The sermon title for Sunday is “Will Wrestle for Food”, a reference to both our Hebrew Scripture lesson from Genesis concerning Jacob and his wrestling match with God and our Gospel lesson in which Jesus speaks about the meaning of the feeding of the 5,000 people, Jacob’s descendants, if you will, and their wrestling with the concept of what the bread of heaven is all about.
Add to that a modern day story of wrestling with faith, as author Sarah Miles, raised in a secular household and never having had a connection with a church, describes finding herself in worship one day and receiving communion. Here’s how she describes it: “I still can’t explain my first communion. It made no sense. I was in tears and physically unbalanced; I felt as if I had just stepped off a curb or been knocked over, painlessly, from behind. The disconnect between what I thought was happening–I was eating a piece of bread; what I heard someone else say was the ‘body’ of ‘Christ’, a patently untrue or at best metaphorical statement; and what I knew was happening–God, named “Christ” or “Jesus” was real, and in my mouth–utterly short-circuited my ability to do anything but cry.” Sarah’s experience led me to wonder about how many of us have ever had a similar experience receiving communion in the midst of our own struggles and wrestling?
So began a long wrestling match as Sarah lived into a new understanding of Jesus and what he requires of us, and her understanding of “bread” and “communion” led her to establish a Food Pantry at her church in San Francisco, open to all, without condition. The success of that Food Pantry led her to be instrumental in helping several other food pantries open up. Out of Sarah’s wrestling match came a fulfillment of Isaiah’s proclamation: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come buy and eat! Why do you spend your money for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food”. Sarah Miles found that rich food in her communion encounter with Jesus.