Do you ever watch “Who do you think you are” on the television? I enjoy it when I can get to see it. I find it really interesting to follow the journey that people make to try and find out about their ancestors. There’s an underlying assumption in the programme that who our ancestors were and what they did says something about us and our lives today. Certainly there’s a huge interest these days in doing family history. People seem to have a real hunger to connect with their ancestors and find out the stories of their forebears in order to help shed light on their own lives and identity.
There was a man came to church this week, wanting to know about a grandfather by the name of Farrimond who lived on Whitehall Road and died in the 1980s. He had all sorts of questions about his forebears – and when it came down to it, he wanted to understand himself a bit better. And I get that.
The title of the TV programme is also interesting – it can be used as a retort to someone who is getting a bit above themselves – “who do you think you are?” – and the programme takes that question and turns it round and relates it to where we come from, who are ancestors are.
In today’s bible reading the Jewish authorities are saying, in effect, who does Jesus think he is? Today’s Gospel reading continues the story we’ve been following over the last couple of weeks. It started with Jesus feeding the crowds with the 5 loaves and 2 fishes and then continued last week – at least for those who got to the Communion service – with Jesus’ talking to the crowd about the meaning of the miracle and how they needed to look for the true bread which would satisfy their deepest spiritual hunger. And today, we get the reaction of the Jewish authorities to Jesus saying that he is the bread of life.
The Jewish authorities didn’t like it one bit. They obviously thought that Jesus was a bit up himself. And they said, we know his ancestors, his mother and his father, and they’re nothing special, so why does he think he can go round talking like he’s the Son of God or something.
And that’s the whole joke of course, because that’s just who Jesus is.
Jesus starts talking to them about his Father, and we know that he means God. We know that Jesus is God’s Son and he has a right to talk like this. And Jesus says, if you want to know about God, look at me. He is turning the whole idea of looking for the ancestors on its head. Instead of searching the family history to understand the present, he says, look at me and you will come to know my Father, the ultimate ancestor.
And not only will you come to know God, if you come to Jesus and let him feed your soul and nourish your spirit, then you will live forever. Jesus feeds us with the living bread which is himself. And we come together week by week to eat of that living bread. We are turning to Jesus and asking him to feed us with himself.
The Old Testament reading we had just now was the story of another miraculous meal. The prophet Elijah was running away because the king’s wife, Jezebel, was threatening him. Elijah has had enough and he just wants to die, so he lies down under a bush in the desert and falls asleep. When he wakes up, he finds food and water. He eats them and goes back to sleep. He wakes a second time and finds more food and on the strength of these two miraculous meals he is able to travel to the holy mountain of Horeb, where he encounters God in the still small voice. And that’s how he discovers who he is and who God is calling him to be and what God is calling him to do.
God nurtures us for a purpose. When God feeds us, it’s not just so that we can enjoy the experience and have that satisfying feeling of being full – even when we’re talking spiritual here. God nurtures us so that we can meet him, so that we can get to know him better and love him more. God nurtures us so that we can serve him, so that we can do the task he sets for us, whatever it is, and love our neighbours better.
When we come to Communion, it’s not just so that we can feel better in ourselves. It’s so that we can get to know God a little better and love him more, and it’s so that we can be nourished and ready to do whatever it is that he is wanting us to do.
So who do you think you are?
When I do a baptism, I often talk about the story of Jesus being baptised and the voice of God saying, “this is my son. He is very special to me and I love him very much.” And I like to say that every person who is baptised is a child of God. Each one is special to God and God loves them very much.
So that is who you are. Each one of us is God’s child. God is our spiritual ancestor. We come from God. If we want to know who we are, we need to look at God. And if people want to know about God, they will look at us first and foremost. And as God’s children, he nurtures us and feeds us. And God does that for a reason, because he wants us to get to know him more deeply, and so that he can work through us in this world.
So get looking for your ancestor. Look at Jesus and find God. Let him feed you and things will happen. Who knows what?