“DISCOVERING JESUS: AS BREAD”
John 6: 32-40
The Reverend Phillip Blackburn
March 6, 2016
Edgar Mitchell lived a pretty amazing life. Born in 1930 in Hereford, Texas, which is just west of nowhere and just south of nothing much, Mitchell went on to become a test pilot and then an astronaut. He trained for years to prepare for his mission and then, finally, on February 5, 1971, he and Alan Shepherd landed on the moon. For two days they collected lunar materials and set up scientific experiments. Mitchell died recently at the age of 85, and I read some things about him. Someone once asked him what he thought when he looked back at the earth from the surface of the moon. Let me read his response,
“You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you s-n of a b—h.”
Well, I think we have reached the point in our society when we’d be just fine if some of our politicians were dragged a quarter of a million miles out into space. I mean, have you ever seen anything like this? I have not. I don’t even think I’ve read about anything like this. What we are seeing in our nation is truly remarkable. Everyone is freaking out. “Look at what’s happening,” people are saying. “What are we going to do,” they ask. “How can this be?” We wonder. But let me offer this tiny bit of perspective to the whole ordeal if I might. Are elections important? Yes. Do policies matter? Yes. Should we vote? Absolutely, we’re Presbyterians, we vote on everything. Is this political cacophony around us life? No. It is not. This is not life.
Bread is life. It always has been. For centuries, millennia in fact, bread was the symbol of life. If you had bread, you could pretty well handle the rest of things, even if they got bad. When the Hebrews were wandering in the desert for those 40 years, it was bread, manna from heaven to be specific, which sustained them. When the disciples fret over their schedule in the Gospels what is it that always seems to calm them down, almost like a pacifier? It’s bread. Give them some bread and they will be ok. Even today, when there’s a blizzard coming and everyone starts to panic, what is the first thing that disappears from grocery store shelves, ok fine, the second thing after beer, it’s bread! Even if people don’t have mustard, mayo, lunch meat, peanut butter, tuna or anything suitable for a sandwich, they grab a loaf of bread. Why? Because we are hard wired to understand that bread is life. If we’ve got some bread, we can get through the next thing that’s coming.
And so when Jesus says to his followers, and to us, that he is the bread of life, we need to understand he is not making a campaign promise, he is telling us the truth. The disciples were fretting again, of course, about not having enough food. You know how we all get when we aren’t sure when the next meal is coming. We fret. Well, they were fretting. The day before this, you see, a bunch of people had followed Jesus into the wilderness but there was no food. You know this story, it is one of the few which appears in all four Gospels, and Jesus took bread and broke it, and he fed all the people who were with him that day with just a few loaves of bread. Well, the next morning everyone woke up and Jesus was nowhere to be found, so his disciples went to find him. A funny bit is that Jesus accused them of looking for him because they were hungry, “you’re looking for me because of the bread,” he says. But then he began teaching about the real bread. Jesus bread. The bread of life.
And listen to what he said. He told them about the Manna in the wilderness, and he told them about the ways that bread kept the people alive for a time. But then he told them the truth, that he is the bread of life. And listen to this, “whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” This is life! This is real life! Jesus uses the image of bread, the staple of human existence, to explain life in him. When we think of Jesus, we should think of life; abundant life; endless life. Jesus points us away from death, away from sin, away from suffering and the gloom that can overwhelm our lives from time to time. He points us to life.
But our politics often do not. The same gloom from which Jesus seeks to free us is an important tool for many in this farcical campaign season. For them, it is important that we do not taste life, but instead death. The shadows over our lives, they believe, will motivate us to vote, and vote for them. So they tell us horrible things about their competition. Democrats remind us that we can blame Republicans for the problems in our lives and in the world, while Republicans return the favor. In televised debates, the candidates teach us to be afraid: afraid of the other candidates, the other party, other people who look or speak differently than us. This is not life. What I watched on Thursday night was not life, and what I have seen from both sides has not been life.
The truth is that we have come to believe, and have been skillfully convinced, that while salvation in the next world belongs to Christ, in this life it belongs to the politicians. Only they can give us our dream job or keep us safe from ISIS or protect the values which we had as children. Only they can save us. This is not life. This is reality, but it is not life. Life, real life, abundant life, flows from Jesus Christ. Those who come to him will never be hungry and those who believe in him will never be thirsty. You have come to him. You believe in him. You have life and you have it abundantly.
The truth is we wring our hands about the state of things in this country. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t, but Jesus has told us where to look for salvation in this world and the next. When you feel frustrated or scared or angry, for the love of God turn off the news, close your newspaper, flip the case on the iPad and turn to Jesus Christ. Turn to him and remember that life for Jesus meant feeding 5,000. Life for Jesus meant weeping at the tomb of his friend, whom he loved. Life for Jesus meant building a community. And life for Jesus meant, that when the time came, he gave his life for his friends after he washed their feet.
Can you see it now? Can you find it now? You want life? You want to be freed from fear and anger and the absurd spectacle that we are watching, then turn to Jesus Christ, the bread of life, and eat and drink abundantly. Go feed somebody who is hungry. Give a hug to someone who is sad. Weep with your friend whom you love. Be selfless. Invest in this community, the Body of Christ. Life is all around us, and it is not just in the blooming trees or the budding tulips, it is here, it is in this world where very Jesus Christ is loved and served faithfully.
This fall there will be an election and another leader will be chosen. They will do some good things and some bad things. They may very well make you angry. But never confuse this process for life. Never mistake what we are told by the spin doctors and the pundits for life. It is not. Do you want life? Do you want real life? It is right here and it looks like love and community and faith and compassion and study and growth and prayer. That is the love that comes from Jesus Christ. Eat of it, and you won’t be hungry again. Amen.