Monday, November 25, 2013

Jesus Alone, Is That Enough?

John 6:25-35 (The Message)
When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

Jesus answered,

“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”

To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?”

Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.”

They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.”

They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!”

Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever.

Thursday is Thanksgiving
Without a doubt one of the biggest days sanctioned to overindulge in food on America's calendar.

It seems fitting that in our scripture today Jesus turns a necessary food staple into a metaphor about our spiritual journey.

Do you remember what he said?
          "I am the Bread of Life."

Usually when we talk about Bread in the church it is in relationship to the Eucharist --- Holy Communion.
          The bread represents to us Jesus body broken for us --- His life given for us

Or we talk about bread in relationship to the prayer that Jesus taught us in which we pray to have our "daily bread"
          bread to sustain us each and every day

But on this Sunday before Thanksgiving we have this selection from John's Gospel.

It takes place shortly after the feeding of the 5,000 and Jesus walking on the water (on the Sea of Galilee).

That gives some context to how this passage begins when Jesus says:
“You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions {feeding the 5000 or walking on the water} but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free."

It would seem from the passage that the crowds are looking for deliverance from physical difficulties --- things like hunger or disease --- but Jesus wants them to see beyond their physical need to their spiritual needs.

"I am the Bread of Life" Jesus says"
          What does he mean?

Is he saying that bread is the most basic, and perhaps only sustenance that a person needs?

Or does he understand that bread is not the only food that a person requires but is the necessary foundation for a nutritious healthy meal plan.

But you know --- bread has gotten a bad rap recently.

About 3 million American's suffer from Celiac disease (1 in 133 people)
It is estimated that 5-10% of all people suffer with gluten sensitivity or intolerance in some form.

Having a daughter who is gluten intolerant, I have come to understand the danger and the difficulties of living with this.

At the base of the traditional food pyramid is grains --- Bread
          Bread many would argue is the foundation of a healthy diet.

But whether we are looking at the traditional food pyramid, or the new food plate, grains are only one part of a healthy diet. 
Much more is needed in one's diet if you are to be healthy.

Even Jesus seems to suggest this when he famously exclaimed to his tempter:
          "Man shall not live on bread alone."

Jesus says: "I am the bread of life",
          do we need more in our lives besides Jesus?

I believe Jesus is telling us that while faith in him is the vital foundation for the spiritual life, a healthy spiritual journey needs other ingredients as well.

I doubt any of us are going to gather around the thanksgiving table on Thursday and just give thanks for bread and water.
          We need more and Jesus seems to be saying the same thing.

When we start believing that Jesus is all that I need, I think we hurt our spiritual growth.

There was a prayer chorus I learned once:

He’s all I need, he’s all I need,
Jesus is all I need.
He’s all I need, he’s all I need,
All I will ever need.

I think I learned that when I was in Jr High
          That was about the same time I began to notice girls

I realized that no matter how close Jesus and I grew together --- I doubted that he would be able to replace that of a girl

Actually, no matter what our age,
          no matter how deep and vital our relationship with Jesus
                   and no matter how committed we are to following his example
                             and trusting his teaching,
it’s pretty rare finding one of us who really finds that faith in Jesus alone is enough for spiritual health.

And I really believe --- if we pay attention to what Jesus was saying about being the Bread of Life --- I think it is safe to say that he never intended to be all that we ever need!

In the first century, of course, all the actual bread was whole grain.
The refining process that yields white bread had not yet been invented, but neither had the capacity to enrich bread either, so the whole-grain bread of Jesus’ day was even less nutritionally complete than our bread today.

So we can assume Jesus’ bread-of-life statement meant that faith in him is the essential foundation of a spiritual life, but is not everything we need for spiritual health.

I think that is one of the reasons, from the time of the early church on that Christians have found it essential to meet together for worship and fellowship.

The author of the book of Hebrews wrote:  (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another

The simple fact is ---- Jesus is not all that we need!

Jesus is the Bread of Life ---- but not the whole meal!

But on the flip side of all of this there is another issue we need to address:
Our lives can become stunted if we try to live without eating any of the Bread of Life

The last few years we have seen the rise of low and no-carb diets that make it almost possible to live without any actual bread.

BUT ---- as Nancy can attest, avoiding carbs has its own problems!

A number of years ago I decided that I needed to go on a diet --- if you have seen pictures of me following the flood in 2008 you know what I mean

After talking with a bunch of friends I decided to go on the South Beach Diet which required you to avoid all carbs for the first two weeks and then have only some back in the diet.

I loved the diet --- and I lost almost 20 pounds in a couple of months.

Nancy, however had a different experience.

When we went on this diet I was not into exercise --- while Nancy was training for a marathon.
A couple days into the diet, Nancy headed out for her long run.

One thing you have to understand about my wife --- is she almost never complains (unless it is about me . . .)

She is tough and can endure almost anything
To run a sub four hour marathon ---- heck to run any marathon --- you have to be pretty tough and have a strong tolerance for pain and discomfort.

I remember her coming back from her run and I knew something was wrong.

Without the carbohydrates, she found that she ran out of energy quicker and could not sustain the run.
          It was like running in quicksand

Maybe the best comparison would be if your car was not running on all of its cylinders.           Sure, it is running --- but it has no power or energy.

I think that it is possible to be a spiritual person without eating the Bread of Life --- but it comes at a price.
Without the Bread of Life such spirituality tends to be unfocused and unproductive

One thing Jesus did mean when he said he was the Bread of Life is that our most basic and important human longings are met in him.
          Jesus is the foundation for a healthy spiritual diet.

To be a Christian, we need Jesus.

Sounds ridiculous --- I know, but you’d be surprised at how many people would love to be Christians without having to deal with Jesus
Many in today's "conservative church" struggle with the message of Jesus to the poor and disenfranchised.
          and would rather ignore his challenge to us

Another problem is that sometimes we fill up on so much junk food that the Bread of Life stops being the foundation of our spiritual life.

We are not ignoring Jesus --- but we fill up on so many empty things that we leave no room for the truly nutritional things.

While appearing to have eaten too much, we actually are starving for the nutrients we need.

In terms of our spiritual life, we do the same thing when we give lip service to our faith, but don’t bother with filling ourselves with the Bread of Life doing things like
·         praying
·         Bible reading
·         intentionally doing good deeds
·         giving to the church and to those in need
·         participating in the Lord’s Supper
·         and partaking of the other means of sustenance that God provides through Jesus.

It is through practicing our faith in ways like these that God has made it possible for us to be continually nourished by the Bread of Life

Thursday --- most of us will sit down at a feast filled with all sorts of delicious food.

We will pause and give thanks for it

But we are not going to eat Turkey every day for the rest of our lives
          Maybe for the next couple of weeks
          but not the rest of our lives!

Most of us are not going to be eating cranberries again until Christmas --- or maybe not until next thanksgiving.

But we are thankful for these things

But we’re thankful most of all that we have daily bread, both in a real sense, and in a spiritual sense.

We get blessed in so many ways — necessary ways — but the one constant we can count on is Jesus, our daily bread.

Jesus may not be all that we need, but we’d better not try doing without Jesus all the time.

If we do, we will become stunted, if not malnourished in our spiritual journey!

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