In this 1.6 square mile borough called Collegeville restaurants have come and gone, with the exception of one that pre-dates this borough’s incorporation in 1896 by 41 years.
It’s is where you are now sitting – the oldest restaurant in town, serving the oldest menu that dates back to that Thursday night in an upper room in Jerusalem when Jesus took the bread and chalice of the Passover meal, added words to both and then made the two a required act for His followers.
The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist – titles given to this meal of the church, that makes this the oldest restaurant in town.
And, at the same time, the newest, as the Gospel in the three-year cycle of the Church year’s schedule, brings us to this year, when for five Sundays we read from the sixth chapter in the Gospel according to John, and hear Jesus say, again and again, “I am the bread of life.”
The newness, the freshness waiting to be savored in the bread that carries the echo of the setting in which Jesus spoke those words at an outdoor picnic where thousands were fed a lunch that seemed to be a replay of their ancestors’ wilderness plight, when they ran out of food they had carried with them in their escape from slavery in Egypt. Then Moses prayed and an early morning dew-like substance – appeared, “manna” reflecting their question, “What is it?” A substitute for grain with which they could make bread in abundance!
The picnic with Jesus was like that wilderness miracle all over again, and better; now Jesus could be their Moses, giving them a free lunch and an instant fast food eatery!
“Not so!” said Jesus, “You have it all wrong!” It was God, not Moses, who gave that manna; but the Gospel crowd held to their fast food mentality.
Might we have to admit we are like the Gospel crowd? An email posted a sign on a refrigerator that read: "My next
house will have no kitchen, just vending machines." (www.sermons.com)
With His announcement: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Jesus was raising their focus to a whole new dimension, but, as Scott Hoezee, wrote when pondering today’s Gospel, “They couldn't see it. And maybe part of the explanation for this is because they were still looking to the past, still thinking more about what Moses did once upon a time than the new thing God was doing before their very eyes.” (Comments and Observations on John 6:24-35)
What makes this the oldest/newest restaurant in town is when we see the newness in this oldest menu of bread and cup, the menu that pulls us away from the company of the Gospel, crowd to look to the present and the future Jesus opens to us, to:
First, confess with the mathematician and scientist, Blaise Pascal,
"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ."
Second, see the new thing God is doing right before our eyes every time we take bread and cup and hear the words of Jesus:
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
In his book The Swann's Way, the French novelist Marcel Proust wrote of returning home late one winter evening. He was exhausted to the point of being depressed. Seeing he was tired, his maid greeted him with a cup of hot tea and some cake which he refused being too tired and depressed to accept. She insisted and finally he ate and drank. As he did, his anxieties and exhaustion vanished and he began to ponder how it happened.
“How could a taste of tea and cake produce this feeling of peace? The truth, he guessed, must be in himself and not in what he was eating and drinking.”
His questioning took him back to a childhood visit to an aunt who fed him tea and cake in Combray, France.
“Suddenly he remembered the little town, the village church, the old house, the long forgotten relatives, and the flowers in the garden. The tea and cake had recovered for Proust the memory and mystery of an existence long past.” (www.sermons.com)
The oldest/newest restaurant in town, with the oldest/newest menu that takes us back to an upper room, only to hear what Jesus said at that table, is echoing through bread and cup, to us, opening us up to know why the African–American composer, Leon C. Roberts, wrote this Communion hymn: (NCH #348)
“Jesus is here right now;
With this bread and wine true peace you’ll find;
Christ Jesus is here right now, right now”
Present here, right now as God-in-person, sharing Himself with us, as living bread; so, with the Apostle Paul we say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Not only I, but WE, because “The Lord’s Supper is a vivid reminder that as a church we are more than friends or even family; We are the body of Christ.” (Andrew B. McGowan)
In becoming what we receive: the living bread of Christ’s presence, we do, in a sense, find ourselves resembling the Gospel crowd in that we, too, pick up their plea, “Sir, give this bread always!” But our hunger and our thirst are for Christ,
“Jesus, give us Yourself as Bread
that feeds our deepest needs,
that moves us to share bread with the hungry,
that invites community in whom You now live!”
“Sir, give this bread always!”
Jesus is here right now to be that Bread! AMEN!