A broken and a contrite heart ...
Pentecost 10B 2 Samuel 11.26–12.13 & Psalm 51.1–12; Ephesians 4 1–16; John 6.24–35.
+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sometimes the consequences of our actions are more than we can bear and other times the consequences of our actions are life giving.
David had become so insensitive to his own sins that he did not realise that he was the villain in Nathan’s story. He had taken Uriah’s wife while Uriah was faithfully serving with David’s fighting men. As a prophet, Nathan was required to confront sin even the sin of a king. It took great courage, skill, and tact to speak to David in a way that would make him aware of his wrong actions. Nathan had carefully prepared an analogy in an effort to get David to respond constructively to the consequences of his wrongdoing. The lesson for us in this story is that perhaps the qualities we condemn in others may be our own character flaws. Can we ask ourselves, “Which friends, associates or family members do we find easy to criticize and hard to accept?” When this happens a way forward may be to try to understand their feelings and see our own flaws more clearly.
David acknowledged that he was wrong and during this incident wrote Psalm 51 giving valuable insight into his character and offering hope for us as well. David was truly sorry for his adultery with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband to cover it up. He knew that his actions had hurt many people. But because David repented of those sins, God mercifully forgave him. No matter how miserable guilt makes us feel or how terribly we have sinned, we can pour out our heart to God seeking forgiveness as David did. We can be assured that there is forgiveness for us when we sin. David also wrote Psalm 32 to express the joy that is felt after forgiveness is realised and we learn that God’s all-encompassing love is never ending.
But the prophet Nathan’s predictions of the consequences of David’s pursuit of the pleasure of the moment came true. As David in his plea for God’s mercy says, “I acknowledge my rebellion and my sin is ever before me” his troubles did not vanish because murder was a constant threat in his family; his household rebelled against him; his wives were given to another in public view; his first child by Bathsheba died and his many wives caused him much grief. When God forgives us, he does not always erase the natural consequences of our sin. David’s life and family were never the same because of what he had done, and he cried out to God for the restoration of joy that God’s help and support brings.
When God can see that our demeanour is genuine, and we are heartbroken in seeking to have our relationship with him restored his love and forgiveness is unlimited.
In the gospel reading we find Jesus criticising the people who followed him seeking him out after they had had their fill of delicious barley bread and fish, because they were not seeking to have their spiritual hunger satisfied. They were not genuine in their desire to be with him, did not follow him because they knew he had the truth and that his way was the way to live, but followed with self-centred motives.
They had seen a genuine miracle in the multiplication of the bread and fish, but what they failed to see is what the sign truly signified.
Their bellies were filled, and the sign pointed to the hidden meaning, which was Jesus himself, the true manner from heaven. Jesus tells the people not to work for food that spoils, he is rebuking their purely materialistic motives. The people still do not understand but try to find out what work they should do. They have not understood that the food is eternal life and that it is a gift.
Jesus tells them plainly that the work of God, is what God requires, and it is Faith. This is not faith without an object, it is faith such that they need to believe in the one whom God has sent. This is faith with a proper Christological object, and they need to have a dependent faith in Christ.
The crowd still wanted a sign. Jesus reminded them of the feeding of the multitude, comparing food that endures to eternal life and food that does not last to food that spoils and they in turn remember the manna their forefathers ate in the desert which spoiled with time. Now Jesus is offering them something better, but the crowd wants an ever more spectacular miracle.
As John describes this discourse, Jesus by now must be truly exasperated by the crowd’s lack of understanding of what he is telling them. Jesus provides the true bread from heaven and is the bread of God who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Life is given not only to the Jewish people but to lost men and women without distinction.
The people who were seeking Jesus understand little of this so Jesus needed to speak plainly and says, “I am the bread of life.” But still, they do not understand and ask for this bread always.
The hungry and thirsty person who comes to Jesus finds their spiritual hunger and thirst satisfied. This does not mean there is no need for continued dependence upon him or continued feeding upon him, but it does mean there is no longer that core emptiness as it is filled at our first life changing encounter with Jesus.
Jesus is the bread of life, but it is the person who comes to him who does not hunger, not the person who eats him. It is the person who believes in him who does not thirst, not the person who drinks him.
A sincere relationship of faith and trust in Jesus Christ has the consequences of satisfied spiritual hunger which is life giving.
It is no wonder he called himself the Bread of Life. However, bread needs to be eaten to sustain life and Christ needs to be invited into our daily life to sustain spiritual life. The consequences continue and life with Christ comes with a relationship of unconditional love and support.
A healthy disciplined balance of work, study and prayer are the tools we need to maintain our life-giving faith. Amen.
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF