Lloyd Menke | Our Saviour’s
By Moyan Brenn from Anzio, Italy (Bread) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
In last week’s message about Jesus feeding the large crowd of 5,000 with 5 barley loaves and two fish, I talked about the disciples gathering the fragments of the broken bread. There was broken bread for broken people – fragments of bread for fragmented people. Last week we heard how the people were so impressed by what Jesus did in feeding them that they wanted to take him by force and make him a king. But, he withdrew from them up the mountain.
Today, we pick up the story, with the crowd searching for Jesus and finding him in Capernaum. John tells us Jesus knows that they have followed him because they ate their fill of bread. They want Jesus to provide more bread – just like their ancestors were provided manna in the wilderness. It was hard for them to see past their stomachs.
There is something in our human nature that tempts us to look after ourselves, to assert our own rights, to seek our own needs.
There is a humorous story about a couple – I’ll call them Sue and Sam. Sue was certain Sam would make a wonderful husband, especially after she met Sam’s parents.
“They’re so nice to each other,” Sue remarked. “It’s great how your dad brings your mom coffee in bed every morning!”
On the first morning after their wedding, Sue again mentioned Sam’s father’s habit of bringing his wife coffee in bed.
She asked with a smile, “Does this trait run in the family?”
“It sure does,” Sam answered with a smile of his own, “and I take after my mom!”
There is a part of us that tempts us to look after ourselves, to assert our own rights, to seek our own needs.
Jesus wants them to understand it is God who provides for their needs. Jesus want them to see him as the Bread of Life. Jesus wants them to trust in him. But trust is hard. They want proof. They want a sign. Never mind that Jesus has just shown them one in feeding 5000 people. They want more bread. They set the criteria – and demand Jesus to deliver. Give us more bread!
How often are we like them? Aren’t we also tempted to try and set the rules for our believing? I will believe if… Aren’t we also tempted at times when we wish God would “prove it?” Don’t we all struggle from time to time with the presence of evil and suffering in the world? Wouldn’t we love to have God prove God is around and cares by removing all the things that cause suffering and pain: poverty, illnesses, racial tensions, political unrest, wars, natural disasters, trouble in marriages, trouble in families, trouble with people at work? The list could go on and on.
I find myself wishing God would prove God is more active in using me. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like, what difference am I making? Do you ever feel ineffectual? I try to hold on to Paul telling me, “when I am weak then I am stronger for then God’s power is working through me.” But, that doesn’t help me all of the time.
We live on glimpses. Sometimes the glimpses seem terribly infrequent – or we just need more. The crowd that followed Jesus to Capernaum had a glimpse when Jesus fed them – but they wanted more. They weren’t asking for an end to all evils – they just wanted an end to their constant hunger.
Jesus wants to reframe the way they look at the world. In essence, Jesus is saying when you act this way, “you are not you.” You are not acting like the people God created you to be.
In 2010, for Super Bowl 44, Snickers came out with a cute commercial. The scene opens with a group of guys playing a pickup game of football in a park. Betty White is one of the players. She goes out to receive a pass, can’t get to it and is tackled into the mud.
One of Betty’s teammates says, “Mike! Come on. Mike, what’s your deal man?”
Betty replies, “Oh, come on man, you’ve been riding me all day.”
Another teammate joins in, “Mike you been playing like Betty White out there.”
They start to get into an argument when Mike’s girlfriend gets Mike’s attention and offers him a Snickers candy bar. Betty takes a bite and turns, transformed into a young adult male like his teammates.
Mike’s girlfriend asks, “Better?”
Mike responds, “Better.”
The commercial ends with the announcer saying, “You are not you when you’re hungry. Snickers satisfies.” (You can watch a clip of the commercial here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbpFpjLVabA)
As the crowd presses him for more bread, Jesus is in essence saying, “You are not you when you’re hungry.” But, Jesus is playing with the notion of hunger. The crowd is thinking bread, and Jesus is talking about their spiritual hunger. He wants them to discover that He is the only one who truly satisfies.
Paul understood this. He tells the congregation in Corinth:
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Paul was convinced that the Holy Spirit at work in us calls us to live as a new creation in Christ. That’s a churchy way of saying that the Holy Spirit is at work to help us be the way we were created to be. The Holy Spirit is at work helping us to resist the darker urges, desires, and thinking in ourselves.
Paul urges the congregation in Ephesus to:
“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.”
There is a connection to being a new creation in Christ and Jesus feeding us with himself as the Bread of Life. Life comes when we trust Jesus. Trust in Jesus allows us to more fully live as we were created to live.
Ephesians gives us a picture of that. The writer begs us to:
…lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
It seems like we are increasingly becoming a nation of “one issue relationships.” You either agree with me on this – or we can’t be friends. This seems the opposite of what Paul is saying. That does not mean we have to agree about everything. But, our union in Christ can be stronger than our disagreements.
I think we lived what Paul is talking about as when we gathered around round tables to discuss sexuality. We gathered and rather than debating positions – we listened to each other’s stories. We shared what shaped us – our experiences – our story of how we have come to hold the position we held. In doing that we re-discovered and honored our shared humanity. To show up to engage this process took some willingness to bear with one another. It took some patience in listening to someone whose experience and story was very different than ours. It took some humility to listen and not just argue a perspective.
While I don’t think doing this changed anyone’s mind – I sensed another kind of change out of those meetings. We moved beyond seeing each other as “a position on the issue of sexuality” to people shaped by a story. People saw each other less as the enemy and more as fellow believers. Out of that we found a way forward together. We maintained the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
In Isaiah 58, Isaiah (speaking for God) says:
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
We have a lot of programs and activities to address hunger here at Our Saviour’s. We are working on finding ways to address homelessness. But, Paul and Isaiah, though they say it in different words, both hold removing the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil from among us – it is the calling to which we have been called as we seek to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The bible holds this calling as high as the calling to care for the hungry and homeless. I think we have experienced one way we can put this into practice when we stopped to honestly listen to each other’s stories. We caught a glimpse of Jesus the Bread of Life feeding us – in unity – in our common humanity. Can we trust that he will feed us as we seek to be repairers of the breach – not just here at Our Saviour’s – but out there with our family, friends and co-workers? Can we trust that Jesus the Bread of Life will actually assist us if we embrace our calling – and be who we were created to be?