Sunday, 13 August 2006

Jesus—Bread of Life or Not: a Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

35Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
Do we believe that? Do we really believe that Jesus is the staple food—the chief element, the main component or our diet—for life? Do we really believe that if we come to Jesus and eat this bread that Jesus is we will never, ever, go hungry, that we will never die, that we will live forever? That if we believe in him, we will never ever be thirsty for more of anything?

I don’t think we do because if we did we’d live differently. If we really believed that, we’d spend much more of our time and effort coming to Jesus and believing in him. We’d come to Jesus, believing in who he is, with regard our relationships, when we’re choosing a mate, when we’re setting up our budget, when we’re deciding on a career, every single day in prayer (and not just fleeting after-thought things while we’re doing what we really want to do), we’d be intentionally coming to Jesus when we come to church, to worship, even when we don’t like the person taking the service, or the music, with our friends, when someone cuts us off in traffic, even at the picnic tables and the beaches of our holidays, with our loved ones who are sick. If we really believed that absolutely nothing would stop us from coming to Jesus, faithfully, confidently, systematically, tirelessly, joyfully, running and jumping and standing still, constantly, daily, hourly, moment by moment, whether we felt like it or not. If we really believed that we’d put at least as much effort and time into coming to Jesus and believing in him as we do to prepare and enjoy our meals each day. And I suspect, if we were, our lives, this church and possibly even our city would be dramatically different.

If we really believed in Jesus, our thirst for all the other things with which we try to fill our empty selves with would not exist. Food, being forever young, clothes, cars, sex, status, money, needing to be needed.

“Consider your ways,” wrote the prophet Haggai at a time when the temple lay desolate and the people lived in comfortable, paneled houses:
6You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
The irony for us is that, because we have received the gift of living in safe, prosperous Canada, we have sown little and harvested much and yet we still eat, but never have enough, stuff our wardrobes with things we rarely wear, put our wages into a bag with holes.

Is Jesus the staple food—the chief element, the main component or the diet of our lives? Or is something else?

The uncomfortable bottom-line is, if our coming to Jesus and our believing was a house, would it be as well-appointed, decorated and as cared for as the paneled houses God has given us to live in? If the measure of our really coming to Jesus and believing in him was this church building and the servant ministry that goes out into the community from this congregation, what does that say to God and to the people around us?

I’m going to look at the verses that were skipped from this morning’s Gospel because they’re helpful:
36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.
Notice that even Jesus didn’t get to do what he wanted. Why do we seem to think we should? Have we been born and placed in this good land not to do our will, but the will of the One who put us here? What would that be?
39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
Could it be that God’s will is that by our coming to Jesus and believing in Him, sustained by His bread of life, we might have some responsibility to prevent those whom God has given us to be with—spouses, family and friends—from getting lost so Jesus can raise them up on the last day?
40For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
…and back our reading for this morning:
41At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?"
At this the Anglicans began to grumble about him because he said “I am the bread of heaven, only in me can you avoid hunger and thirst, whether it be spiritual, emotional or physical. You are not here to do your own will, to please yourselves in everything, but to do the Father’s will for you because when you do that, then people who are lost are found, you feed people who are hungry and thirsty with Jesus, the bread of life, so they, too, can enjoy everlasting life.” And the Anglicans said “Is this not the Jesus of the Church of England, of stained glass and pipe organs, of gracious, respectable, comfortable, reasonable, peaceful, rational, quiet, upper middle class, worship.”
43"Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered.
And the Anglicans said, “O man! But that will mean we’ll have to change and everything will get mixed up. But people will think we’re religious fanatics. And what about my mortgage and my retirement? And we’ll have to give up some things. Maybe we’ll have to sacrifice some comfortable stuff. You mean we have to come to Jesus every day?”

And Jesus said, “Exactly. Get ready. Take stock of your lives. But remember. I love you and…
"I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."