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Sunday Night Live Sermons

THE PROMISE OF SUSTAINING FOOD
John 6:41 - 59

11th August 2002

Mrs. Flora Walker has been married for 16 years and has three children. Her daughter, Kathy, was born with brain damage and slurs her speech. She has been receiving speech therapy for years. She also has some difficulty co-ordinating her feet and suffers a slight spasticity making it difficult to walk up stairs. The younger children are Eddie, five, and baby Lucille.

Flora Walker is a bashed mother. For 16 years she lived with a husband who is an alcoholic. He works in a steel fabrication firm and every night goes to a hotel, comes home drunk, and beats his wife. She would often scream into her pillow so that her children would not be upset by her screaming. Many times she would run out of the house in her nightgown, even in the middle of winter. She would stay out in the cold until her husband was asleep, then she would creep back.

She was bashed almost every night for 16 years. The day came when she could take it no longer. One day, taking her three children and a few pieces of clothing, she left home with nowhere to go. She was cared for by a welfare organisation. She was unable to obtain a flat as she did not have any bond money and unable to put up the money required for rent in advance. There were kindly people who helped her for a short time. Eventually, she obtained a third floor flat which involved six flights of stairs. It was over-run by cockroaches and mice! There, with integrity and faith, Flora cared for her three children. Everything was always clean. She was given some clothing, but never had enough money to go round. She had to purchase a pair of special soft leather shoes for Kathy, and they cost $47.00.

While paying for them, she and the children had only cereal and milk three times a day. She made sure the older children always went to school. Some days Flora did not eat at all, telling the children that she was not hungry. In bed at night she hugged her stomach because of hunger. She was on an endless, hopeless cycle of poverty. She was losing her self-respect, but she tried to lift up her children and help them to be regarded as members of a normal, ordinary family, but the pressure of poverty really hurt. One day, Eddie, in his first year at school, came running up the stairs sobbing un-controllably. She hugged him and asked what was wrong. He said, "Mummy, are you lazy?" She replied, "You know I am not lazy. I cook the meals, I keep the place clean, I make the beds. I am not lazy. Why do you think I am?" Eddie said, "The other kids at school say that you are lazy, and that their fathers have to go to work and pay taxes to pay you a pension because you stay home and won't go to work because you are lazy. And they say we are nothing."

Flora broke down and sobbed and sobbed. It was as though the last of her self-respect was being stripped from her. There was nothing left. That night she prayed to God, "God, why is all this happening to me? What am I being punished for?" In the back of her mind, she began to hear a verse of Scripture from her childhood. She had been brought up in a Roman Catholic Parish School. The verse that kept coming to her was, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you…for my flesh is meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood, dwells in me and I in him." John 6:53-56 KJV

That verse kept coming back to her. She said, "Tomorrow morning, I am going back to Mass." The next day, after the two older children had gone to school, she took the littlest one and went to Mass. As she partook of the Mass she thought on the words, "If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you abide in me and I abide in you." She said, "I am not lazy. He dwells in me. I am not a nobody. He dwells in me. I am not worthless. He thought me worth enough to die for me." She went home, walking proudly, "Because I drank His blood and ate His flesh, and He abides in me; therefore I am a somebody." She decided, "I'll get a job." She borrowed a newspaper from a neighbour and started looking through the job vacancies. She had not worked for 15 years. Previously she had been a typist. She found one that looked attractive and she circled it. The hours were most suitable for a woman with school children. It was to serve as secretary to a school librarian.

She had not typed for 15 years and she had not done shorthand for 15 years and she did not know how to use a word processor! She did not have any decent clothes. In her little flat, she took out the only good dress she had. She thought it looked terrible. "I hated to wear it but I hoped it made me look respectable and responsible." She ironed it and went to a neighbour and borrowed a pair of stockings. She sat up nearly all night listening to the radio and taking down, in shorthand, what was said by the talkback people, brushing up her old skills. Next morning, at 8:30, before the interview time allotted to her, she went to the library and asked if she could sit at the word processor to brush up her typing. She typed for nearly an hour. Then she went to the interview.

She said to herself, "I am determined that I am going to get this job. He dwells in me. Therefore, I am not worth-less." She said to the Librarian, "I believe that you are looking for a responsible woman. I am a responsible woman. I am responsible for three children. I will never do anything to lose this job, because I am responsible for them. I will be punctual, honest, reliable and dependable". He tested her shorthand. He tested her typing. Then he said, "Will you be able to start this afternoon?" She could, and did! Ever since, Flora Walker has been a different woman.

This achievement came about because, in one midnight hour, in desperation, in loneliness and despair, she remembered the words of Jesus, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." John 6:53-56 He abides in you and you are not worthless. You are not a nothing. You are a child of God, and His strength flows through you. There are many who feel an inner emptiness. It may be because of unemployment, or loneliness, or grief. Some are disabled and others are handicapped. Some are despairing and others have been ill for a long time. Some are depressed. To them all, I say, if you eat His body and drink his blood, He abides in you. "God inhabits the praises of His people." Psalm 22:3 KJV He fills the empty space. He feeds the inner hunger. Jesus said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." John 6:41 He claimed that He came as God's answer to our inner hunger. He is the divine initiative to meet human need.

1. JESUS SATISFIES OUR INNER HUNGER

Jesus came to dwell within our hearts and to meet our hunger as bread from heaven. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10 He was both the "Bread of Heaven" - something that comes spiritually; and the "Bread of Life" - something which enables us to function in our daily living. It is not only the spiritual; it is also the physical appropriation and strength for life. Jesus reminded His listeners that ordinary bread helps fill inner hunger.

Every hungry person needs bread, and there is a temporary satisfaction when we eat. I grew up in a bake-house. The first smell in my nostrils was that of fresh bread rising in the ovens. I grew up among flour, dough and yeast. As a child I remember on the wall of the bakehouse office a calendar from a flour company, and I pondered the words on it:

"Back of the loaf is the snowy flour, and back of the flour the mill, And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower, And the sun and the Father's will." Maltbie Babcock

All bread is God's gift to us. And it satisfies temporarily.

2. JESUS SATISFIES OUR ETERNAL NEED.

Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever." John 6:51 That is the difference. Other bread satisfies temporarily. Jesus satisfies eternally. It is important to notice how essential this becomes for our spiritual and physical wellbeing. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." John 6:53 This means life that is spiritual, abundant and eternal.

That was what Flora Walker remembered and appropriated to herself. She took His strength into her inner hunger. There is no need for you to worry about the future. You are not a "nothing". Jesus dwells within you. 6.55 "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." What He gives to us lasts, abides, satisfies, sustains. This is the food of life that comes from God. It is the living bread. It is not like that bread that comes from the baker. It is not like the manna that God provided in the wilderness for His journeying people. Those foods are for temporary satisfaction. The one who eats the bread from heaven lives forever. That is His promise. When we eat the symbolic bread and drink from the symbolic cup in our Holy Communion Services, we are pointed to the means of appropriating the reality of His life within us. "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." v56

3. JESUS SATISFIES OUR DAILY NEEDS

God meets our emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of this very moment. He is our contemporary God! He is the god of the "now". Many people find it hard to cope and like Flora Walker dissolve in tears and depression. Even faithful, successful educated people can enter a period of darkness, despair and depression. At our Wesley Private Hospital and Wandine Private Hospital we have thousands of patients coming each year for treatment from our psychiatrists. Depression is not confined to any class or race, education or skill. Anyone can suffer what Sir Winston Churchill called his "black dog." One central components of healing with so many patients is helping the patient recover a sense of God's presence. For many, only God can enable them to meet their contemporary needs.

The brilliant New Testament scholar and translator, Dr J.B. Phillips, found the pace of television and radio interviews and book publishing too much. After eighteen books and a multitude of pressures he descended into dark depression. Only a re-discovery of Jesus as God's provision for our daily needs, enabled him to ultimately cope. He then wrote "I have known for several years a period of deep depression. We are often told on television that such states can occur in anyone and that is true. But we are also led to believe that the majority of such sufferers are readily cured through the use of modern anti-depressant drugs, psychiatric treatment and the like. This I know to be untrue, not only for me but for quite a good proportion of patients who are depressed. In such blackness all usual appreciation of beauty, love and goodness disappears and with it the sense of a living Personal God. I would like to state categorically as I emerge from such a dark tunnel that despite all that my feelings have told me, my convictions remain unshaken. Who, do you think is responsible for this? The well-known writer J.B. Phillips? Not on your life! Only the power of God who is our inescapable Contemporary."

God meets our deepest hungers: internally, eternally and contemporary, no matter how we feel. Jesus is "the bread that comes from heaven". To possess Him is to find ultimate satisfaction. Our deepest hunger is met. Our deepest thirst is satisfied. In Him we have sustaining food that satisfies all our needs! Feed on Him by faith, and be sustained over all your hungers!

Wesley Mission, Sydney.