We thank God for Breads of Life
Ephesians 5:20

I have never seen a person in Australia starving to death from a lack of food. I mean someone lying in the street – only skin and bones – and death creeping up over their body because they have nothing to eat.
Maybe it has happened. Maybe you have seen it in Australia in your lifetime. But I haven’t.
What I see in Australia is a country with more food per head of population than any nation that has ever lived on our planet in the past. I believe that today we not only have more food than most other nations on our planet, I believe we also have more varieties of food than any other people on earth.
eg. We have all the different tropical fruits from the North, including pineapples, bananas and mangoes. We have so many different varieties of tropical fruits I don’t even know the names of some of them. From the South we have stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and apricots. Then there are fruits like grapes (and the juice from the grapes), plus oranges, lemons, grapefruits and watermelons. That’s just for dessert.
For a main course we can enjoy eating meat every day of the week.
Tell me of any other country in the world outside of Australia where we can go down the street, as we can in our capital cities where most Australians live, and we can choose from a vast range of foods. I think of the Asian dishes – Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, and I haven’t mentioned the variety of Chinese take aways!
There is also a variety of Indian eating places, plus Lebanese, Mongolian, Mexican, Italian, Greek, German, French and South African. Not to mention the English roasts and fishn’chips, or the American Hamburger places and other Take Aways. Of course we must include the Aussie pies with tomato sauce, the bread and vegemite, and even kangaroo that people have been eating in Australia for thousands of years.
I haven’t mentioned the seafood places!
If we sat down to draw up a list of all the varieties of food and eating places in Australia, we’d give up. I think it would be impossible.
In Australia we don’t ask ourselves, “Will there be any food for us to eat this evening, or tomorrow, or this coming week?” Rather, we ask ourselves, What choice shall I make from all the different varieties of food on offer?”
Amid all this wonderful variety of food, today we say a humble “Thank you heavenly Father! Thank you for all the choices!”
St Paul reminds us today that when the Holy Spirit controls us “you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Today I’ll only touch on the foods our caring God supplies. Look at how generously God answers our prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” I suspect if you and I were in charge of food supplies there are some people in our society who might go hungry.
At home we have an electric bread maker. We can put all the ingredients in the machine before we go to bed at night. These include the flour, some bread improver, some water, and of course the yeast. It is a gluggy mixture. Not exciting to look at! We set the timer. Then we sleep in the confident faith that the bread machine will wait for the right moment and switch itself on. The yeast will begin its miraculous work of raising the mixture into a healthy loaf. We can wake up in the morning to enjoy warm fresh bread for breakfast. A new loaf made from a gluggy mess.
I must admit there have been several times when I have forgotten to put the yeast in. Maybe you have too, and you know what happens! You get a flat rock hard result that is thrown out. It is good for nothing!
I’d like to compare the marvelous work of the yeast to the miraculous work of God, working through the Holy Spirit and Jesus. The Spirit brings Jesus into our lives to permeate us like the yeast does the messy bread mixture. Jesus can say, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51)
We feed on Jesus, the bread of life, when we hear the Good News from the Bible.
We receive Jesus when we add water to the Word in baptism. In our baptism Jesus begins to work like yeast. He begins to permeate us deep down inside to give us spiritual life and growth.
When we come to Holy Communion we receive the risen Jesus in the earthly bread. The crucified body, put in the tomb, that rose at the right time, on the third day!
God is so generous. He feeds us on the bread of eternal life. When the time comes and we rest in the sleep of death – nothing great to look at – at the right moment the Spirit raises us up in the resurrection. What we put in the grave might be nothing holy looking, but the Jesus living in us raises us to the new life. At the right time, during the quiet sleep of death, the yeast brings a rising to a new life – like a fresh new loaf – quite different in texture from the ingredients that went into the grave.
In this world we can make a mess of some things, including some of our relationships, even close ones. But in our union with Jesus we can look forward to growing and rising into a perfect relationship with God in heaven.
I would like to suggest that life without Jesus is like making a loaf of bread without yeast. It will be flat! Life with Jesus means to become filled with eternal life. Some people might think that money is the real yeast of life. If that were true then Jesus missed out. He was poor. He didn’t even own his own home. The love of money is called greed, and this can destroy and spoil life, especially for the neighbours. The Spirit clearly teaches us that Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is the yeast of a fulfilling life.
When we come to the Lord’s Table we receive together, both the earthly bread and the heavenly bread. Both come to us as free gifts from God. Our daily food and our spiritual food are generous gifts from God’s grace. Please note that God doesn’t give the gifts to us because we are so good and wonderful, or so spiritual! God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit bring us both foods because God knows how desperately we need both foods. We desperately need the spiritual food, the bread from heaven, and we need the earthly food. Could anyone be more generous and caring than the God who loves us and sets a table for us because he knows we need the foods.
I think Australia is one of the poorest countries spiritually. There are people in other countries who work harder than us, who might live better lives than we do, are for example more spiritual and more community minded than we are, and they don’t know where their food will come from this week. Today we thank God for his generosity to us. We don’t deserve it.
My experience as a retired pastor is that some Sundays I might come, and lose concentration during the hymns, or during the confession, or the absolution or even important parts of the sermon. But I can go home knowing that I went up to the Lord’s Table and received Jesus, the living Jesus, who chooses by grace to come to live in me like a fresh yeast. Not because I am so good and wonderful, or so deeply spiritual, but because Jesus knows I need him. I go to the Lord’s Table because I prefer the life of Jesus to my own life. To go to the Table is always a form of repentance – to turn from one’s own self and to receive Jesus, the bread of eternal life.
In conclusion, I want to tell you the name of someone who does go hungry, who is often starving and in desperate need of food and clothing. His name is Jesus.
We get reports of refugees starving to death in other parts of our world. There are refugees, millions of them, hoping to find safety and food - too many millions to count, let alone know their names. An odd few even try to get to Australia. It can be hard to be concerned or involved with the millions of refugees because we don’t even know their names. Jesus says, in Matthew 25,
“For I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your homes. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me.”
It is Jesus who is hungry and thirsty, and a refugee. We can support him through agencies like Lutheran World Service. Simply put money in an envelope and either include it in the Sunday offering, or give it to your treasurer, who can give you a receipt and you can rightly claim it as a tax deduction. Or post it to the Lutheran World service office in Australia,
PO Box 488, Albury  N S W    2640. Another agency to minister to Jesus is the Christmas Bowl Appeal.
We need Jesus, the Bread of Life, and Jesus needs us.