25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ 26Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ 28Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ 29Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 30So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ 32Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ 35 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.
In our gospel reading tonight, Jesus has just finished feeding the 5000 with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Exhausted and tired, he runs for the hills, seeking a break. Sometime alone. But the people won’t give him that. They want more of what he’s been giving out. More of that food that filled their bellies.
And so Jesus and the crowd go back and forth. The people demanding more bread and Jesus telling them that it’s not that simple. They said that Moses gave them bread from heaven, why can’t he? But then Jesus says that that was bread that would spoil and rot, and the kind of bread that Jesus gives is eternal and everlasting. He says it like this: “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Jesus knows that it isn’t the hole in their stomachs they are trying to fill, but the hole in their hearts. They aren’t just looking for bread. They are looking for something that makes the whole world come to life.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we are any different than this crowd. Sometimes, I am just hungry for something that will make the whole world come to life. Something that will move me; something that will break open my heart and let more of the world in.
If you keep reading John’s gospel, you’ll hear Jesus say things like, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” It is this odd but beautiful poetry about Jesus and God being one and inside each other and then also inside us. And us in them. It is this dance of the divine and the human, the creator and the creation, when you can’t tell who is who and what is what. Which to me can only mean that God is so much more closely weaved into our ordinary daily lives and interaction with one another than we realize. That God is everywhere and on the loose giving this bread of life that gives life to the world.
And maybe sometimes it just takes looking for it and noticing it and pointing it out when we see it, in order for it to give us life. You know, so often it can seem like we live in a time that is governed by a sense of scarcity. We live in a culture that is so often focused on not having enough rather than abundance that we do have. And sometimes I’ll even hear from people about how the world just seems to be getting worse and worse. But I think there is this abundance of the bread of life that is out there giving life to the world and all it takes is just noticing it and giving a word of gratitude for it. And when you can see that bread of life, as Jesus says, you’ll never be hungry or thirsty again.
So tonight, I wanted to notice with you the abundance of God’s bread of life that I see. I wanted to simply share a couple of stories where I have experienced Jesus as the bread of life that leaves no one hungry and thirsty. And what amazes me is that when I am hungry for the bread of life just like the disciples. When I desperate for something to fill that hole in my heart that longs for something deeper and more meaningful, what never ceases to amaze me is that it comes in such ordinary packages.
First. As many of you know, my dad had a medical emergency this past September. After water skiing, a small vessel in his brain opened up and start to leak blood into his brain, causing him to be violently ill and confused and in need of intensive care. It was by far one of the scariest times of my life. It was a Saturday night and so I called Lisa with panic in my voice that I would not be at church the next day and to do whatever for worship. Over the next couple of hours and the next morning, as people learned what had happened, emails and texts and Facebook posts started coming in, saying how you were praying for my dad and for us. And how you hoped everything would be okay and how you would help us through whatever happened next.
And while my dad has made a full recovery and is doing quite well, even now, you continue to ask about him and how he is.
I don’t know if you know just how powerful that was for us. It may have seemed really ordinary and insignificant for you. I know it does for me when I try to offer words of comfort when there are no words of comfort. But those words of love and support were the bread of life that only God can give and it filled us with life during a very scary time. So thank you for that. You have no idea what a gift it was.
Second. This past Sunday night, after the Oyster/Chili supper, our son Elliot started burning up and not feeling well. When we took his temperature around 11:30pm, it was 102.7. But since we took his temp under his arm, and the people who know things say that you should add a degree when you do that, that meant his temperature was 103.7. Lauren and I started to freak out. We moved into that high gear, where you are quick but cautious, that only an endangered loved one can provoke. We rushed him to the ER and, thankfully, it was only a double ear infection and it was completely treatable with some vending machine amoxicillin. But the most beautiful powerful part of that evening wasn’t what happened in the ER room. It was happened in the ER lobby. When Lauren and I walked in, we looked as you would expect two frightened first time parents would look at a quarter past midnight and standing in the emergency room. And this 18-year old, Pete, who was working behind the front desk saw how frightened we were. And with a wisdom that seemed beyond his years, he looked at both of us with tenderness and compassion and he said, “You know, we are going to take really good care of you guys.” And almost immediately, all of our fear melted away, and it felt like we were being held by a divine love that was beyond explaining. Pete probably has no idea what those words meant to both Lauren and I. In fact, he probably doesn’t even remember saying them. But those words were the bread of life that only God can give. And it brought our whole world back to life.
Lastly, as many of you know, we accompanied and carried Gladys Thurnau to her final place of rest this morning. What you might not know, is that Gladys has a son, Dwayne, who is gay and has a life partner named Michael. On Monday afternoon, I had the great joy of sitting down with Gladys’ family to hear stories and details about her life that made us all laugh and cry. Michael had a story that stood out. He talked about how scared to death he was to meet Dwayne’s family. He said, as a gay man, it was not easy meeting your partners Midwestern, conservative, farming family for the first time. He was terrified. But from the moment Gladys met him, she welcomed him into the family with nothing but love and open arms. But then Michael went on. He started to talk about the time when his own mother had died. He even lost control of his voice a little bit, like you do when you are profoundly moved by emotion. He said he would never forget the day when his mother died. When he walked out of the hospital, Gladys came up to him, put her hands on his face like only a mother can do and she kissed him on the cheek. And she said, “I love you so much.” Here is this man. Who is probably not what she had imagined or dreamed for her son’s life but that’s just how it was. And when he was hurting from the death of his mom, she gives this beautiful expression of love and compassion. People walking by that day probably don’t remember what they witnessed. But it was the bread of life coming down from heaven. And it brought Michael’s whole world back to life.
Friends, those are just a few stories of the ordinariness of life that I have experienced recently that is also the bread of life that only God can give. That’s the food that is eternal and everlasting. That’s the kind of food that will bring the whole world to life.
When you believe that God is on the loose. That God is out and active in this world then you will never be hungry and thirsty again because there is more than enough bread out there to bring this world to life. Sometimes, it just takes noticing. Perhaps you have your own story. If so, share it with someone sometime. Because by simply noticing them, they seem to bless us again and again. AMEN