â€œBread of Lifeâ€
Oct. 7, 2007 â€“ John 6:25-35
It was the weekend of my birthday when I found out I was coming to Montague. I waited by the phone for hours and hours, waiting for the call from Toronto. When I finally got the call, Meggin was one of the first I talked to, since I knew she had been here. She told me how she had such a great time, and knew I would too.
A month or so later, I met Scott. He too told me how wonderful it was to be here, and how he was enjoying his ministry. Every time he talked to me after that, he seemed to make sure he mentioned how great it was here. How nice the people are, or how great the church is. Now, after a while, when people keep telling you how great something is, you’ve almost got to wonder, â€œIs it really so great there, or is Scott just trying to convince himself it is?â€ Thankfully, I’ve discovered very quickly it was the first, it really is great to be here.
But sometimes you hear things that sound too good to be true. You start to wonder what it really means. Is there a hidden message behind it? Is it really true? You start to want to find out more details for yourself. Seeking signs or truths to confirm the story. In our Gospel reading this morning, the people who have found Jesus are asking him for a sign. They want Jesus to prove that he is on par with the great Moses. This comes just the day after Jesus fed 5000 men, and who knows how many women and children at the same time, on the other side of the lake. Overnight he walked on water to join the disciples in the boat. And the crowd still wants to see Jesus perform a miracle?
At this moment, you know Jesus has to be thinking to himself, â€œWhat is it going to take to convince these people?â€
My daughter, like many children her age, is very inquisitive. â€œWhy?â€ or â€œWhere?â€ or â€œHow?â€ are common questions in our house. We do our best to answer. My wife and I consider ourselves reasonably intelligent people. But sometimes we don’t give a satisfactory answer to this three year old, no matter how factually correct it may be. So, she makes up her own answer to the question.
â€œDaddy, who is that on the TV?â€
â€œWell dear, he’s Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada.â€
â€œNo… maybe it’s Jack Flippery I think.â€
Occasionally we may try to convince her we know what we’re talking about, but often it’s not worth the effort, because she has decided â€œJack Flipperyâ€ is the guy on TV.
So, as a parent, I think I can relate to Jesus on some level here. He’s been healing people, he fed 5000+ with a couple loaves of bread and a few fish, he’s taught some pretty interesting and challenging lessons to those around him, yet here they are, asking for more proof. They don’t seem to want to believe what they have seen so far, they want undeniable, solid, completely believable proof they can see with their own eyes.
I was watching the news the other night, and there was a story about this new emerging movement. It’s called atheism. It seems as though atheists are getting together in groups to talk about being atheists. It was an interesting story as they talked with many atheist ‘leaders’ and some Christian ‘leaders’ about beliefs and differences. One thing that caught my attention was the need for atheists to see proof of God with their five senses. They too wanted some unbelievable proof they could hold on to. For me, it’s simple to find this proof. The very beauty of creation screams of God’s work for me. The minute details of creation, especially in this time of year as our forests paint themselves in fabulous displays of colour. For others they see creation differently, scientifically. It leads me to wonder what is it we’re up against as Christians in an increasingly secular world.
This of course is Thanksgiving weekend. A time for family, a time to remember the things we are thankful for. A time to reflect as we move into the last couple of months of the year. What are we thankful for? What are the good things in life for which we are very grateful? Our health? Our Family? Our home?
I met a woman this summer who suffered medical problems her entire life. She was a teacher, a dedicated church goer, and loved by everyone. For the hour we chatted, she shared with me the blessings of her life. Her love of children, despite the fact she was never able to have her own. Her love of teaching and molding the children trusted to her care. And especially her love of the church. Attending, singing in the choir, serving, and being part of the community were very important to her. Despite facing the possibility of death on a regular basis, she saw each day as a blessing from God. It was very clear she was thankful for every day of her 75 years, which were many more than she expected to have. I thanked her for the conversation, and we prayed together before I left. Despite just knowing this woman for no more than an hour, I felt blessed to have met her, and looked forward to seeing her again soon.
It was much to my surprise that I received a phone call the next afternoon, she had passed away overnight. The funeral was on a Tuesday morning, yet the church was completely full. 300 people came to her funeral. Co-workers, former students, parents of former students, friends and family all gathered to remember this woman. It was a true celebration of her life, the life of a woman who lived out her faith in Christ every day. Who saw every day, every relationship, every moment as something to be thankful for. She lived out her calling to love her neighbour as a disciple of Christ through her actions continuously. And she touched many lives in the process.
She didn’t ask to see great miracles, she chose to see Christ in all the little things in her life. By doing so, the sum total of Christ in all the little things cemented her faith. The people around Jesus, in their questions, don’t seem to be seeing the big picture. They have witnessed miracles, yet seek more.
Christ responds to them. He has fed them as they see Moses fed God’s people in the dessert. But clearly they are still hungry. Their stomachs may have been filled, but clearly there is more needed. Just as our bodies need continual replenishing of food and water, they too were seeking more. But Jesus did not promise to feed their bodies did he?
Jesus says, â€œI am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will ever be thirsty.â€
Jesus does so much more than just feed our bodies, through encountering Christ in our lives we receive spiritual nourishment. The crowd asked Jesus, â€œWhat must we do to perform the works of God?â€ Up to this point, Jews believed that simply following the rules of the Law as prescribed by Moses would gain them eternal life. Jesus responds with a different answer than they would expect. Jesus tells the people all they need to do is follow him. â€œThis is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.â€
Believe in Christ. That is the work of God. A simple statement really. But it implies a whole lot more doesn’t it? Can we believe in Christ and do anything we want? No, believing in Christ means we need to change who we naturally want to be. We need to resist sin, that is we need to resist the urge to exclude God in parts of our lives. That is one of the biggest challenge I think we have. If we believe in Christ and what he teaches us, it requires us to do things. Things like help others, even if there’s absolutely nothing in it for us. Things like buy kits to send children to school in poverty stricken regions of the world. That is a work of God, an opportunity for Christians to follow Christ’s example.
We won’t see Jesus perform any great miracles, at least not on this earth. But what we can see, if we look really hard, we can see God at work in many little things. We can see God at work in this church, we can see God at work in our communities, we can see God at work in others who are trying to make this world a better place. All of these are little miracles, little examples of God’s work. And when you put a lot of little things together, we can then see the great big miracle around us.
Jesus Christ came to show us how to live, and by living out our lives by following his example, by loving our neighbours, we are part of God’s great big miracle, of which we all have our own little parts.
On this thanksgiving and World Communion Sunday, let us give thanks for the gifts we have been given, especially the opportunity to serve a God who gave so much for us.