include all kinds of ministry and service. And let’s hold one question in the forefront of our minds: ‘What can I/we do to respond in love to the God who loves me/us so much?

“When Christ ascended on high  … he gave gifts to his people. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. … Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”                                                (Ephesians 4.8-16)

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