August 1, 2021
SCRIPTURE: John 6:24-35
So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus 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. 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. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ So 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? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ Then 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. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’ 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.
SERMON: “Bread of Life” The Rev. Brent Damrow
The Bible is so clear about the followers of Jesus. They were always chasing after something. Yes, they were looking for him. But they weren’t exactly sure what they would find in him. They weren’t exactly sure what to make of him. So they scrambled after him. Sometimes, you remember, the stories talk about how they chased him for healing, other times for teaching. And here in John’s gospel, we get another reason. In this passage today, we’re told they chased after him for bread. This comes on the heels of that miraculous feeding story. And so Jesus says, Are you just here for that bread? Are you just here because I filled your bellies and you want more?
But if you listen, later in the story there’s another aspect of it. The people want signs. They want miracles. They want something bigger than themselves. And who can blame them? Don’t we all in these times yearn for something that is bigger than we are, to take away from the pain or confusion of the moment, from the place that we find ourselves in?
Over and over, Jesus has a similar message in all the gospels: The Kingdom has drawn near. Stop your running, and simply find it, for it is right next to you. The moment Jesus says that — that One that you have been yearning for for a long time – remember, the people of Israel were yearning for salvation, and God sent Jesus to be that salvation, even if it was in a way they didn’t imagine. And Jesus said: What are you waiting for? It’s already here. In this breath, right now. And over and over again, while everyone wanted more – more food, more signs, more healing – Jesus’ message was always consistent: You have enough right now. You have enough right now with the breath you take. You have enough right now, just as God has given you. It is enough, and it will bring you to eternity.
There is a key phrase in John’s gospel that comes over and over again, and it is this notion of believing. How do we believe that God sent you? How do we believe in God at all? And before I go any further, I want to give a caveat I’ve given to this church a hundred times at least, because it is counter to everything the world tells us about that word “believe.” In the scriptural sense, to believe in something isn’t just to say “I get it, I understand it.” It is instead to give your whole life to it, the essence of who you are. When Jesus said “I am the way,” he didn’t say believe in a theological dogma. He said: Come and follow me, and I will show you a better way.
Jesus wanted his followers to know that every moment is precious, that every breath is precious, because we are finite creatures. Our lives will come to an end. And I think it was with that clarity that in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) on the night in which Jesus gave himself over, I think that is why he gathered his disciples around this very table. For he knew that in that moment, this was the place they needed to be. And that in this simple bread and this simple cup, it would be enough.
This Friday, my family leaves for Wisconsin. It will be the first time we’ve taken a long road trip in a long time. We’re going because we finally get to honor and remember my step-mom. It has been months since she died, and we now get to go and say our farewells. And as I thought about this idea of the moment, I remember when her first diagnosis of cancer came years ago. And I remember how, as we often do, we turned to the gospel of Matthew where Jesus says: Why worry about the problems for tomorrow? Today has enough of its own. Today also has enough blessings of its own. And that became her mantra. And at first it was a theoretical mantra, something to hold onto in the shifting sands.
But it became a more real mantra. The last time we were in Door County, the place where we are going to lay her to rest, there was a moment where this idea of the moment being enough, this idea of what happens at the table with Jesus and his disciples being enough, came into full display. We went to the beach. Our son Jake loves the beach. And I remember on that day, my husband Jon and my step-mom Jean sat together, just talking and looking at each other. And I remember that it’s one of those few days in my life where I did not worry about what would come next. There was no hurriedness in any of us. We stayed long past when the sunblock stopped working. We stayed as long as we could, and nobody cared. And it was enough. And so the one thing we’ve agreed to do when we go home is to sit on that same beach, and just stay there as long as we want. Because there are these moments where sometimes that moment is enough, the simplicity is enough, that morsel of bread has to be enough.
It’s true that when life’s finiteness comes before our eyes, each moment becomes more precious. And we also know that this happens in truly beautiful moments, too. Can I see a show of hands for anyone who was at Tanglewood last Friday night? Unreal. Finally after weeks of rain, it was dry. It was cool with a gentle breeze. Some complained that if felt like fall. I said, oh, it feels like fall! There was no orchestra that night. The stage in the Shed was nearly empty. There were three musicians– ah, that number works in church, a little trinity going on – Yo-yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, and the other guy, who in his own right is incredibly talented, probably just as much as the others, but I asked the bell choir to help me with his name – Leonidas Kavakos. Violin, cello, piano. They brought Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony, the entire thing, to life. And for an encore, how about the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, coming from just three instruments?
I don’t know about you, but when I go to Tanglewood, I’m ready. I relax for the first 95% of the concert, and then as it’s coming to an end I’m already thinking about how quickly can I get things in the basket and how fast can we run, because we’ve got to get out of the Lions’ Gate to beat the masses. We were among the last people there last Friday. It was because from that tiny bit of three people playing music in that beautiful space, it was enough. And the truth and beauty of Beethoven’s expansive writing coming through those three talented people who, by the way, when the concert was over they jumped up and hugged each other as we jumped up and applauded. They practiced for hours, falling in love with the music and with each other, for that moment when they could hug each other.
Very soon, friends, we are coming to the communion table. And if you’ve got your communion elements in hand, you know they’re tiny. And yet, in the moment when we gather here, all time breaks down. In the moment when we gather here, we’re with everyone who has gone before, and everyone who will yet come. And we will take that tiny bit of gluten-free bread, and we will sip that little bit of juice. And you know what? Will it be enough today? Will it be enough, not just to meet Christ face to face, but to leave here believing in him and living into the truth that he offers? Will we linger? Will time fade? Will it be enough?
Friends, come and see. Amen.