Bread of Heaven :: Lenten Communion Liturgy

john 6 word cloud.pngThis Lenten communion liturgy is based on John 6.  Just like the crowds, we want God’s love, the abundance of bread, healing from sickness, the peace of Christ. What we don’t necessarily want are the awkward and hard teachings that are a part of God’s love. We are like the crowds who say, “Give us this bread of heaven all of the time!” when what we really want are the buttery dinner rolls and the sweet Wonder bread. We prefer to pass on the seven-grain, whole wheat bread.

But we can’t live on dinner rolls and Wonder bread alone. We need that seven-grain whole wheat bread, even though it doesn’t taste as good and is a little more difficult for us to digest.

 

Welcome

Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip, “Where will we buy food to feed these people?”[1]

What I like about John’s telling of the feeding of the 5,000 is that Jesus is the one to initiate the problem of feeding all of these people. In the Synoptics, the disciples come and tell Jesus there is a problem. But here, Jesus asked Philip what he is going to do about it.

Philip knew they didn’t have enough money to buy food for all these people – even if they could find it. Andrew chimes in about the loaves and the fish, pointing out the absurdity of trying to feed the crowd.

Jesus doesn’t chastise them for failing to solve the problem or their lack of faith in believing there could be a solution. Instead, Jesus tells them to sit down on the plentiful grass while he gives them something to eat.

In my Ash Wednesday message I said that the world doesn’t think it needs a savior because the world doesn’t recognize its own sin. It seems here, that the disciples did not recognize that they had a food problem. As with our sin, Jesus points it out to them – and in doing so, they recognize they have an impossible situation on their hands.

Or at least it’s impossible for them.  As we know, all things are possible in Christ.

The crowds – and the disciples – were only going to be fed by Jesus. There wasn’t any way they were going to find enough money to buy food or a grocery store that had enough in stock. It didn’t matter how tiny they could cut up those loaves and fishes – there wasn’t going to be enough. And even if they could, it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy their hunger.  They needed Jesus to feed them.

And so do we.

We come to this table because we can’t feed ourselves with the Bread of Heaven but we know we need it. And Jesus knows we need it, too. So even though Jesus’ teachings may sometimes be harsh – and if we’re honest, sometimes we choose to ignore them – Jesus still invites us to sit down on the plentiful grass and receive a meal that satisfies the soul and contains the promise of eternal life.

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Jesus, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, despite our lack of spiritual creativity, faith, and obedience, you once again renew the invitation to eat at your table. When we are willing to accept it, you eliminate the hunger and thirst of our souls. You satisfy us in ways that we cannot understand but so desperately need. For your faithfulness, we give you thanks.

God, in whom we believe, you graciously fed our ancestors in the wilderness despite their complaining. With the same graciousness, you provide the Bread of Heaven to feed your Church. You have invited us into relationship with you not only in this life, but in life eternal. For you generosity, we give you thanks.

Holy Spirit, our Comforter and our Corrector, you gather us together so that we may know God’s Word is true. You teach us how to see our sin and receive our Savior. For your intercession, we give you thanks.

Now as we prepare to enter into communion with you once again, we pray that you would transform this simple loaf and common cup into that which satisfies. May we receive with our earthly bodies your heavenly meal so that we may abide in you and in one another.

As those gathered in your name, we join our voices in prayer, praying with the words we learned as children, saying: Our Father…

 

Invitation

As we heard earlier,

Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted.[2]

At another meal, Jesus did the same with the cup. He gave thanks and then gave it to his disciples, telling them to drink their fill.

Jesus’ teaching about the bread and the wine was too harsh for some. They didn’t want this new bread and new wine but the manna of their ancestors. They wanted full stomachs today rather than abiding in the presence of Jesus for eternity.

At this, many of his disciples turned away and no longer accompanied him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are God’s holy one.” [3]

Jesus’ question was not a challenge to leave but an invitation to stay and be fed. If you are willing to accept the invitation, come and eat your fill.

 

Prayer After Communion

Faithful, generous, abiding God, we give you thanks for the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation. May the taste of this meal linger so that we will be strengthened in our Lenten journey. Give us courage to hear what may seem harsh so that we can find a deeper relationship with you. To your glory, amen.

[1] John 6:5 (CEB)

[2] John 6:11 (CEB)

[3] John 6:66-69 (CEB)

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