By The Rev. Sherry Deets
10 Pentecost , Proper 13, August 5, 2012
Guru Bhagwan Shree, who passed away in 1990, once said, “If you (Americans) came face to face with God, you’d ask Him for a Chevrolet.” So what do you think? If we came face to face with God, would we fall down in awe of God’s holiness and power? Would we seek his wisdom? Would we ask God to help us to change the direction of our lives? Or would we would just ask him for a Chevrolet–or a Lexus, a Mercedes–or a promotion–or a new job–or a house with better plumbing–or we might pray that the wild oats we have sown might not bear fruit.
I would be remiss if I gave you the impression that we should not ask God for the ordinary things that are on our hearts. We worry about money–and food–and shelter–and clothing–and jobs–and children–and health–and a host of other things. We should bring all these concerns to God. Just as a mother wants to hear a child’s smallest concerns, so God wants to hear ours. After all, Jesus fed the crowd with bread and fish. He taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
But now, in our Gospel lesson, Jesus calls us to receive an even greater gift. “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” He calls us to see that there is also more to life than bread–than our next meal–than a full belly. He calls us to spend a little less time making a living and a little more time making a life.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our struggle to put food on the table that we lose sight of the fact that there is more to life. Sometimes we work so hard for our money that we begin to believe that more money means more happiness. There is some sense in which that is true. If you are having to send your children to bed hungry, more money would relieve the children’s aching stomachs and your aching heart. If you are having to watch the bank repossess your car, more money would put wheels under you again. But, beyond a certain point, more money does not equal more happiness.
Some years ago, Smart Business magazine had an article entitled, “Wretched Excess: $300,000 watches and other toys of the super rich.” The article told about Joan Indursky DeFuria and Dr. Stephen Goldbart–therapists at the Money, Meaning, and Choices Institute in Silicon Valley. They helped people to deal with the woes of sudden riches. They call it sudden wealth syndrome. DeFuria says, “We see people who have a lot of money–$5 million, $10 million, $150 million–they’ve got all this money and they’ve got titles, they go on fantastic trips, and after a while they realize they aren’t happy and they can’t figure out why.”
Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Most of us have not experienced sudden wealth, and it is difficult for us to imagine that money cannot buy happiness. How can someone be rich and unhappy? We know it is possible, but it seems so unlikely. But it happens! It happens every day! So Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Philip Yancey is an author–a highly successful religious author. In one of his books, Yancey talks about the different kinds of people that he has interviewed. He divides them into two categories: Stars and Servants.
The Stars include movie stars, NFL football players, television personalities, and the like. Yancey talks about how we look up to them–how we envy them–how we would love to be just like them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a Star! But Yancey says that the Stars whom he has interviewed are far from happy. In fact, he says that they “are as miserable a group of people as I have ever met.” They are often divorced. They are heavily dependent on their psychotherapists. They are full of self-doubt.
Then Yancey talks about the Servants–people who have dedicated their lives to serving other people, often among terrible poverty in the far corners of the world. Yancey says, “I was prepared to honor and admire these Servants…. I was not, however, prepared to envy them. But as I now reflect on the two groups side by side, Stars and Servants, the Servants clearly emerge as the favored ones, the graced ones. They work for low pay, long hours, and no applause, ‘wasting’ their talents and skills among the poor and uneducated. But somehow in the process of losing their lives they have found them.” (Philip Yancey, Where is God When It Hurts? page 45)
The crowds came to Jesus looking for a free lunch, and Jesus called them to something greater. He said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
We, too, come to Jesus with our wish list, and Jesus calls us to something greater. “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” We fear that if we do not devote our lives to getting bread that we will starve. The irony is that the more fervently we devote our lives to bread–and to the things that money can buy–the less satisfied we feel.
Jesus promises that, if we will accept the gift of eternal life that he wants to give us, we will find ourselves, for the first time in our lives, truly filled.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. This bread is not only an invitation to life, it is life. This bread gives us life because it is our hope, it is the very life of God enfleshed in our human world. To understand Jesus as the bread of life is to trust. Trust involves risk. Trust involves behavior that causes us to act in extraordinary ways.
I’d like to close with an interesting story about a water pump. Far away in a lonely desert stands a water pump in the sand. You are a solitary traveler, and your canteen is empty and you come upon that pump. Tied to it is a hand written sign put there by some pilgrim. The sign reads; “I have buried a bottle of water to prime the pump. Don’t drink any of it. Pour in half of it to wet the leather. Wait, and then pour in the rest. Then pump. The well has never gone dry, but the pump must be primed to bring the water up. Have faith, believe. When you are through drawing water, fill the bottle and bury it in the sand for the next traveler.”
So, having come upon this pump in the desert with this sign and being out of water, what would you do? Would you dig the water bottle from the sand and drink from it, or will you believe and dare to trust and pour that water into the rusty pump? When you trust, you take a risk, both for yourself and for the next person who will pass that way. To accept the life giving bread of Jesus is to trust in God. It means we have the faith that God will provide all we need. It also means that by trusting in God we will be satisfied. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. Amen.
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