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September 2018



A Contemplative Exercise for September 

The following is a possible framework for the Witnessing of the Word. It can be personalised, or altered: its purpose is to serve as an example of how this Saying might be used primarily in the context of a Prayer Group, but it may be used by individuals if so wished. It is not intended to be definitive.

In the context of a group: the periods of silence should be appropriate for your group - probably not less than 5 minutes, or more than 15 minutes.

 

Saying for the month

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world”                                                                   John 6.51 (AKJV)

 

To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; becoming aware of the sounds around you and putting them aside; and offering this time of prayer to God.


Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:

 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest"   Matthew 11.28 

 

Introduction to the first silence - a preparation for listening with the mind: 

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world”    

Our saying is the culmination of the Bread of Life Discourse in the 6th Chapter of John’s Gospel.  It follows immediately after John’s telling of the Feeding of the 5,000 with its old testament resonances with the miraculous feeding of the Israelites with Manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and the pastoral abundance of Psalm 23 – “he makes me lie down in green pastures”. 

What follows is a series of statements in an almost stream of consciousness format in which Jesus is variously “the bread of life”, “the bread which came down from heaven” and “the living bread… which I will give for the life of the world”.

What does it mean for Jesus to be bread?

Bread is the staple food stuff of the western world. It is essential for life and so we call it ‘the staff of life’  

Moreover, bread takes effort to make:

-        Growing the grain

-        Collecting the grain

-        Sifting the wheat from the chaff

-        Milling the wheat into flour

-        Mixing it with water, butter and yeast

-        Making dough

-        Kneading it

-        Baking it

It is a day’s work –daily bread is therefore work for everyday and making it is sacrificial

Moreover, a loaf is too much for one person to eat at a sitting – so bread is shared – in the extreme in the feeding of 5,000 people.

Bread therefore needs to be broken.

And when it is broken it is a little like a killing, a sacrifice and traditionally when it is broken it is blessed. 

A recent Church Times article article tells of the discovery that bread goes back 14,000 years - that it pre-dated agriculture

People made it from wild grain.  This meant it took more energy to collect and make it than it yielded.  Moreover they ate it together. Bread was therefore from the outset sacrificial and it was communal.  It was religious before it was food.

Religious has at its root the latin ‘ligo’ (to tie), like a ligament, that which ties us together

When Jesus says he is the bread of life he is saying all of these things – he is:

-        Essential

-        Shared

-        Sacrificial

-        Bonding

and more …

Jesus mentions the Manna which came down from heaven making a link to the grumbling Israelites with their grumbling stomachs from Exodus.  

In this sixth chapter of John Jesus is wandering about the sea of Galilea and the people are chasing after him: they are like the Israelites in the desert following Moses, searching for the promised land

Like them they are looking for a sign

The feeding of the 5,000 is not enough for them

It is again like the complaining Israelites in Exodus

The Israelites were given Manna – ‘what is it’? they said

The Jews were given Christ and they said – ‘who are you?’

But Jesus is more than the Manna – because the Manna was just about food

Jesus sustains in a different, a more comprehensive way than food – in Jesus we have been given gifts greater than food, gifts sufficient to bind together and sustain the entire world.

““I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world”    ”   


A time is now kept for silence of the mind - between 5 and 15 minutes

 

The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

 Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world” 

 


Introduction to the second silence - a preparation for listening with the heart:

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world”

Some questions with which to approach the second silence: 

(you might wish to allow a short time of quiet between each question to allow individuals to consider its bearing in the light of their own lives) 

Am I feeding on Jesus, allowing the love of the living God to sustain me?

Am I feeding on the word?

Am I appreciating the sacrifice which went into the making of ‘the bread of life’?

Am I appreciating it, delighting in it, savouring it?

 Am I sharing that love with the whole world – am I giving the gift which I have been given, the abundant gift that can sustain the whole world?

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world”

 

We now put aside out thoughts and listen to the Word in the silence of the heart - between 5 and 15 minutes

Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or by repeating the Saying:

 Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world” 

 

Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God’s word outwards.

“I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world”

With this word in mind we can now bring the meaning alive not only for ourselves, but also most importantly for the lives of others, in our intercession.

Say the name of a person or a group of people, and after a short pause, repeat the saying. For example:

All you refugees and asylum seekers...        Jesus says to you: “I am the living bread … which I will give for the life of the world.” 

 As we approach Harvest time we pray for the physical needs of those for whom the provision of food is a daily concern

For more fortunate communities we pray for a spiritual harvest of the ‘living bread’ for ourselves and for the wider world

September is the month for the beginning of the new school year: we pray for Christian teaching in our schools and universities and a feeding on “the word” in our congregations and communities.

 

Conclude the time of intercession with words of thanksgiving:

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.

Use the Fellowship Prayer or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer.

Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do. Amen

 

 You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.  

 

This month's exercise was contributed by CH