August 12, 2012

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 – The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I have died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
1 Kings 19:4-8 – Angels feed Elijah in the wilderness.

Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I cry to you.
Psalm 34:1-8 – Taste and see that the LORD is good. (Ps. 34:8)

Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2 – Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger… Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up… And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God… be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

John 6:35, 41-51 – I am the bread of life, the living bread which comes down from heaven. No one comes unless the Father draws, and I will raise you up on the last day.

John 6:35, 41-51

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty… 

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand…
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
– Khalil Gibran 

Bread is Relationship

When we pray for our daily bread, we are praying for more than just flour and water. We are praying for all the things we need in life. We cannot live by bread alone. We need hope, and we need love.

This month we are on a series called Jesus, Maslow and Bread.

Take a moment and browse some of the statistics in this article. Our homes are, on average, three times the size they were after World War II, and yet one out of ten of us rent off-site storage. One out of four of us can’t fit our cars into our two-car garages. Forty percent of all children’s toys are owned by U.S. citizens. Half of U.S. homes don’t save.

What stories might the preacher tell to awaken the listening soul to the wealth upon which we are choking? We are swimming in consumerism and materialism so much we can’t really see it. It may be hard to make people aware of the water in which we are all swimming. This is why mission trips are so critical. Getting out of your culture helps you see your own culture more clearly.

The problem with materialism is it can get in the way of our relationships, with God and with each other. We need love. We need friendship. We need belonging. These aren’t optional. Videos of monkeys raised in isolation are truly frightening. Without community we become monsters.

In fact, none of us can even survive without human community. Think about it. Who built your house? Your car? How long could you live in wild without others? Even the most well trained survivalist is likely to need a knife, fire, and clothing. Can you make these? We like to think of ourselves as independent, but the reality is we are quite dependent.

Our modern society is built upon small nuclear families, but humans evolved as tribal creatures. To have the safety we talked about last week, humans needed to gather in groups large enough to fend off would-be assailants. We needed groups larger than just a nuclear family. These groups provided more than just protection. They offered a sense of belonging, a team, a group of people one could care for, and by whom one could be supported in health and in sickness.

What groups today approximate the size of a tribe? What groups provide, love, support, and meaning? What is the equivalent of a tribe in today’s society? Churches and clubs are some of the few tribal-sized groups in society today.

Jesus teaches us that love of God and neighbor are the most important things. “On these two rest all the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus says. Loving God and neighbor is not important just to appease God. That love is something we need like food and water. It makes life meaningful.

For Jesus, love was the defining mark of the church. “By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In the midst of all the commandments, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: love one another as I have loved you…”

In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to worry about what we’re going to eat, drink or wear, physical things, but rather to seek first the kingdom of God and God’s justice/righteousness. He tells us not to get stuck in the bottom levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Don’t worry too much about food and clothing. Seek the higher things:

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul taught that love was greater than faith or even self-sacrifice. In the end three things endure, faith, hope and love, but the greatest is love.

John said anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love, does not know God. God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

True joy in life consists of growing beyond our obsessions with possessions.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus makes an audacious claim. He says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry…”

Is he talking about physical hunger, or is he talking about more? In last week’s gospel Jesus said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life…” These are enigmatic words. Jesus encourages his followers to seek, to strive for, a different kind of bread: bread that feeds the soul. Might this soul food be love of God and neighbor, which fills life with meaning, joy and purpose?

So what? What is the Good News for us today?

The good news is that Jesus offers us the bread of life. Come to me and you will not hunger. Jesus offers to satisfy our spiritual hunger.

How will we respond to this? 

When I preach at Atascocita, Humble, this Sunday, I’m going to invite my listeners to take a personal inventory. I’ll ask them to think about their lives. Is my life mostly about things, or about relationships? In what ways are things getting in the way of my most important relationships? Am I spending my time getting things? Are my relationships about what I can get, physically from them? If I were to follow Jesus with my whole life, what changes might that imply? What might it look like to put relationships ahead of success, achievement and accumulation in my life? What sacrifices might need to be made? What rewards might be seen?

Make a list of your key relationships: family, friends, coworkers, and so on. Pray for these people. How is each of these important relationships going? Consider what investments you’re making in these relationships. Are you making enough time to enjoy these relationships? If not, what might that look like?

Finally, consider your relationship with God. How would you say that is going? What investments are you making in that relationship? Daily prayer? Weekly worship? When has that relationship been strongest? What did that feel like?

As you take communion today, be mindful of Jesus’ words, “I am the bread of life.” Jesus is life. As you sit in silence or song, remember that Jesus’ words bring life – not survival, but Life with a capital “L.” We can’t explain it, but millions have found that following Jesus brings Life, hope, joy, purpose and meaning, and that is something we need as much as physical bread itself. 

  • July 26, 2015 – John 6:1-21 – Physical needs: Bread is Bread.
  • August 2, 2015 – John 6:24-35 – Safety: Bread Is All I Need From Day to Day.
  • August 9, 2015 – John 6:35, 41-51 – Love/belonging: Bread is Relationship.
  • August 16, 2015 – John 6:51-58 – Esteem: Bread is Hope.
  • August 23, 2015 – John 6:56-69 – Self-actualization: Bread is Living Beyond Myself.