Later this term Archbishop Geoff will join us to confirm those students who wish to take the next step in their journey of faith. This is a special step in the life of Christians: as adults we are invited to commit ourselves fully to living the Christian life. If your son is interested in being confirmed, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register him for the program.
The Bread of Life
Jesus often used the symbol of bread as a way of talking about what is really important in life. It was his way of demonstrating what gives us life and sustains us. Bread in the ancient world was a relatively affordable way of getting enough to eat. Bread was not expensive and it would fill you up. It was part of the staple diet of the people of the middle east. For the poor people of the middle east, getting enough to eat literally involved getting bread and then hopefully something else to go with it.
Of course when Jesus talks about bread coming down from heaven and giving life to the world, he’s not talking about literal bread, he’s talking about something else. He’s talking about the hope of the Gospel; he’s talking about the power of the Holy Spirit; he’s talking about faith.
Yet we human beings get fixated on the bread. The word “bread” is sometimes used to mean “money”. A variation on this is to use the word “dough”. Probably these days “dough” has overtaken “bread” as a slang term for money, but in the middle of the 20th century “bread” was probably more common. Whatever term you like to use, human beings get fixated on money. We really do! We think that, if only we had more than we currently do, then we would be happy. Perhaps billionaires think they have enough, I don’t know, but for everyone else, we always think we need more. Sometimes it takes an extraordinary event to make us realise that money is not the only thing that matters in life.
One of the interesting things about being an Anglican priest is that you meet an incredibly diverse range of people. Before I came to Saints, I was a parish priest in a church in country WA, in the town of Albany on the south coast. We had a local prison nearby: Albany Regional Prison. When I arrived in Albany, I started to visit all the church goers – the parishioners – to get to know them and to see how they were going. Tony and Michelle were a middle-aged couple that I met as I went around visiting everyone. Tony was an interesting character. He was originally from London, England. As I got to know Tony, the more interesting he became. Let’s just say that he hadn’t always been a church-goer. He used to work as a “driver” for some rather shady characters back in London. Being a “driver” meant that he was a combination between a chauffeur and a body guard. He was a “minder”: he would look after his boss. If his boss decided to go to a club for the evening, Tony would always accompany him. When Tony came out to Australia, he continued in this line of work, until one year it all caught up with him and he went away for a holiday in Albany Regional Prison. I never found out exactly why he went to prison, but it would have been to do with the body guard side of his employment arrangement.
Tony said to me that he used to be very interested in “bread”. He was a bit old school, so he actually did talk about “bread” and “dough”. But when he went to prison, he realised that perhaps his lifestyle was not going to give him a long, healthy life. He started attending the church service which the prison chaplain ran, and that’s where he met Michelle, who used to help run the service. Michelle helped him convert to Christianity and they also fell in love. When Tony got out, they got married.
His religious conversion made him realise that money wasn’t the most important thing in life and that there were other things – faith, respect for other people and love, which were actually more important. So, having lived a pretty wild life, he married Michelle and settled down. The one compromise, the one nod to his former lifestyle, was that he kept his nice jackets, trousers and dress boots. He was always immaculately dressed. That was his one indulgence. Everything else: the cars (he always referred to them as “motors”), the lavish life-style, the clubs, working for shady characters and the money which went with it, he gave up.
Was he happier? I didn’t know him before prison, but he struck me as a man who was content with the world. He’d found his place in the world and he’d made his peace with God.
The bread of life, which Jesus talks about, will not give you fabulous wealth. But it will give you a sense of satisfaction, peace and wellbeing.
The Reverend Dr Theo McCall