“The Bread of Life” John 6:24-35 7/5/2018
We live in one of the most diet-conscious societies that have ever existed. Some of the diets you see are a little bizarre like the “Sauerkraut diet” or the “Spam Diet”.
Then there are some diets that will probably work like the one that says you can eat as much as you want of any food you don’t like.
And then there is the one I ran across that’s called “The Stress Diet”. This is a diet I can really relate to:
Breakfast: 1/2 grapefruit, slice whole-wheat toast, 8-oz. skim milk.
Lunch: 4 oz. lean broiled chicken breast, 1 cup steamed zucchini, 1 Oreo cookie, and Herb tea.
Mid-Afternoon Snack: Rest of the package of Oreos, 1 quart of Rocky Road ice cream, 1 jar of hot fudge.
Supper: 2 loaves garlic bread, large pepperoni and mushroom pizza with double cheese, 2 quarts of Pepsi or Coca Cola, 3 Milky Way Candy Bars, and an entire Sara Lee Pound Cake eaten directly from the refrigerator.
Now there’s probably more truth in that diet than most of us would like to admit.
Diets are about doing without certain foods.
In today’s Gospel Jesus talks about a food that a person cannot live without, namely bread. Bread is common to all cultures yet is different in different cultures.
- In Oriental countries bread consists primarily of rice-based
- In the Native American culture bread is a corn-based
- And in most Western cultures bread consists of primarily wheat based
Bread is one of my favorites. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve eaten, or the meal is complete if there isn’t some sort of bread.
The neat thing about bread is that there are so many different kinds: Bagels, English Muffins, Russian Rye, Pumpernickel, Cornbread, Potato Rolls, Tortillas, Croissants, Whole Wheat, White, Dinner Rolls and Biscuits just to name a few.
Are you hungry yet? All that talk about bread should have your mouths watering.
Now I’m not trying to be cruel. There really is a point here. You see bread was why the people came looking for Jesus.
They weren’t looking for Jesus so they could listen to his wonderful sermons and teachings. Oh, sure, some of them were; a handful, maybe.
For the most part the crowd followed after Jesus hoping for another miracle similar to the one of the loaves and the fishes. This is what we heard about last week, how Jesus fed 5,000 people from the five barley loaves and two fish.
Now the people are impressed and they seek after Jesus wherever he goes. They were following Jesus for the free food they thought they would get.
Jesus, seeing through their game, confronts them with the truth of their curiosity for him. “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
The people totally missed the point. They came with the wrong kind of hunger. They hungered for more. That kind of hunger is still around today.
There was a cartoon in which two characters were sitting on the couch watching TV. One turns to his friend and says, “We get 400 channels. I’m no happier than the old days when we only got 200!” As he gets up and begins walking away he says: “Something is wrong.” His friend on the couch replies: “Darn right. Maybe if we had 600 channels things would be better!”
That’s sort of the way it is in the world today. If it’s not more television channels it’s something else. It seems that whatever we have isn’t enough. What we think we really need is the one that’s bigger, faster, newer, better, shinier, more expensive, trendier, whatever.
There is a hunger within us. And whatever it is that we have is not enough. You can see it in all aspects of life: jobs, material things, and relationships. We have more than any other generation in history but we just aren’t satisfied. It’s like the friend from the story who says, “Something is wrong.”
And like the people in the Gospel story we go looking for that satisfaction in all the wrong places. And Jesus confronts us with the same words he used to confront the crowd. He said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Humanity will give you” (vs. 27).
Now these people had worked hard to find Jesus. The day before Jesus had been on one side of the Sea of Galilee. Then he had left by himself, gone to a mountain, and ended up in Capernaum on the other side of the sea.
So they had to work hard to find Jesus. When they finally found him, their first desire was to have more bread to eat. This is when Jesus said to them the same words he says to us, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Humanity will give you.”
The people in their hunger asked, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus replied and basically said, “Just believe in me.”
In his answer, Jesus wasn’t talking about belief of the mind, but rather belief of the heart. In other words, Jesus was talking about trust.
“Just trust me,” Jesus was saying to those who were hungry, who were searching, who needed healing and hope in the wilderness of their lives.
And as if they had already forgotten about the miracle of the day before where Jesus fed the five thousand people with only five loaves, they challenged, “What sign are you going to give us, so that we may see it and believe you. (The word “sign” in the bible is another word for “miracle”) After all,” they continued, “our ancestors in the wilderness had a sign that God could be trusted, that God was faithful – manna from heaven. So now you show us that you can be trusted in our wilderness, in our longing, in our need for healing and hope and life.”
Jesus said, “As God was faithful to our ancestors then, so too is God faithful now, for I am the bread from heaven sent from God. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me, whoever trusts me, will never be hungry.”
Sometimes the wilderness experience in life can be so dark and frightening and lonely when we are in the middle of it, that it is difficult to trust in the Bread of Life.
It is difficult to believe that God is there, that God sustains life, that God heals, and that God cares. Especially, I think, when we are in the wilderness of grief.
Everyone here has experienced some form of loss in his or her life; some more recently than others. Some of you have lost parents, spouses, family members, or friends. Some have loss prestige, work, a certain job, physical health, mental well-being. All types of losses causing many to be in the wilderness of grief.
As the great theologian C. S. Lewis wrote in his book A Grief Observed, such loss can feel like God slams the door in our face, bolts it, and then remains silent. But the message from our texts for today is that God is there with us.
As with the people of the Exodus, God hears our cries and responds. With deep compassion, God walks with us through the wilderness, and promises to never let us go.
As with the crowds that surrounded Jesus, God sustains us and gives us the strength that we will need with the Bread of Life. That doesn’t mean that death or the lonely sadness of grief will be eliminated from this world. But it does mean that when we are in this state of being, when we are sad & grieving, God is faithful and carries us through into new life and hope and healing once again.
Remember the words of Jesus “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Humanity will give you.” And these words too, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
And that’s the Good News. Jesus can and does fill that void in our lives.
- Jesus can and does satisfy the hungering spirit and the thirsting soul.
Jesus IS the Bread of Life.
This Bread is freedom from the distress of life.
- This Bread is sustenance in the wilderness of life.
This Bread is grace in the pain of life.
- It is God’s presence in the loneliness of life.
This Bread is rest in the demands of life.
- It is peace in the disruptions of life.
This Bread is community in the isolation of life.
- It is security in the uncertainty of life.
This Bread nourishes the soul.
- It is the Bread of Life.
This morning I invite you to come and feast upon this Bread.
Meet Jesus again for the first time.
May this bread from heaven fill the hungering in your body & in your soul.
And let it be a meal of trust where we are reminded that in our wilderness of life, God eternally holds us and nurtures us with the compassionate promise of new life.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, August, 201
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 8-5-18” name of the sermon.