Thursday, August 9, 2012

“So Whadda Ya Want? A Kosher Deli?”

Bread, bread and more bread.
          Jesus used so many symbols in his teachings, shepherds, sheep, wine, water, and of course, bread.  These were all things that were common items to his listeners.  They would have understood some subtleties about sheep and shepherds that more modern and urban folks just don’t fully grasp.  I suppose if he were to tell us parables in this age he would use the internet, cell phones, automobiles and things that are common to all of us.
            The good news is; we all understand bread.  Across all cultures and across all time we understand bread.  Bread is not exciting.  My oldest son liked to eat bread with nothing on it.  No peanut butter and jelly, no honey, not even butter.  He would call it dull bread.  Seriously, he would come in and say, “May I have a slice of dull bread.”  Yes bread is not exciting unless you are starving.  A person can live a long time on bread and water.  It is that basic.
            Jesus tries to tell his followers something about bread.  Most of them miss the point.  In the video we watched where he feed five thousand people with a little boy’s lunch, do you think he may have been demonstrating that God will provide.  So often we look at our own lack, our shortcoming, our need or our desire and its attainment is so far away, so far beyond our ability to achieve.  And yet…God has a limitless supply.  The catch is we have to align our will with God’s instead of expecting God to align with our will.  He will provide what we need, when we need it.  And in most cases … surprise! … It will be different from and so much better than what we were expecting.
            Bread.  So basic.  So common.  Every day, many times a day we have bread.  That is what Jesus wants us to remember about Him.  Every day, many times a day we need to commune with Jesus.  Are you listening?
            Those people back there on that grassy hillside missed the point.  Some saw the power and wanted to make him a king. 
            For selfish reasons!  They weren’t looking to make him a king for His glory.  No!  They wanted a king who could feed them, care for them, and make them rich and give them power.
            Some of them, after they realized that he had managed to slip away unnoticed followed his disciples across the sea.
          Oh yes, in the verses between the feeding of the five thousand and when the crowd found Him on the other side of the sea, the disciples got into a boat and started across the sea without Jesus.  He caught up to them by walking on the water.  You remember that story.  Right?  That’s why our reading starts with, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
          Jesus knew why they had followed Him so He answered them, “Most certainly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.”  These people were not following so that they could truly become the People of God that they claimed to be.  No!  They came for earthly things.  They would have been happy if Jesus would have opened a Kosher Deli with an all-you-can-eat buffet!
          Don’t get smug here.  Examine your self as I have to examine myself.  I’ll admit there are times that I’ve treated the God of creation like a genie in a magic lamp.  I’ve gone to God with my wish list…but left my work clothes behind.
          Hear again what Jesus said, “Don’t work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has sealed him.”
          I know that we, like them want to ask, “Okay, so what do we have to do, so that we can work the works of God?”
          But you see they weren’t listening.  They only heard what they wanted to hear.  They and we so often hear “Don’t work for the food which perishes.  Work for the food that gives you eternal life.”  Right?  Is that what you heard?  That is what I’ve heard for years when I read that passage.
          However, look what is really says, “Which the Son of Man will GIVE you.”  Give you.  It is a gift.  You can’t WORK for it.
As a matter of fact, Jesus answered them this way, “You want some work to do well this is the work that God expects, believe in him whom he has sent.”
          Now these same people who had followed Him into the wilderness and up the mountain and then across the sea BECAUSE OF THE POWER THEY WITNESSED, had the audacity to ask him, “What then do you do for a sign, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you do?”
          I’ll tell you the truth; it is a good thing that God didn’t choose ME to be His messiah.  My patience would have run out right there.  “You want a sign?  Another sign?  You can’t see all of the arrow shaped signs with flashing lights that are pointed at me?  I’ll give you a sign.  I got your sign right here!”  Yep!  It’s a good thing it wasn’t me standing on that sea shore with those people.  ‘Cause if I’d of had the power of God at my finger tips …..”  It wouldn’t have turned out well for them.
          But there I go getting all smug and superior sounding again.  I forgot for a second that I’m not Christ.  I’m one of the people in the crowd saying, “Yeah sure, you fed me yesterday … but what have you done for me today?”  Oh yeah, I’d have been the loud mouth at the front of the crowd saying, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness. As it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’  Yep!  That would have been me out there spouting Bible verses at God incarnate because I have my own agenda, my own goals, my own plans and You, Jesus, what are you going to do for me?
          Jesus took them down a peg or two when he said to them, “Most certainly, I tell you, it was NOT Moses who gave you the bread out of heaven.  Have you forgotten that it was my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven?
          Now pay attention because I’m going to explain it one more time, the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
          They interrupt and say, “Lord, always give us this bread.”  Okay!  Free bread for life…hmm…I wonder if that includes donuts?  Oh and the cream filled horns!
          Jesus tries again to get them and us to understand, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
          “But I have repeatedly told you that you have seen me, and yet you don’t believe.  Well believe this, “All those whom the Father gives me will come to me. He who comes to me I will in no way throw out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.  This is the will of my Father who sent me, that of all he has given to me I should lose nothing, but should raise him up at the last day.
This is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
          Now that right there is about as short and direct of a sermon as I have ever heard.  Did they get it?  Has it soaked in yet?  Well stay tuned ‘cause the stories not over yet.
          The Jews therefore murmured (You know what murmuring is right?  Murmuring is those things said under your breath but loud enough that the offending party can still hear you.)  So these Jews murmured concerning him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down out of heaven.”  But they said "We know this guy." He is Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? He is just the carpenter’s kid so what is this nonsense about, ‘I have come down out of heaven?’”
          So Jesus said, I can hear you, you know?  Look, I’ll draw you a picture, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.”  Now I KNOW that you have all read the prophets, since you were quoting scriptures to me.  It is written in the prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who hears from the Father, and has learned, comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except he who is from God. He has seen the Father.”
          Not that anyone has seen the Father, except he who is from God. He has seen the Father.
          Did that sound like a ‘dig’ to you?  Na na na na Nahna you haven’t seen him but I have, so there!  No, that’s probably not the way Jesus meant it.
          But he does go on to say, “I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, which anyone may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Yes, the bread which I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
          So many times when I read passages like this, I think, “How can these people be so dense?  How can they not see what is in front of them?”  Then I remember that it took me twenty some years of hearing hundreds of sermons in dozens of different denominational churches before I saw what was right in front of me.  Jesus own disciples, who were with Him day and night for around three years, didn’t see the fullness of what He was saying until much later.
          At that final Passover meal with them, He took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it He broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then he tells them that “the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.”  This gets the disciples into a debate about who would betray Him.  So quickly, after He had said “Do this in remembrance of me” they were already forgetting about Him and arguing over their own interests.
          In our passage about the walk to Emmaus, He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  It wasn’t until he was at the table with them, when he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them, that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
          In the twenty-first chapter of John it records that after Jesus death, after his appearing to them several times, the disciples were still confused as to what to do.  Peter says, “Let’s go fishing.”  They’d been fishing at night with no luck when someone on the shore tells them to cast their nets to the right side of the boat.  They catch a lot of fish.  This should have jarred a memory loose.  This was the same thing that Jesus had done when he first met Peter, Andrew, James and John.  But it wasn’t until Jesus said, “Come and have breakfast,” then took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish; that they recognized Him.
          Bread, bread, and more bread.  Story, after story, after story.  It has to be repeated some many times for them and for us before it is remembered.

          In a minute we are going to take communion together.  We are going to eat dull bread.  We are going to take it into our bodies.  Our bodies will break it down so that it can be used to fuel and repair and renew the body.  Two thousand years ago Jesus had a confrontation with people who could not grasp the fact that God wants us to do the same thing with Him.  He wants us to feed on Him, to take Him into ourselves to become a part of us.  And just as our physical body can not live without constantly renewing our food intake, so our spiritual body needs to be constantly fed. 
          Remember as often as you do this … as often as you do this, remember Me.

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