Sermon preached on 26 August 2012

Here’s what I said this morning:

Jesus said, This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But whoever eats this bread will live forever.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I was trying to think how to relate to this idea of the bread of our ancestors and I remembered a childhood holiday.

For some reason, my parents had taken my sister and I for a holiday on a farm in south-west Wales. It was a great place to have a holiday. Lots to do on the farm and lots of places to go in that lovely area.

And I remember my father getting a notion.

He decided, quite out of the blue that if we were on a farm, then we needed to bake our own bread. I’m not quite sure how his logic worked because the farm in question was in the business of breeding pedigree Hereford bulls. But that doesn’t matter. He decided that bread needed to be baked and bread on the table we would have.

So we went off to an old working flour mill to buy flour because my father didn’t do things by half when he got a notion in his head.

And back we came to bake the family loaf.

There was kneeding. There was proving. There was shaping. There was baking. There was a wonderful rich smell. We were all going to be able to taste the fruit of our labours. We were all going to sit around the fire, eating freshly baked bread for tea.

It became apparent, as soon as the loaf was turned out onto the breadboard that things were not quite going to plan. The precious loaf landed on the table with a thud which no-one had quite predicted.

My father rejoiced in his creation. My mother looking sceptically on.

Eventually the rustic fare was cool enough to take a knife to.

It became clear that the knife was a terribly blunt, country instrument and something sharper would be needed.

The sharpest implement was found and an attempt to carve the loaf of sustenance was made. To say the least, it was no small task.

To cut a long story short, even the farm donkey couldn’t manage to get his teeth around our creation. That loaf of bread is probably still lying in a field in south west Wales to this day.

(I should note in passing that I called my parents last night to ask if they minded me telling me this story and I could have sworn I heard my father in the background muttering, it was just that the crust was a bit thick, that’s all.

However, I seem to remember that he ate not one slice. Had he done so, he would surely have sacrificed his teeth once and for all).

Jesus said, this is the bread (and I think he was pointing to his own body when he said it) – this is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But whoever eats this bread will live forever.

He takes us straight into an uncomfortable truth – that religious values change as human beings grow in knowledge and wisdom.

That truth, of course, may seem obvious. It may seem tame. It may seem rather unremarkable.

And yet it is at the root of so much of the trouble that religion gets itself into as it tries to engage with modern people living in the world.

Jesus tells his disciples that what did for their ancestors would not do for them. They had to be the people of their day. They needed to grow up and judge right from wrong themselves. The bread – the teaching, the religion, the ethics and the morals of the past was in danger of getting as stale as the bread my father made, the bread even the donkey wouldn’t touch, if they did not face the world around them in a realistic way.

It is one of the simplest truths to state and yet seemingly one of the truths most resisted by people unable to move on and be whole.

Jesus tells the disciples that yesterday’s bread won’t do. Only by embracing the world as it is, will we be able to love it with God’s love. Only by facing the reality of the changes and chances of this fleeting world do we have any chance to make it better and bring all we hope for to fruition.

It is that wonderful paradox, isn’t it. God’s love is the same, yesterday, today and forever. The the thing about God’s love that is the same is that it is always changing. New every morning is the love, that nourishes, cares and helps us to bring goodness out of chaos and rearrange the world to be more the way it should be.

This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But whoever eats this bread will live forever.

Even as Jesus was amongst them, there seemed to be doubts. There seemed to be those who would prefer the faith of their forebears to the living presence of God amongst them teaching and loving them, nourishing and cajoling them.

The disciples said, “This teaching is difficult”.

Jesus says, “Does this offend you?” And he seems utterly unafraid of causing offence by saying that everyone is welcome into God’s care.

This week I’ve stirred up a bit of a storm simply by inviting people here this morning to share the news we share in fresh ways every week, that God cares for everyone, young and old, male and female, gay and straight.

The churches, all the churches, have some repenting to do. For they have seemed to convey the message that not everyone was equal; not everyone was welcome.

Let us dare to proclaim that the bread of our ancestors is not good enough for us and not good enough for the world we live in.

Nothing else will do but the fresh bread of life.

Here in St Mary’s, that is symbolised by the bread we share at communion, bread which is there for everyone who wishes to take it today.

And it is proclaimed in our slogan, our three little words that are what we claim to stand for – being open, inclusive and welcoming, just as God has been to us.

This will be the last sermon I preach here for a few months. I’m about to go off on sabbatical to learn and reflect and grow.

I’ll come back, I hope, with fresh bread to share.

Whilst I am away, who has the responsibility of sharing the good news in Glasgow?

The good news is that everyone is loved.

The good news is that we can fight poverty and put fresh bread in every mouth.

The good news is that no form of injustice will win out in the end.

The good news is that we can beat back bigotry wherever we find it, even when it comes from the pulpit.

The good news is that death with never win.

The good news is that God loves you and if God can love you, I bet God can love everyone.

I won’t be around to share that here for a few months.

Whose job is it to let the people of Glasgow know.

Have a think about it.

Who are you going to tell?

In the name of God, Creator, Saviour and Liberator.



  1. Rosemary Hannah says

    Good one – and of course manna could never be kept. It just died when you tried.

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