Midweek Faith Lift
June 3, 2020
“I Am the Living Bread- the Bread of Life”- Station 5
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
When we were last together, we explored the energy of Baptism, of cleansing, of opening to and embracing a new consciousness. We listened to the story of the Baptism of Jesus, which ended with the statement that he was then driven out into the wilderness. And that left me with the question, what happened next? What was the wilderness experience like for Jesus, because we, too, are in a wilderness experience right now. We are in the midst of it, knowing when and how it began as we can identify how and when the pandemic started in the world, in our country and in our state and city.
What we don’t know is how to deal with it in the meantime and in the long time, and we have no idea how long it will last. We are in this “liminal” space with no operating system, no GPS, and no clear idea of where that GPS would take us if it could. So, now what? We have asked the open question, “What is the next wise action for me to take?” as a result of this Baptism, or awakening experience. How do I show up with kindness even in the face of cruelty, insensitivity, violence and fear? These talks each Sunday, during this time in the wilderness, raise more questions for me, for us, than answers and at times, more heat than light.
There has been much discussion among ministers in the past weeks over whether to re-open churches, as if the building is the church. And the question is how to open safely in this Covid-19 era, or is it even possible? This puts us right in the midst of the question, “What is the next wise action?” for it seems like we have been in the wilderness as a church in exile, not in our right place together in the sanctuary on 9th & Kellogg! But is that really true? Oy, more of these pestering liminal questions!
We have been working through the 16 Stations of the Cosmic Christ, and I have come to appreciate that these are like train stations in a long, long journey. Each one of them is like a treasure hunt that points the way to the next unfolding of consciousness. I have no idea if there is a “where” at the end of the line. I don’t believe that to ask “Where are we headed?” is as powerful a question as to ask about the how of being where we are right now, in this given moment, in any given moment. And that brings us right into Station 5- “I Am the Living Bread, the Bread of Life.”
So what did happen when Jesus was in the wilderness? Well, we have a fairly detailed story about it in Matthew 4:1-4
The Temptation of Jesus
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Wow, that is quite a lot of temptation, but I was struck by how it so clearly mirrors our current circumstances. What does all this mean for Jesus and for us? When we look at this story, there are three temptations, body mind and Spirit, for Jesus with Bread being the most spiritual of the three. If we think of Satan, not as a being but as Charles Fillmore says in the Revealing Word, “The great Universal negative whose power is derived from the unlawful expression of man’s own being.” p. 173. I would describe it as embodied immaturity of the first order, our temptation to give in to our worst impulses with reactions from a place of fear and hate rather than any place of love. And I would add, we have all done it, in some form or other…all of us, including me.
If we look at these temptations that way, the question becomes what would fear in all its immature manifestations, have us do? When we are on the mountaintop, as Jesus was for the third temptation, rather than seeking a higher consciousness, do we get distracted by all that we can see of the material world that we now want? Or as in the second temptation to jump off the cliff and let God save him, do we want to just escape, ignore or pretend not to see an ugly reality that we are a part of? Do we just want to jump off the cliff for the spiritual bypass that somehow lifts us out of our part of creating that unfairness or ugliness?
I know I do….I can’t judge all those who don’t wear a mask because I have taken mine off at times because it was too hot, or I was in a hurry, thinking it won’t matter, just this once! How do I know that ?? I don’t! But I am better than them because I wear it most of the time! Life is just one big compromise with ourselves after another with regard to the stories we tell ourselves, and the excuses we make. What is my next wise action, anyway??
And what does the whole magical thinking of turning stones to bread have to do with me? Charles Fillmore, again in The Revealing Word, says that metaphysically, “… bread is truth, spiritual Truth. It represents Universal substance, the Substance of the omnipresent Christ body….sustenance for mind, body and spirit.” P, 29. The Christ body is the “Bread of Life” or the “Living Bread.” What does this mean? I just want to make sure I have enough for my next meal, why do I need to worry about anything past that? Why, indeed? How do I show up for hungry people, even those who panhandle on the street corner? I struggle with that one, a lot. I give to the Food Bank, but what about the panhandler?
In first century Palestine, among the Jewish people, the staple of life was bread, not rice or corn, but bread. It is bread that people broke together when they ate to sustain their bodies. In the first temptation in the wilderness, when we are really hungry, the urge is to feed the body and neglect the Spirit, to which Jesus said, no. His statement that “One does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” is so very powerful. We are fed by that which is hidden, which we cannot see, that which is Spirit, and it is that which sustains us. We are fed by the Word of God.
Jesus gives first primacy to Spirit and to words, for ultimately that is what has the power, our words. And while there are in fact, many who hunger for food right now, and that is important, what is much needed are uplifting, spirit-filled words that help us seek and see a higher vision of ourselves, our country, and our world. We truly seek to be “inspired” which literally means, “In Spirit!” When that is lacking, we fall into fear, immature reactivity, hatefulness and worse. We are seeing that among us in our time in the pandemic wilderness. And it is nothing new; humans have long done that.
What is new is the awareness that we have a choice about this, about how we respond and a choice to not react but to respond. We need words that are, as Matthew Fox says in Stations of the Cosmic Christ, living bread. He says,
Living Bread is not stale or putrid. It is healthy and hearty and contributes life to our meals and our bodies, to our tables and our conversations and our shared conviviality. Living bread assists in sustaining and celebrating life. P. 79
When we partake of “Living Bread” we are filled with gratitude and with grace, the very energy of Spirit. When we speak living words and think living, loving thoughts and respond in love rather than react with judgment, we are creating the body of a Living Christ.
What happens when we speak words that give life, that inspire, feeding the soul as well as the body? Bishop Marc Andrus says it best, he says:
The Bread of Life archetype is the one associated in esoteric thought with the heart chakra. In the heart, bread is made by the contributions of many outside us, and the heat of love that transforms these experiences. Then the bread is broken and distributed to a hungry world. One receives back not what they gave, but something made new by compassion. P.79
We are made new in the heat of our suffering by the love of God which we see, hear, taste and feel as compassion. How do we know we are seeing what is God, what is hidden made manifest as the Living Bread that feeds our souls as well as our bodies?
I think it best expressed in a poem by our very own James Dillet Freeman that goes like this:
What God is Like
I did not know what God is like
Until a friendly word
Came to me in an hour of need –
And it was God I heard.
I did not know what God is like
Until I heard love’s feet
On errands of God’s mercy
Go up and down life’s street.
I did not know what God is like
Until I felt a hand
Clasp mine and lift me when alone
I had no strength to stand.
I think I know what God is like,
For I have seen the face
Of God’s son looking at me
From all the human race.
James Dillet Freeman
Blessings on the Path,