“Give Us this Bread Always”
Thanksgiving Service 2013
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Tuesday, November 25, 2013
When they found him on the other side of the sea, 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. (Jn. 6:25-35, NRSV)
“I’m thankful for the food,” but there’s always more to the story. The same is true in our gospel message for today. Five thousand had been fed, but when all was said and done, the crowd wanted more. They wanted to know what they had to do to get more. They were reminded of history’s past and given an undying proclamation for all time to come.
Jesus calls out the intentions of the people and directs their attention to the bigger picture. It is not the food they need more of, but him. And, who is he? He is the Christ, the Messiah, the chosen one, the one sent by God to preserve, provide, and protect for the people of creation. Throughout human history, people have toiled endlessly for the sake of abundance and other things, but Jesus, gives a simple answer to what is needed. The simple answer, “believe.”
The people that tracked Jesus down, after the feeding, missed the point. Jesus didn’t feed five thousand people just to give them food to eat. They were thankful for the food, but the food wasn’t what it was all about. Jesus fed the five thousand to show them a sign that he was the one sent by God to give life to the world.
The people missed the point again, by asking how to perform the work of God because they wanted to know how to get more of their fill. They were thankful for the food, but there was more to the story. The work of God isn’t about the loaves and fishes, it is about believing that Jesus is the Christ.
The people missed the point a third time and asked for a sign in order to believe that Jesus is the Christ. They asked for a sign using the story of Moses in the wilderness and the feeding of the Israelites with the manna from heaven. Jesus, again, redirects them, saying it was not Moses who feed the Israelites, but God.
“For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” And the people missed the point, yet again, “Give us this bread always,” they said. In turn, Jesus very directly proclaims to them and to the entire world, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
The crowd, who followed Jesus, as he walked this earth, missed the point a lot. Our history is with theirs. When Moses asked God to give the Israelites manna from heaven, God provided. When they asked for something else because they already had manna, they had forgotten that it wasn’t Moses, but God who provided.
Like them, the crowd following Jesus was fed loaves and fishes. Immediately, they forgot where that came from. It was not the food that fed them, but the Christ, the Son of God.
Like them, the Church once indulged in the practice of purchasing forgiveness. Because people forgot that it’s not the Church who saves us, but the Christ, the Son of God.
Like them, in the abundance of Western Civilization, people forget that it’s not our accomplishments that make us better human beings, but the Christ, the Son of God.
It is not wealth that provides for us or food, alone, that sustains us, but the Christ, the Son of God. It is not what we have that secures us and protects us, but, the Christ, the Son of God.
It is not people, possessions, projects, or principles that give us life, but the Christ, the Son of God.
Throughout the Gospel according to John, it’s pretty clear that the purpose was and is to believe in Jesus, as the Christ, the Messiah, the redeemer, and sustainer of life.
Whether we recognize it or not, we carry this passage with us every Sunday in hearing the words, “forgiven for you,” eating the bread, and drinking the wine; in which Jesus is truly present with us, providing a means of grace, and daily sustaining our life and faith.
We recall the proclamation of this passage tonight, as we give thanks for our baptism; remembering, that through water and the Word we were invited into the family of God and covered in grace.
We take this passage with us daily, as we pray, asking for our “daily bread:” the things we need for the sustenance of life.
While we are not receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion tonight, remember the next time you eat the bread and drink the wine that you are eating the bread of life, and living in the reality that Jesus is the Christ – the giver and sustainer of life. Jesus offers us himself, as the bread of life, and we are invited to believe. However, we ought to be mindful of objectors, like the ones in John’s gospel account because this is an invitation to live and trust in Jesus, for some, and a threat for others.
We’re invited to be thankful for the food and remember that there’s more to the story. Jesus is the Christ. In his grace, we are saved. In his grace, we are baptized into the family of God. In his grace. we eat the bread and drink from the cup of forgiveness. For, he is the bread of life, who redeems and sustains us.
I’m thankful for the food, but sometimes I forget where it comes from, and need to be reminded – no matter how often I forget – to believe in the one who provides. That reminder, like the one Jesus gave, is not a threat, but an invitation.
Years ago, I was thankful for the food, but not long after, I would forget to be thankful amidst the chaos of a split Thanksgiving.
Years later, I sat around a somber Thanksgiving table, my older sister, wanting to change the mood, asked, “What are you thankful for?” Like Jesus’ answer to believe was simple and to the point. My answer was simple, “I’m thankful for the food.” That day, I remembered the simple answer.
In recent years, Thanksgiving Day has been in transition. I was an invited guest at a new Thanksgiving table because the old one had come and gone. The invitation was mine, all I had to do was be thankful.
This year, I have yet another invitation. I am being welcomed into a family, like Jesus welcomes us. I am being offered a seat at a new table, like Jesus offers us a seat at his table to eat the bread of life. I am thankful for the food and believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Much like we are invited into the family of God through baptism and sustained through Holy Communion, the work of God is consistent, even when life isn’t.
Our invitation to God’s family and the Lord’s Table is a daily occurrence, continuing for all time, and all people, we are invited to eat the bread of life, and believe.
God gives us our daily bread: the people and things we are thankful for, but we almost always want more. When we seek those comforts and provisions, and appear to come up short – whether monetarily, vocationally, relationally, or even, religiously – we may, like the people who heard Jesus call himself “the bread of life,” become frustrated.
But, Jesus, the Christ, has taken this whole world and everyone, and everything in it, into his arms that were stretched out upon the cross, and in resurrection, he has wrapped those arms around us in loving, gracious, forgiveness.
Friends, this is our invitation to receive the bread of life, in Jesus, who is the Christ and believe in this sustaining proclamation. May we be thankful for the food and believe. Amen.