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Whoever Eats This Bread

1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

Bigfork Community United Methodist Church

August 19, 2018 –Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

There are so many ways to come at the scriptures we have been given this Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. First, we are halfway through this long season of Ordinary Time, midway between Pentecost and Advent.

We close the story of David today. Just as David did, we change many things…around us and far away… with our lives each day. Now we cast our vision over the horizon. How will the world be different for David’s labors here…for our labors here…once they have ended?

What is our legacy? How have we changed the way people will look back upon our time…and our efforts…and our understanding of the truth…once we go the way David has gone…to lie down with our ancestors?

Will they remember what we said or what we did? Will we be the idealistic child of our youth in the stories of us, or a cynical skeptic, or a sincere citizen of the world, following Jesus as we go.

How close to ‘what we did’ claims will get to ‘what we said we would do?’ Have our actions been as noble as our words? Are our words as noble as our hopes?

Paul gives us a good an idea of what we should aim for as he writes to the church at Ephesus….and this church at Bigfork…when he cautions us to live our lives wisely and not foolishly.

These are evil times, he tells the people at Ephesus…and us…so take advantage of every opportunity to do good and be better. Because…as surely as every mistake you make adds to your burden… every good thing you do adds to your character.

We can worry about making a mistake at some time in the future until the cows come home…and we can do something right now that is true and right…squeezing the devil out of our lives with good works… leaving no room for the devil. Or we can do both.

We took a pretty good run at that on Wednesday and I celebrate it as a way that ministry happens. Don, Coleene and Larry were thinking about doing a concert one evening before all the summer people go home…and before ACES lost its renewal grant funding.

A benefit concert was conceived when those two ideas came together. The music was wonderful and the storytelling transported us to right where we needed to be.

But the great thing was the way people from all over the community came together to support an after school and summer camp program for young students in our community.

I they filled this room, I only recognized about half of them, and they were enthusiastic in their appreciation of the occasion and the cause and the sharing we had all come together to do.

There is something about generosity that brings out the best in all who feel its warming touch, and it benefits most the giver. You could see that on every face in the room. We were finding healing in our giving.

My mother baked bread on Tuesday and I can remember opening the front door of our house and remembering that it was Tuesday. The house is filled with the aroma of it every time I remember opening that door.

It is an aroma that inspires generosity. You are glad to be alive. Hope is renewed. The present is a perfect place to be.

Life has just been rebooted. I am not cold or hot, early or late, rich or poor. I have bread and rolls and breadsticks to inhale…literally. And with my very thought of consuming them, I am consumed…

Now I am almost 60 years from that moment that caught me by surprise every Tuesday for many, many years. There is something about bread….its taste…its texture…its aroma.

Jesus would have known the magic of bread, too. He would have smelled it in his home and he would have had one advantage on us. He would have smelled it in the street as well as in the house. And he would have known about its aroma. Its allure was already ancient in his time…and so was he.

When he thought of bread, he would have remembered the night 800 years before when the Lord called to Moses to lead God’s people from bondage into freedom …a night of unleavened bread and a hurried meal…a night when a plague would strike the firstborn of every home in Egypt that did not have the blood of the lamb on its doorposts and lintel.

Bread was scarce in the old life of oppression. Bread was freedom. Bread was a new life…a new beginning…a new sustenance in a world that had become oppressive to God’s people.

Jesus himself reminds them of the manna in the wilderness…the bread their ancestors ate yet they died. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.

It’s like the time one of George Burns’ friends in London was asked to become a knight and he told George he was inclined to turn the queen down.

"That's a great honor," George said. "Why would you turn it down?"

"Because during the ceremony you have to say something in Latin," he said. "And I don't want to study Latin just for that."

"So say something in Hebrew. The queen wouldn't know the difference." "Brilliant," his friend exclaimed, "but what should I say?"

"Remember that question the son asks the father on the first night of Passover? ... 'Why is this night different from all other nights?' Can you say that in Hebrew?"

"Of course," he said. "Ma nishtana ha leilahazeh. Thank you, my friend, I shall become a knight."

At the ceremony George’s wealthy friend knelt before Her Majesty, she placed her sword on one shoulder and then on the other, and motioned for him to speak. Out came "Ma nishtana ha leilahazeh."The queen turned to Prince Philip and said, "Why is this knight different from all other knights?"

I would be willing to bet that George’s friend would have been able to tell you what bread…and especially flatbread…smelled like fresh from the fire…fresh from the oven…at their Seder supper…his family’s Passover meal.

Jesus recalled Moses’ words and the manna God provided to Israel when they were in the wilderness, and he knows that he was not sent into the word by God to be a mere messenger. He was sent…and called…to be The Message.

He delivered himself as the message with parables, or stories, that illustrated the point he was trying to make. In John, these stories have a thread running through them as ‘I am’ sayings.

When the woman at the well tells him that she knows the Messiah is coming to teach them all things, he says, “I AM – the one who is speaking to you.”

When the disciples see him walking across the water toward them and are terrified, he says, “I AM. Don’t be afraid.”

When the Jewish leaders are challenging him he says, “When you see the Son of Man lifted up, you will know that I AM.”

He tells us “I am the light of the world,” “I am the gate for the sheep,” “I am the good shepherd,” I am the resurrection and the life,” “I am the way and the truth and the life,” and “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinegrower.”

This morning he tells us that he is the bread of life and whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood has eternal life and will be raised up on the last day.

If we take what he is offering…with our eyes and ears more than our hands…and drink in its clarity …bite into its honesty…chew into its wisdom…consume it thereby letting it change us…make it part of ourselves…all our choices… all our habits…all of our nature …then we become part of him. And those who come to him cannot be taken from him.

He speaks to them more than us of things and ideas that are common in their lives and in their thoughts…vines and bread; how shepherds care for their sheep; light of freedom pushing back against… into…and through… the darkness of oppression by foreign powers and their own leaders…all of these situations Christ enters into as bread and vine and Great Friend.

He speaks to them of hunger and thirst, loneliness and comfort. Every time he says, “I AM,” he is the one who is the change agent in every metaphor. He fills the hunger and quenches the thirst.

This morning he is also talking to the some of the same people who had witnessed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, and they have bread on their mind.

Jesus has a better bread on his mind. He wants to give them something that they can carry with them no matter what happens or where they find themselves.

He is trying to teach people in an occupied land how to be free…free from oppression, free from sorrow and free from fear. He wants them to see the love they already have and how precious that love makes simply being alive.

I am the bread. I am the vine. Accept what I give you with my life and my days and be renewed again. No matter where you have fallen, no matter what has slipped away from you in a moment you were not looking.

Last Sunday I saw Tiger Woods in his last round at the 2018 PGA Championship Tournament. He has had his glory days…like our King David, and he has had his rough patches…like our King David.

It shows us how important confidence is to anyone who would dare to do great things. He could hook a three wood 240 yards around a copse of trees, right up onto the green.

When his life was touched with a personal scandal, though, that confidence…that ability to focus on all you can do at this moment to strike the ball with the clubface…abandoned him.

He lost his touch. He lost his nerve. His muse fell silent. But last week, he was back in the hunt. He has been pushing toward the top for a while now, finishing in the top 10 in two of his three most recent tournaments.

He finished second last Sunday, two strokes behind the winner, but there were a couple of things that made me think he had won something far more important than a tournament.

The crowd was with him. They all knew of his greatness and they all knew of his fall. And they saw a man who had fallen out of the Top 1,000 players in golf last year coming back.

They were watching his swing and the way he coiled his body, but they were also watching a man reconnect with the great spirit inside him. I don’t mean because he almost won.

What I saw was a man who lost by two strokes who had two putts stop right on the lip of the cup. The ball was so close to going in that it cast a shadow into the cup. You could not see a blade of grass between the lip of the cup and the bottom of the ball…but you could still see the ball.

And the man did not lose his composure. He finished putting and went to the next tee without rancor, focused once again on what was important…not the past, not the future, but the present.

The crowds want Jesus to give them more bread and Jesus is trying to get them to understand that he has something far more important than a crust to give them.

His life is a spiritual feast for all who simply come to know him. His flesh did something no other flesh had ever done. He showed us the way.

He knows that some people will get it. All he can do is to offer it…to everyone…at any time, and hope that they will find the courage to step into the light…to become more and more like the bread that came down from heaven. Amen.