Sunday, August 06, 2006

August 6 sermon--"Bread of Life"

Sermon Texts:
Ephesians 4: 1-16
John 6: 24-35

Why do we follow Christ? Are we waiting around for the physical rewards, the equivalent of a full belly as Jesus accuses the people of in the gospel reading. Do we follow Christ because we think it is good “networking” to come to church? Do we follow Christ because we simply like the fellowship and feeling of belonging? These things are certainly needs—and they are things that being a Christian certainly provides. But they’re not the point of faith. They are not the “living bread,” that Jesus describes. When we ask Jesus what is required to live a life according to God’s will, he says that believing in him is God’s will, and that he—Jesus Christ—is the Bread of Life.
He takes the crowd’s physical hunger and he points out the fact that they should be more concerned about their spiritual hunger. Jesus shows us that he has come into the world to pacify that hunger. He has embodied God so that we may know how real God is.
That’s why communion is so important to me. When I hand you the bread, I tell you “Sister, or Brother—this is the Bread of Life!” It is the Christ in our presence. It is a reminder that Christ is and was as real and tangible as that bread that you put in your mouth and chew and swallow. It is a reminder that through Jesus Christ, God came into the world and breathed, walked, had to take baths, loved, got cranky, felt rejected, felt abandoned.
The bread that you put in your mouth and the juice that you swallow are reminders that GOD is indeed the Bread of Life. God is not only some mysterious, cosmic, beyond our capabilities of understanding Being, God is in the dirt under your fingernails, God is in the sweat on your eyebrow, God is in the Owl that hoots at my front door, and God is in the field-mouse that that Owl hunts at night.
The life of Jesus meant that God was incarnate. God was in the flesh. God comes to us in the flesh so that we can relate to God and give our burdens to God. And according to Paul and the tradition of our church, God is present in us, and in the whole world. God is in us in the form of the Holy Spirit, who is with us and in us when we are “in-spired” and “in-spiring” to others.
The letter of Ephesians tells us that though we are on the same path and are one Body, this doesn’t mean that we are inspired and inspiring to others in the same way. We are given the gifts of apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist. What do these words mean? It means that it is a gift to be sent by Christ (apostle means sent). It is a gift to speak truth to power—which is what a prophet does. It is a gift to teach—especially the little children, according to the Gospel. It is a gift of God to be able to spread the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness.
Why are we following Jesus? After being a part of that miracle of the multiplication and distribution of 5 loaves and 2 fishes, would we be following this man because we knew he could get us something? Would we be tagging along because he could fill our bellies? Our worldly concerns always miss the point of who this person is that we follow and call savior. Jesus’ own disciples argue who’s going to sit on Jesus’ right and left sides when Jesus talks about his kingdom.
I love a line from the movie “The Last Temptation of Christ” when two disciples are talking about what they’re going to get when Jesus becomes king and they of course become his trusted landowners. Philip is the character who’s always concerned about his sheep. “I’m going to ask for some more sheep, and some goats!” They just don’t get it! Why are you following me? Jesus asks—do you hope to “get” something out of it?
“I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE,” Jesus tells them. I asked you to fast this past Sunday because I hoped that if you spent the day refraining from eating, if you interrupted the normal routine, you might open your eyes to the Bread of Life. The miracle in your midst. I hoped that you might take this experience and share it with others, so that they too might see the miracles in our midst.
I was happy with the stories I heard. I heard that some of you spent the day discussing the scripture, I heard that some of you really did fast and struggle with it. Why did you do it? I invited you to because I know you are hungry for something more, something deeper, than what you may find in the everyday routine. I invited you to fast with me because I knew I needed to fast so that I could key in to the feast that is in the moment.
To be honest, sometimes when I am doing something for the sake of “spiritual renewal,” there is no magic, there’s nothing different at the time I’m doing it. But as I carry on again with normalcy, the lessons of that “spiritual practice” may come to me later. I have had only a few spiritual experiences that were gut grabbing and attention getting in the moment that they happened—most of the spiritual refreshment I have experienced is in the reflection on something that I did for the purpose of drawing closer to God. God isn’t bound by time—sometimes when we try and try to draw close to God, God’s movement toward us may not be felt until the following day, the following week, or even the following year. But in that moment that we know God came close, we see that God’s presence has always been there. That’s the Bread of Life. That’s why LIFE is the BREAD.
When I share with you the sacrament of communion, I believe what I am sharing with you is the best, most time tested method, of communicating God’s presence. If it were up to me, we’d celebrate communion every Sunday—and my sermons would be shorter to accommodate it! This table is what is important, because it shows us through our taste buds, through our eyes, through our smell, through our touch, and in the liturgy through our ears, that God is with us. It brings the Psalm to life—“O taste and see that God is good!”

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