Bread of Heaven – August 5, 2012 – John 6: 24 – 35

Recently, I have been reading a book of fairy tales.  I read a lot about worship, church leadership, the Bible, etc.  It’s nice to read something just for fun.  I read the tale of Hansel and Gretel this week.  As I read through these stories, I realize that I know some of the story, but have forgotten some of the details.

The story of Hansel and Gretel begins with their father and step-mother.  The family is poor and hungry.  They barely make it from meal to meal with small rations of bread.

The step-mother plots to take the children deep into the woods and leave them where they will not be able to find their way home.  Hansel over hears this plan.  He collects small pebbles that shine in the moonlight and hide them in his pocket.  The next day, when his step-mother lead him and his sister deep into the woods, Hansel leaves a trail of the small pebbles along the path.  The step-mother leaves them in the wood to wait on their father.  At sunset, their step-mother and father never came back.  When the moon rise the light shone on the tiny pebbles and Hansel and Gretel followed the trail back to their father.  Their father was overjoyed to see the children return.

Again, the family’s table was empty.  The step-mother plotted again to leave the children in the woods.  Her argument was that she and her husband were more likely to be able to feed 2 mouths instead of 4.  She convinced their father that it would be better for them to be eaten by the beasts of the forests than to starve to death.

This time, Hansel was not able to collect the small stones to leave along the trail that led them home last time.  His only option was to leave a trail of bread crumbs from their day’s rations.  Like last time, the step-mother left the children in the woods to wait for their father.  Come nightfall, they tried to follow the trail of bread crumbs home, but the critters of the woods had eaten the crumbs.

The children were frightened.  They rested through the night to have the energy to search for the path home in the light of the next day.  They children wandered through the woods for a couple days searching for their home with no luck.  Not only were they searching for their home, they were searching for food too.  They were able to gather a couple berries but they were very hungry.

After a few days, they found an oasis of sweets in the middle of the forest.  It was a house made of breads, cakes, and other sweet treats.  The children ate their fill when the lady of the house appeared.  She invited them in for a proper dinner.  They ate well then were tucked into comfortable beds for the night.  What seemed to be their salvation was only a plot for their demise.

The elderly woman planned to fatten up Hansel to boil him and through Gretel in the oven to bake.  Gretel foiled the woman’s plan and through her in the fire.  She set her brother free from the cage in which he had been held captive.  They were free.  They looted the old ladie’s house for jewels and trinkets and left.

The children set out again to find their father’s home.  Eventually, they made their way home.  Their father was overjoyed.  Their step-mother had starved to death.  Hansel sold all the jewels he stole from the elderly woman to buy food.  They were never hungry again and lived happily ever after.

One thing I’ve found is that step-mothers are not loving, nurturing characters in these tales.

In the story of Hansel and Gretel, their struggle was one for food.  Food was scarce.  The mother’s plot would not have changed their situation of food scarcity.  She didn’t have the vision of setting a plan that would change the family’s situation on a more permanent basis. 

The family needed a stable food source.  The children thought they had found it when they found the house of cakes.  However, the house wouldn’t provide them a well-balanced nutritious meal every day.  Hansel and Gretel would eventually become malnourished if all they ate every day is cake and bread.  The family needed a nutritious, stable food source.

Our spiritual journeys can easily be compared and contrasted to the story of Hansel and Gretel.

We too often find ourselves in the wilderness starving.  It is times when we feel lost.  Or, it seems God hasn’t heard our prayers.  We long for an experience of God.  Our soul feels the hunger pains of wanting food and water, the basic necessities of life.  We wander around in search of something to fill us.  We may find moments that distract us from our hunger; still, we remain starving souls.

When we are so hungry, we are easily seduced by food that won’t fill or nourish us.  These are those things that seem like they may satisfy.  This false bread could be as dangerous as drugs or alcohol.  It could be as simple as bad habits and guilty pleasures.

We don’t need to be hungry or try to feed on false bread.  We have a sustainable food source that will nourish our souls forever.  It is so easy to find this bread, but it does take work.  The work is believing in Christ Jesus and spending time with Him, the Bread of Heaven.

There are so many ways we can feed our souls.  We can pray.  We can read our Bible.  We can come to church.  We can study the Bible with a group of friends.  Most important is our private time in prayer.  The ways you can pray are endless.  Prayer can be any activity that transports you to the present and clears your mind of all that distracts you from focusing on the presence of God. 

We can get really creative about how we spend time with God.  Some may go for a walk.  You might sing or play an instrument.  You might craft or sew.  You might work in the garage or on a project.  I know someone who considers mowing his lawn to be prayer.  You can go fishing. 

Some may actually go out into the wilderness to get away to find God.  Unlike Hansel and Gretel and their evil step-mother, our Divine Parent will never leave us in the wilderness to starve to death.  After God had led the Hebrew people up out of Egypt and into the wilderness, God fed them.  Manna, bread rained down from Heaven and settled upon the ground like dew.  They just needed to gather it up every day.  There was enough for everyone to have plenty and extra for them to put aside so they did not have to gather food on the Sabbath.

May we be willing to gather the Bread of Heaven and nourish our souls spending sacred time with the Divine Parent.

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