Abiding Bread

August 5, 2018 (18th Sunday in Ordinary Time/Proper 13)

Service for the Lord’s Day

Indian Hill Church

Cincinnati, OH

2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a

Psalm 51:1-12

John 6:24-35

Reverend Dr. Stephen Caine

 

6:24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:24-35, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: God of hope, when your people were hungry in the wilderness and longed for the food they ate as slaves in Egypt, you opened the doors of heaven and rained down manna. So, we pray, Oh God, that you will feed us with the bread of life at your table, that we may taste the freedom of eternal life and lead lives worthy of our calling, through Christ our head. Amen.

 

We humans seem like we are always hungry.  Hungry for something.  Often, we are hungry for more than just food, because we have deep hungers that drive us.  We are hungry for everything from adventure, to peace.  We are driven by these hungers, desires, passions — some of them are positive and others are not.  So as Jesus is talking about being the bread of life, it is both literal as well as a metaphor for satisfying our needs.  Jesus is offering himself as an answer to our yearnings. He describes himself as Bread.

 

Bread get a bad name today, as so many people have gone to low carb, gluten free diets bread has been eschewed for lettuce wraps or rice cakes.  So, let’s not get caught up on the image of bread in this story.  The bread that Jesus is talking about is meant as sustenance necessary for survival.

 

Last Sunday George preached about the abundance of God in the feeding of the five thousand. Remember that Jesus fed them a satisfying meal of bread and fish, from a measly 5 loaves and two fish.  It was amazing, a miracle beyond everyone’s imagination.  Moving forward John’s Gospel tells us that the very next day Jesus has gone off by himself, but the crowds follow after him.

 

Some of the crowd who were fed on the mountainside are still hungry, so they search for Jesus.  Their stomachs may be full, but they are still seeking. They are curious people who want to know more.  They had questions, they wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

 

They are attracted to Jesus, but they are also hesitant, uncertain about who he is and what he is about.  They have had a glimpse of the gospel and they are hungry for more.  They are happy and satisfied on one level, but they have other hungers and want more of Him.  It is easy for us to understand their feelings.  If Jesus can provide food and satisfy their hunger who knows what else, he can do.  Perhaps he can provide shelter and clothing to those who need it.  Maybe Jesus can provide protection from the storms of life.  Possibly he can prevent illness or heal infirmities.  Conceivably Jesus has the potential to lift all the burdens of life, to make life not only bearable but enjoyable.  So, of course they followed him.

 

This follow up on the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 gets difficult when we place it in the reality of our world today.  How many people, especially children go hungry in the world and in our nation, in our city, and in our community?  I saw a commercial on television recently that stated the staggering fact that 1 in 6 children is hungry each day, in our nation, not knowing where or when their next meal will come from.[1] If this is a literal statement of Jesus then why are some many people going hungry today?  If it is a metaphor, then what is the point of working for eternity?

 

This tension, this divide between the spiritual and reality is central to the struggle of faith.  We believe that in the truth of God and the bible, but we live with the harsh realities of the world. What are we going to do about it?  What is our response?   Because I believe that Jesus is the son of the living God, the living bread, that bread that does not perish then my response to that gift, that grace, that truth is to do what I can to make the world a better place.  Now of course, I can’t end hunger, of homelessness, or make everyone love each other, etc.  But I can do my part and as a preacher with a bully pulpit I can invite you to join me.  I can tell you of my own experiences with God.  I can share the experiences that others have with God and how it has transformed their lives.  I can share the importance of giving your time, your talents, your money to help other people have better lives.

 

Why this matters.  We are a church, a sanctuary in the midst of the chaos of life.  Some of you come here out of habit, it is what you do, it is how you start your week – every Sunday morning, you come to church for peace, for quiet, for reflection, for holy communion, for inspiration and for community.  Others of you come at the end of your week, to take a deep breath, to hear a comforting word, to share with others the hurried life, knowing that something here helps you along the way.   Others are seekers, not sure why you come, not sure what you are looking for not sure if you will ever find it.   And each and every reason you come is okay, it is okay with me, with George but most importantly it is okay with God.   I believe, and I proclaim a God of grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy.  Why because I am one of the pieces, fragments, leftovers, of broken bread that Jesus asked his disciples to gather up following the feeding of the five thousand.  It is the mission of the church to gather people together to be; community.

 

There are all types of community, some that are forced and some that are organic.   Some that are welcoming and others that are closed and gated for only the select few.   It is my hope that we, the Indian Hill Church realize that we are a community and that we work to be a welcoming, open and inclusive community for all people.  Not just Episcopalians, not just for Presbyterians, but for people with no faith, with lots of questions and with no answers.  A generous community that welcomes those like us and those who aren’t. That we can join God in being the body of Christ in the world.

 

This means, as George referenced last week in his sermon an attitude shift, not an easy thing to do, by any means but a vitally important shift to seeing God, the church and our lives as generous, endless, and without limits.   It is how we welcome others, how we share our gifts, our time, our talents, our skills, our expertise, how we give back, how we give our money.

 

Bear with me as I share a personal epiphany.  A few weeks ago, while sitting in yet another church meeting, the discussion shifted to budgets and funding, and I started talking about how we couldn’t do this and can’t afford to do that and that is when a group of wise folks sitting around the table said, “why do we let the budget dictate our church?”  “Why do we limit what we can do because the budget is tight?”  I took a deep breath and swallowed my usual speech about having fiduciary responsibility to lead the church and stay within budget, so we don’t get into financial trouble.  When it dawned on me this connection between Jesus being the bread of life, the antidote to our hungers.

 

It takes me back to today’s Gospel lesson when Jesus says, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the son of man will GIVE you” And the people respond, “Uh, what must we DO?” What part of gift don’t we understand? Jesus said, “I’ll give it to you.”[2]  Now, I am a realist, I know that we can’t just say God will provide and it will be done but I am reminded that we are a community of faith that is extremely blessed.  We are growing when the rest of the mainline church isn’t.  We are filled with excitement, imagination and joy when so many churches today are sad shells of their former selves. We have very talented and gifted people who are happy to share their passions through our church.  We also have the financial resources to do so much more than we currently are doing.  You will hear about our money situation later this year in the traditional stewardship season, but I want to encourage you now – to see if you can do more.   I invite you to look in the pew rack in front of you where you will find a brochure about the Luther Tucker Legacy Society, it is an invitation for you to remember Indian Hill Church in your will or trust.  You hear on a weekly basis all the different ways to get involved in our community at MEAC, at IPM, IHN, backpacks for back to school, and you can also give money to support these projects.  Many of you love the incredible music that we are blessed with here at IHC, it is not cheap, many of you come to church because your children love our programs, again it is not easy, and it is cheap!  But, and it is a big but!  We can do it, with your help, your support and your prayers, why, because I believe in a generous God, who is the bread of life, not food that perishes but everlasting, abiding bread….

 

[1] http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/child-hunger-facts.html

[2] Delmer Chilton