Let me begin my sermon with a question: what’s your favorite comfort food? I googled it, and if you let me list some of the most voted American comforts foods, there were chicken noodle soup, baked ziti, mac and cheese, lasagna, tacos, chicken pot pie, jambalaya, different kind of casseroles, stews, chilies, and so on. Why are these all comfort food? I think people usually associate the feeling of comfort with a certain food that is related to some memories of a special person who cooked the food, like parents or grandparents. Then how does comfort food actually comfort people? Is it because of its taste? Or its generous portion or unchecked calories and carbs? I don’t think they’re not the main reason. We feel comfort from food because we can feel the love and care that we once felt when we ate the food before. With the ingredient of personal sentiments, comfort food becomes more than just a food. It is a channel of consolation and support.
Thinking about my comfort food, I figured that I always miss my grandmother’s tofu. I think I already told you about her tofu once before. Anyway, as you already know, tofu is the simple curd made of mashed soybeans. It’s nothing special, and just an everyday food for many Asians. And you can purchase it at any grocery market. But I can proudly say that my grandmother’s homemade tofu was such a special comfort food for me, and it was the best tofu in the world, at least, to me. I remember that she soaked soybeans in water overnight and woke up very early to grind those soybeans in a millstone. My grandparents’ house was in a deep, deep rural area back then, so that they didn’t have any electronic grinder or a gas stove. So it took a while for my grandmother to grind all the soybeans a little amount at a time, made a fire in the old wood stove to boil and churn the soymilk, and finally strained it with a cloth to make tofu. Through this long and painstaking process, she could make only four or five blocks of tofu. But they were more than enough to fully fill and warm up the hungry stomachs of my family in a cold winter morning. The tofu was so fresh that I could even see the steam rise from it. And it was delicious, just by itself. And now I know that I cannot taste that kind of tofu anywhere else. What’s so special about my grandmother’s tofu? Her traditional process of cooking? The soybeans she grew? Were they organic and non-GMO? No…her tofu was special because of her love, the love for her family, the love for her grandson. That love was what comforted me. Nobody can cook better than our grandmothers, because nobody can love us more than them. Food becomes a vessel of love in their hands, at their homes. The taste of my grandmother’s homemade tofu was, indeed, the taste of love.
For the past four weeks we saw how God expresses God’s love through food. God sent quail and manna to the Israelites in the wilderness so that they could sustain their life through the journey to Canaan. When Elijah was hiding himself in a creek, God sent ravens to deliver some food to him, and when he was sitting under a solitary broom tree with deep frustration, angels brought him bread to comfort him, make him walk the way to Mount Horeb, and renew his faith. How about Jesus? Jesus fed five thousand disenfranchised people living around the Sea of Galilee with five barley loaves and two fish. The Gospels tell us that it was greatly important for Jesus to serve food so his disciples could feel his love deeply. Before Jesus was crucified, he had the last supper with his disciples and shared his body and blood with them. And after his resurrection, Jesus went to the Sea of Galilee to find the disciples who went back to their ordinary life as fishermen after his death on the cross. What did Jesus do there? Jesus prepared a meal. The Gospel of John says, “When [the disciples] had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread” (John 21:9). Then, Jesus calls them, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12). The simple meal of fish and bread speaks volumes. It was more than just food. The disciples must have realized the unchangeable love of Jesus and felt profound comfort.
However, delivering love through comfort food wouldn’t be enough for Jesus. In Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John, Jesus says several times he is now the food itself for us. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love in the world, and Jesus offer himself to us as the bread of life. This bread is made in heaven, our true home. So I think we can call it true homemade bread. By grace through faith, this homemade bread of life gives us not just comfort, but invites us to embody Jesus’ love, share that love with others, and enjoy our true life in communion with God. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus summarizes his point for the last time, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:56-58).
Why are we gathering here today in the church? Isn’t it because we all have once had the unforgettable taste of love of Jesus Christ, the bread of life? And isn’t it because we all want to have that heavenly comfort food more and always in our lives? Isn’t it because we are grateful for the love of Jesus Christ that led him to offer one’s body and blood for our salvation and new life?
Sisters and brothers of Christ, the bread of life… nobody can serve this bread other than Jesus, because nobody can love us more than him. Nobody can share this bread other than Jesus, because nobody can completely give up one’s whole body and blood for us. We know that the love embodied in this bread of life has comforted us and it has power to comfort others also. So now is the time for us to share this bread with others. Let us love one another and forgive one another as Jesus did, so that people around us may taste the heavenly flavor of Jesus’ love and become willing to nourish themselves with the bread of life. Let us make our community of faith be fed with self-denying humility, so that everyone we meet can enjoy the delightful foretaste of God’s kingdom. And above all, let us give thanks to our God who is the baker of our true homemade bread of life and let us be ever grateful for Jesus’ love that comforts all of us always. Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim