This way or that?

bread_of_life

The Pas Proper / Ordinary 19 – Pentecost + 12 – Trinity + 11
Year B
12 August 2018

Psalm 130 pg 888
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

Unseen God,
drawing all people to the end of our desires:
teach us to know true bread from false
and to feed on him who shares our flesh,
Jesus Christ, our communion. Amen.
__________________________________

Jesus words for us today have the ability to resonate all the way back to our Old Testament reading from 2 Samuel, to the problems that crop up between family members, to the problems of trying to figure out how to be followers of God, yet live under one roof.

Today, Jesus points out that we stand at the fork in a road, our road.

Before us, in the path that is our lives, one path leads to bread for today, to manna.

Food that will sustain us in today’s tasks, that will nourish us for the job at hand. But, in the end this bread is just that, bread, and we come back to being hungry again tomorrow. This is the bread of our ancestors, of those who survived in the wilderness.

It’s a gift from God, along with the talents, the skills, and the abilities to learn how to grow in the love and the grace of God. The talents, skills, and abilities that teach us how to build and maintain our homes, lives, families, and livelihoods.

Paul talks a lot about what we perceive to be good for our lives, in his letters to both the Corinthians and the Romans, yet at the same time, setting a good example for those whose faith is not as strong as ours is, especially in the areas of nutrition and from whence food comes. (Rom 14, 1 Cor 9-10)

No matter its source, food still has the nutrition, our bodies require, but for some the where it comes from is as important as what it is we are eating. Paul talks about food from idols, being just that – food. But if our brothers and sisters still see the idols as having more of a place in society than that of an interesting statue, then the food takes on a whole other aspect.

We can see this, today, in the paths laid before our feet. Do we take the manna that will sustain us for today, and leave us hungry for tomorrow? Or, do we hear the voice of God and receive the bread of eternal life and all that comes with that gift?

Looking at our lives, all we have is a gift of God, and we can revel in that gift. But in today’s gospel, Jesus declares and we see those in the crowd grumble.

Our gospel tells us: “41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

God gives us everything we need, and we grumble.

We quibble, we complain, we argue about the source of the food, of the wisdom of the love, and we see this in today’s attempts in society to ‘pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps,’ not acknowledging that absolutely everything we have, we are, we can do is a gift from God.

We see this in the desert when the Hebrew people complain, actually complain to Moses that they are free. “5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” (Num 21:5)

At the same time, it’s not really the freedom they’re complaining about, it’s the work, the responsibility, it’s the need to be responsible for one self that is the source of the complaints to God.

They’ve left slavery, where food was as assured as the backbreaking labour and the overseer with the whip standing over us, and they’ve traded it for the uncertainty of freedom: and that is a terrifying prospect.

I wonder, how many of us dream of winning the lottery? Of walking away with millions of dollars to our bank account? Do we actually buy tickets, I wonder?

And as we plunk down our ticket price, and dream of those millions, how do we dream of spending it?

Will it be trips, houses boats, cottages, new ‘toys’?

At the same time, do we factor in the taxes, the bank charges, the paying out of existing debt? Or even the changes in our income tax brackets as a result of this life changing windfall of cash?

Will we provide for loved ones, family members, children and even grandchildren? Will we contribute to charitable organizations? Or perhaps even the church from this life changing windfall?

But this is the kind of windfall, the kind of blessing that is given to us in the manna that God provides, even and especially when we find ourselves in wilderness experiences. It will, at some point run out, and we will find ourselves either as well off as we are now, or perhaps worse off if we spend recklessly.

At the same time, Jesus points out that we are at a fork in the road. This is just one branch of the choices that lie in front of us.

One of the choices that we are able to take, when we choose to turn away from the promises of God is to accept the manna and to make our own way.

But Jesus points out the other fork in the road, the one that we may not have seen before, the one that leads to the throne of God, without jumping through hoops, without the notion of self-improvement, or even succeeding by the sweat of ones brow, or pulling oneself up by ones bootstraps.

Jesus tells us: “Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn 6:35)

“45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” (Jn 6:45)

So, we stand at the fork of a road. In both paths, God, to live, to thrive, to grow, to succeed in life, gives us all that we need.

In the one path, that is as far as it goes and if we look at the way the Hebrew people take the laws given on the mountain, and mull them over, and flesh them out and ponder what they mean, then we find the volumes of the Tanakh. We find the codified and sussed out definitions of the Law of God for the use of man that keeps humanity firmly in the rut that we cannot achieve anything good from a human perspective.

Paul tells us this in his letter to the Romans: “15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. (Rom 7:15-17)

And sin, by definition is separation from God in all aspects of our lives.

So, if that is one fork in the road, and a much travelled and defined fork then what Jesus offers us, today is the other fork.

“Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (Jn 6:35)

He declares that there is no more fulfilling the law, that in his actions, in his life, his death, and his resurrection the law is fulfilled.

The barriers between humanity, between our hearts and God are destroyed, and we live fully in the light of God, when we accept the message of Christ, when we come to him, and accept the bread, the wine that leaves us forever satisfied, and forever in the presence of God.

And the people grumble.

Perhaps we grumble because it’s a path less trodden, less well known? Perhaps we grumble because we know this kid. We’ve picked him up after he scraped his knees and wiped the tears from his face. We’ve seen him climb the neighbours trees in search of forbidden fruit, we know his family and how unlikely the Messiah is to come from the family of a carpenter, and an early pregnancy?

And so they grumble. We grumble.

At the same time, Jesus opens the door to eternal life. He tells us: “47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6:47-51)

And when we look beyond the imagery and see the love of God, when we see the promises of eternal life without the assembly list that has us counting the number of fasteners and screws, do we have the right screwdriver, or is a hammer needed to assemble this impossible, yet beautiful gift from God.

When we can see beyond our own perceptions then we are able to see the wonder of God, we’re able to get out of the rut caused by the human application of God’s law, we are able to see what God has desired from the beginning, a full relationship with each of us, in absolutely every aspect of life.

But this is where we stand. We stand at the fork in the road, and we have a choice.

We stand looking at the backs of those who look at this and choose to examine this gift horse, in great detail, itemizing every aspect of the animal so we have something to complain about after, as they compare notes going down the path that offers manna in the wilderness; food that will sustain us for today, but not tomorrow.

At the same time, there is the other fork, the road less travelled, the one that leads to eternal life because we hear the voice of the shepherd; we hear the voice of God calling us to an eternal relationship, an eternal covenant with God through Christ, through the bread of life.

The choice is ours, alone. Which will we take, which will satisfy us today, and tomorrow, and for all eternity?

Jesus tells us: ” 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.”

So, we stand at the fork in the road, and the choice is ours. Will we go to the manna for today? Or will we go to the bread of life for all eternity?

Amen.

About pastorrebeccagraham

A Lutheran minister serving an Anglican parish in Northern Ontario.
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