John 6:26-71 [After he fed the five thousand] Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you … Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” … But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. … Yes, I am the bread of life! … The very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
A pastor’s wife in Curitiba, Brazil said to my husband Dave, “Stop talking about emotional healing unless you’re going to do something about it!” So Dave sent out an invitation across Brazil: “Anyone interested in a conversation about emotional healing, come to São Paulo for a weekend in mid-January. Let us know in the next week.”
By the time we left on vacation a week later, six or seven people had responded, including the woman from Curitiba. No problem! We could house and feed them in our own home.
But by the time we dragged home from two weeks of camping with friends at the beach seventeen hours’ drive from São Paulo and checked email, the number of people coming three days later was close to forty! Such was their hunger, some were coming from as far as forty-five bus hours away!
Now, I know that doesn’t hold a candle to Jesus asking the disciples to feed five thousand men, plus women and children, in a remote place. But it felt overwhelming to me, trying to deal with two weeks of stinky laundry for a family of six, clean, dry, and put away three tents, etc. etc. How could I find housing and prepare food for forty people in three days’ time? How could Jesus say to me, “Don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food?”
Yet, he provided. And the words he spoke to us that weekend were spirit and life. I doubt anyone (including me!) remembers what they ate, but none of us can forget the spiritual food God used to nourish and heal our souls.
That first weekend became a monthly event for the rest of that year, birthing the REVER movement which by God’s grace has brought spiritual and emotional healing to thousands of people across Brazil and in other countries, since 2002 under the direction internationally of Luciene Schalm. The acronym REVER in Portuguese and Spanish means “to take another look”; it stands for “restoring lives, equipping restorers.” Our four kids grew up surrounded by this ministry as it frequently occupied our home and took Dave and me around Brazil. REVER ministry in our home church in São Paulo continues to bring many nonbelievers to the healing arms of Jesus, as well as healing to families, marriages, and individuals within the church.
Of the forty times John uses the word “life” in his Gospel, eleven are in this chapter. Seven other times the words are “live” or “living.” In every case he refers to himself, the Father, or the Spirit as the source of life, eternal life: Jesus himself the bread from heaven. The sustaining, energizing, fecund dance of the Trinity that fuels our flourishing. This Lent, God invites us to give less attention to physical food so we can devote time to nourishing our souls in him.