8-17-15--Proper 13 B

Readings for Proper 13 B

Last week you heard the miracle of the feeding of five thousand of Jesus’ listeners in a wilderness place with just five barley loaves and a few fish, and for the next three weeks we’ll be reading from the gospel of John about the fall-out of that miracle.  Yes, that’s a lot of bread!  But we have a kind of turning-point here from Jesus’ tremendous popularity, to the challenging work of actually being his disciple. Jesus’ words as he explains the significance of this miracle ultimately become so scandalous that many of his followers leave him.

I’d like to invite us take the next few weeks while we unpack the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand to consider why we are here.  That’s a question we get a lot at the COPA community organizing events we go to.  A simple question, but one we don’t often consider.  Why are we here?  Why do we take time out of our weekend, Sunday morning being the only time for a lot of folks they even have the possibility of sleeping in, to come to church?  You may not have realized it but you’re actually participating in a counter-cultural act this morning by getting up, getting dressed, and coming to church.  There was a time when weekly church attendance was the cultural norm in our country, but not anymore.  Why do we go to all that trouble; what is it that we’re looking for, and what do we find here?

After the feeding of the five thousand, John tells us, some folks stayed behind.  For whatever reason, they spent the night in the deserted place there with Jesus and his disciples.  And when Jesus and his disciples got up early and gave them the slip, they got into their boats and crossed the lake looking for them.  Now, you’d think Jesus would have commended these faithful few.  Five thousand were fed, but a much smaller number hung around, and even took a journey to seek him out afterward.  But instead, Jesus challenges them.   He tells them that they are looking for him because he filled their bellies—he met their physical needs in a miraculous way, they were star-struck and greedy to be close to the kind of power that could feed thousands from a few loaves and fish. 

Why are we here?  Why do we look for Jesus?  There are still people looking for that kind of power.  There are churches today filled with thousands of people who look for Jesus to miraculously meet their physical needs—they eat up the preaching of a “prosperity Gospel” which tells them that they can have it all—fancy cars, multiple houses, health and wealth—that God desires to bless them with physical prosperity if they will only draw near and believe.  I don’t think that’s why we are here.  Why do we look for Jesus?

Maybe, for some of us, we are here on a hunch.  On the barest inkling of an idea that there is something to all this—something to this Jesus-person—that there is something here that we need, something for which we deeply hunger, which nothing else will fill.  Or perhaps we come based on previous experience—we know that when we are at our best, at our strongest, have been the times when we have been able to draw our strength from this Jesus, the Christ, in whom we have the best picture on earth of God.  We have been deeply fed here, and we come to be fed again.

The conversation that Jesus enters into in our gospel reading today with those who come looking for him can sound a little bit like theological sparring—an argument of sort.  But I think his challenges to them are actually an invitation into ever-deeper relationship. 

Those who come looking for physical food and the power of miracles, he challenges to look for deeper, spiritual meaning. 

Those who come wanting to do what is right, he challenges to depend not on their own power but on faith in the one who gives them the power to do justice. 

Those who harken back to days of old, remembering those who have mediated God’s presence for them in the past, he challenges to the immediacy of a direct relationship with the living God in the present moment, as close as air in the lungs, as bread on the tongue.

Why do we look for Jesus?  Why are we here today?  Why do we take time out of our Sunday morning to perform this counter-cultural act of going to church?  With what hungers, what pre-suppositions, what nostalgia do we come?  Wherever we are, Jesus welcomes us, and also challenges us and invites us deeper: “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.  Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

It’s important for us to know why we’re here; what we’re looking for.  I think that that kind of clarity in everything we do is the baseline for leading an examined life.  But it’s just as important, when we approach God in this Jesus, to understand that we may not be here entirely on our own terms.  In the continuation of this discourse which we’ll hear next week, Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.”  We may have one thing in mind, but God almost always has something more in store—more than we can ask for or imagine.

We may be here to meet our spiritual needs, to draw close to Jesus the bread of life, to be fed.  That is all well and good, and Jesus longs to feed us.  Moms, you know what I’m talking about!  I think a lot of women just have this instinct to feed hungry kids—I know I have a hard time with that “But I’m HUN-GRY!” exuse for not going to bed.  And what do I usually give them?  A piece of bread.

Jesus, loving mother hen, delights in feeding us.  But one of our Eucharistic prayers asks that we be “delivered from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only, and not for strength, for pardon only, and not for renewal.”  We are here to be comforted, to be forgiven, to be healed and nurtured and fed—yes!  And that comfort, forgiveness, healing and feeding is FOR something.  Our lives are for something.  When we have truly received the bread of life, we can’t help but share it with others who are hungry.  We share it in words of encouragement, in kindness, in simple faithful service, and when called to in acting boldly for justice.  We share it by being ready to even do the ultimate counter-cultural act for Episcopalians—invite a friend to church!!  There are many more ways to share the bread of life than there are folks in this room.  But this Jesus-bread, like manna, goes bad if you try to store it up for yourself.  You have to share it.

Eat and be filled.  Know that God’s love is always enough and more than enough.  Know that you are forgiven, loved, healed, freed.  And may God give us the grace this week, in very concrete and particular ways, to become the bread that we break—the body of Christ, given for the life of the world.  Amen.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

C. 2015 The Rev. Amy Denney Zuniga

Contact Info

Mailing & Office Address

720 Monterey Street
Hollister, CA 95023

Contact Us

Phone: (831) 637-7570