Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
John 6 The Living Bread/ Thanksgiving Eve
November 27, 2019
I lived in Egypt for three years, working on my first master’s degree in biblical theology. I attended Saint Andrew Evangelical Church in Cairo, which carries a ministery for Sudanese refugees. I met a Sudanese refugee woman who shared with me her story of hunger and escaping war in South Sudan. She told me that she only drank saltwater. She had to use Stomach-binding. Have you ever heard of it before? It is like a rope tied around one’s waist to hold the stomach in to avoid feeling hungry. Poor people use stomach-binding not to lose weight but to stop feeling hungry. This stomach-binding helps women and men to work and walk even when they are starving. Stomach-binding is an ancient practice.
The crowd who followed Jesus was hungry. Living under the Romans' military occupation exhausted them. Rome controlled their natural resources and forced them to pay high taxes. The 1st-century Jews suffered from malnutrition and various diseases. They were thrilled when Jesus fed them. They wanted to make him a King, but Jesus walked away to the mountain by himself.
The crowd looked for Jesus because they were hungry. They searched for him to find food for their starving children. When they found him, Jesus told them that they were looking for him because he fed them. Then, Jesus began to speak about the living bread that does not perish—Jesus Christ.
The gospel of John does not narrate the last supper or the Constitution of Eucharist/Holy Communion. But he talks about the Holy Communion through talking about the bread of life. Jesus cares about hungry people, the poor, and marginalized. The evangelist John intends to tell us that Jesus took the opportunity to talk about his body as the living bread. Jesus did not dismiss the crowd's need for perishable food. He wanted to teach them that as they were hungry for perishable bread, they needed to be hungry for the living bread.
There is a strong connection between the perishable bread and imperishable bread. There is a connection between the living bread and the poor who are dying for living bread.
Every time the Christians of the early church celebrated the Holy Communion, they gathered food and material goods to be distributed among the poor. In 150, Justin of Rome, a theologian and martyr explained to the Emperor why Christians gather on Sunday.
After celebrating the Eucharist, the wealthy who are willing make contributions, each as he pleases, and the collection is deposited with the president, who aids orphans and widows, those who are in want because of sickness or some other reason, those in prison, and visiting strangers— in short, he takes care of all in need.
Alcuin of York, the early medieval theologian, highlighted another dimension of the liturgy of Holy Communion. He ended the liturgy, praying,
Thus whatever we eat, we should give thanks to you. And having received from your hands, let us give with equally generous hands to those who are poor, breaking bread and sharing our bread with them. For you have told us that whatever we give to the poor we give to you. —” (Torvend, 439-440).
Partaking in the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation unites us with Christ and makes us in communion with the saints and martyrs. We are united with Jesus Christ and saints in resisting sin and death. That said, the living body of Christ invites us to resist the sin of economic injustice and hunger that leads to death.
Lutherans and Catholics view the Eucharist as a sacrament of transformation.The sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist, underlines how Christ transformed his agony on the cross into self-giving love. Pope Francis describes the Holy Eucharist as "a sacrament of communion, which draws us out of our individualism in order to live together as disciples. It gives us the certainty that all that we have, all that we are, if it is taken, blessed and given, can, by God's power, by the power of his love, become bread of life for all.”
We are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. Many of us are busy cooking and buying food. We like to get together with friends and family to celebrate. I invite you to consider sharing your food with the hungry. The United States is a wealthy country; however poverty is manifested in different parts of the country. Students depend on school meals, which may be the only meals they eat. Those hungry people are like the crowd who were looking for Jesus to feed them again. But, Jesus is not present in this world in the same way he was present in the first century. He is truly present in the Holy Communion and in each one of us. Jesus gives us his living bread freely to nourish our faith, and we are called to share our bread freely with the poor. Jesus Christ transforms us through by taking in his body and blood, we are called to transform the life of the poor and the hungry. As you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, thank God for providing you food and ask the Lord to help you to share what you have with those who are in need.
Remember what the apostle Paul says in his second letter to Corinthians, “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)
 (Torvend, Samuel. Still Hungry at the Feast (Kindle Locations 2172-2173). Liturgical Press. Kindle Edition.).
 (Torvend, Samuel. Still Hungry at the Feast, 246-248 Kindle).