Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bread, Water, and a Work of God John 6:24-35/Exodus 16:4-12

Hong Kong is one of Beth and my favorite cities. Several years ago we had the opportunity to spend several days there. The city caught me a bit by surprise. It seemed to be abuzz with life and movement 24 hours a day. One of my favorite moments occurred on a side street beside a night market. Seemingly out of nowhere characters from a traditional Chinese operatic drama emerged from the shadows of the shop stalls and scene began. The colors of the costumes were dramatic and the reoccurring clash of the cymbals would seem to strike when I least expected it. While I could not understand the dialogue the dance like movements and the rise and fall of the tempo drew me in. I stood there captivated and amazed.

For many who witnessed Jesus performing miracles it was much more like a show than something of religious significance. Remember that this was the pre-technology era. There was no radio or television, no DVDs, mp3s, or computer games to entertain them. Jesus was the best show in town. For many in the crowd Jesus was like a grand magician that brought them thrill after thrill. One this day he healed those consumed by leprosy – on another day he helped the blind to see. They watched him cast out demons and now, in the hours before story told in our focal passage – they had their stomachs filled as part of the feeding of the 5000.

With the rise of the sun they realized something had changed. Jesus and his disciples were gone. The crowd wanted more. So, they set out to find Jesus. They got in their boats and crossed the lake to Jesus’ home base, Capernaum. Can you imagine the small fleet of fishing boats setting out on a fishing expedition for Jesus.

They found Jesus, but Jesus understood why they were looking for him. They sought Jesus to fulfill their expectations. They sought Jesus to entertain them. They sought Jesus to meet their needs, to fulfill their wants, to give them what they wanted – what they expected – what they believed they were entitled to. They sought Jesus for a lot of reasons. But, none of the reasons were what Jesus had in mind. Jesus told them, “You are not looking for signs to point you toward God. You are but looking to fill your stomachs and fulfill your expectations. You need to look for more! Don’t waste your time working for food that will only fill your stomachs for a moment; look for the food that endures – eternal life.”

The crowd was curious. “What must we do to perform this work of God?” they asked.

“This is work only God can do – your task is to believe in the one he sent to you,” Jesus answered.

“So, what trick are you going to do – what kind of sign are you going to offer us so we can believe?” they asked. “After all, Moses gave our ancestors bread from heaven to eat in the wilderness to strengthen their faith.” Jesus knew the story for Exodus. It was a vital part the Torah. He was also a part of the story. Earlier in our service we heard how the people of Israel wander the desert and came to a moment of crisis. They would perish without God’s provision. God heard their cry and respond. He provided meat in the morning and manna – bread from heaven – every evening. Jesus understood something that the crowd did not. They would perish is they did not receive bread from heaven. “It was not Moses,” Jesus replied. “It is my Father in heaven who gives the true bread of life.”

“We want that kind of bread,” they responded. “Give it to us.” I imagine they thought they were in for the same kind of feast as the day before. I imagine they were waiting for the fish and the loaves to be passed out. I imagine they were waiting to see another miracle performed before their very eyes. The waited, the watched, and they listened. Over the hum of the crowd Jesus spoke.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said to them. “Whoever comes to me will never be hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Just a few blocks from here there is a factory that produces fresh bread. Some mornings the smell of baking bread fills the air. The wonderful fragrance promises that we you will stop by you can pick up a loaf of bread that fill your stomach and satisfy your hunger. Jesus wanted them to know he was not talking about a momentary hunger fix, but about something that would fill the depths of their soul and meet their heart need to be in a real relationship with God. The miracle they were looking for was not found in a basket of fish and loaves – but stood before them – as the work of God, ready to redeem them.

While we come together this morning representing a wide diversity of languages and cultures at heart we face the same issue. So often we are like the crowd and come seeking Jesus to fulfill our wants and meet our expectations. Like the crowd, we are tempted to come seeking Jesus wanting a religious show that will lift us up and encourage us to press ahead for one more day. If we are not careful, in our effort to meet our immediate wants we cheat ourselves from the work of God that can sustain us for much more than a moment, or a day, but for all of eternity.

Jesus waits for us with the promise of a bread that will fill us – a living water that can sustain us – a work of God that can transform us. It is about allow God to a work in us that changes everything. For some in this room, that work of God is the work of redemption and grace that makes you a child of God. For you, the bread of life and the living water is the way to forgiveness and way to eternal life. If this is your story, I pray you will claim the bread from heaven and the living water today.

But the promise of the bread of life and the living water is not just the way of salvation – it is also the way to a life with God and life through God that can shape every moment of every day of our life. It beckons us to come to Christ and allow him to change our priorities from the desperate dash to meet our desires and expectations to a life focused on letting God work in us and through us. It is about ceasing being consumed by the immediate and allowing God to call us to those things that are greater – those things that are forever. It is about letting go of the chase for stuff that can only bring us joy for a moment, to a way of living that fills the whole of our lives with hope and joy. It is about moving from being people who come to God looking for a religious show and becoming people who become an ongoing work of God. It means having the emptiness and the frustrations that so often claim us replaced with the wholeness that God offers.

The crowd came seeking Jesus. They came with their expectations in tow. They came wanting to see a grand miracle – to see Jesus fill their stomachs with fish and loaves. Jesus did not want to just fill their stomachs. He wanted to fill their lives. He wants to fill our lives. Let’s not settle for less. The miracle of the bread from heaven expressed in Jesus awaits us.
While we come together this morning representing a wide diversity of languages and cultures at heart we face the same issue. So often we are like the crowd and come seeking Jesus to fulfill our wants and meet our expectations. Like the crowd, we are tempted to come seeking Jesus wanting a religious show that will lift us up and encourage us to press ahead for one more day. If we are not careful, in our effort to meet our immediate wants we cheat ourselves from the work of God that can sustain us for much more than a moment, or a day, but for all of eternity.

Jesus waits for us with the promise of a bread that will fill us – a living water that can sustain us – a work of God that can transform us. It is about allow God to a work in us that changes everything. For some in this room that work of God is the work of redemption and grace that makes you a child of God. For you the bread of life and the living water is the way to forgiveness and way to eternal life. If this is your story, I pray you will claim the bread and the living water today.

But the promise of the bread of life and the living water is not just the way of salvation – it is also the way to a life with God and life through God that can shape every moment of every day of our life. It beckons us to come to Christ and allow him to change our priorities from the desperate dash to meet our desires and expectations to a life focused on letting God work in us and through us. It is about ceasing being consumed by the immediate and allowing God to call us to those things that are greater – those things that are forever. It is about letting go of the chase for stuff that can only bring us joy for a moment, to a way of living that fills the whole of our lives with hope and joy. It is about moving from being people who come to God looking for a religious show and becoming people who become an ongoing work of God. It means having the emptiness and the frustrations that so often claim us replaced with the wholeness that God offers.

The crowd came seeking Jesus. They came with their expectations in tow. They came wanting to see a grand miracle – to see Jesus fill their stomachs with fish and loaves. Jesus did not want to just fill their stomachs. He wanted to fill their lives. He wants to fill our lives. Let’s not settle for less. The miracle of the bread from heaven expressed in Jesus awaits us.

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