The summer break is coming to a close and for some of us there is joy for others disappointment. I have found myself reviewing the events of the summer, what few I can remember in the quick way in which it has past. We will all be doing some reviewing of the summer, in fact of the year during our pot-luck later today.
This summer the girls have taken art lessons. They have painted, drawn, colored and sculpted. Most of these lessons have been at the Huntsville Muesem of Art. And what I have learned is that the museum of art is synonymous with ducks. Yes, you heard me correctly, ducks, and fish if we are going to get down to it.
Every time I took a child to the lesson or picked them up from the lesson they wanted to feed the ducks and koi. And usually we did just that. One particular day Zanna Wyatt and I stayed at the park throughout Sara’s lesson and walked around feeding every duck and koi we came across.
When we crossed over the koi bridge a mass of fish arrived at out feet before we even threw one piece into the water. Their little mouths came out of the surface desperately seeking food, Seeking their manna from heaven as it were; their daily bread.
They reminded me of the crowds in today’s Gospel lesson.
Jesus has just fed the 5,000 men, not to mention women and children, and gotten on a boat with the disciples to head across. When the crowd realizes he has left they go in search of him. When they find him in Capernaum they ask “when did you get here?”
A simple question, not too out of the ordinary, one I’ve asked others many times before. But Jesus’ response is very different.
“You are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
Is Jesus really getting on to a group of hungry people because they are hungry again? Is Jesus putting them down for seeking after another meal in a food insecure society?
I don’t think so. I think he is trying to open their eyes to look past their stomachs and see that the bread is more than just bread.
It reminds me of the preachers whose churches were across from each other on a road heading out of town. They placed signs in their church yards that said “Turn yourself around, the end is near.” Just as they finished putting the signs in the ground a man came driving by. He leaned out his car window and yelled “Get a life you religious nuts!” As his car went around the bend the preachers heard a big splash. One looked at the other and said “Well, do you think we should have just written Bridge Out?”
Its not about the sign, but its about what the sign points to: something else, something greater.
The feeding of the 5,000 was supposed to point people toward something more, toward a greater understanding of God and God’s love for us. The bread was not the end game! It was the appetizer!
The crowds are short sighted, can’t see past their stomachs. But before we judge, how often are we the same?
How often have we seen God’s goodness and mercy poured out and asked for more, rather than thanking for what’s been provided? How often have we grabbed our nourishment like a fast-food Christian; expecting the grace of God to be handed out on our terms on our time table at a price we deem worth paying?
The crowds ask “What work of God can we do to earn the bread that fills forever?” and Jesus says “Believe in him who has been sent.”
This word is not what they were expecting. Its not what we expect when we seek God’s nourishment in times of spiritual and physical hunger. Believe. Trust, rely upon, put faith in, acknowledge as a reality that Jesus was sent by God and then, live it! This is what Jesus asks the crowd and us to do. To really live into our faith, not just when our bellies are full, not just when we can see where we are headed, but all of the time, believe.
Here are these crowds who have already seen a sign from God asking again for another one, to Prove Jesus is the real deal. “Our ansesters ate manna in the wilderness. Moses gave them bread from heaven. “
You can hear them saying “Moses fed them every day, but here we are hungry. Every day Moses offered them food. You’ve only fed us once.”
Jesus reminds them, it wasn’t Moses who fed but God! God sustained the Israelites in the wilderness. God who offered daily bread, daily provision. And certainly the manna kept the people fed, but it too was a sign! It was a sign that God would be faithful in God’s love and commitment, even when the people groaned and complained against God. God showed love no matter what!
And times haven’t changed all that much have they? From the years in the desert, to the time of Christ, from the koi in the pond, to you and me. God still reaches out to meet us in the midst of our complaining and groaning, in the middle of our arguing and rebellious sinning, to offer us a physical sign.
Do you know what that sign in my friends? Holy Communion, the Lord’s supper, the Eucharist.
In communion Christ offers himself to us once more reminding us of his words “I AM the bread of life , the true bread that comes down from heaven. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.”
So does that mean that once we eat this communion today we will never be hungry again? No, of course not! What it means is that when we receive this bread we receive again the promise of God, that God will sustain us through life and even death!
Through this sign Christ becomes a part of us spiritually, physiclally, strengthening us to serve others in his name while we live this life, stergnthening us spiritually by reminding us that we are forgiven for our sins and made righteous in God’s eyes so that we might share in the resurrection to eternal life.l
Jesus shakes his head at the crowds and us, not because we are hungry, but because we haven’t learned to trust. It’s about trusting God to love us even when we are unlovable sinners. It’s about trusting that God will provide all that we need, truly need, in this life. It’s about trusting God to keep the promises made about forgiveness and eternal life. It’s about trusting God to really be in control.
God’s provision is everywhere, if we only have eyes to see! May our eyes be opened, our spirits be filled, our faith secure. Amen and Amen.