John 6:1-21 and Ephesians 3:14-21
July 29, 2012
First Christian Church
I was never good at sports, but I tried anyway. In high school, I was in cross-country and long distance track. In the summer of 1984, the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in high school, I went with several of my cross country team members to a week-long camp at a state park in Northern Michigan. We would practice during the day and the evening after dinner was on our own. A few nights we would walk about two miles or so to lodge that had a large recreation room. Most folks would play on the pool table or some of the other games in the room. One night as we all gathered, I decided to leave the room for a bit to go to the restroom. Most of the guys were talking to some girls who had showed up. I didn’t think much of this as I left the room.
So, I did what I had to do and came back to the room…and no one was there. The room was completely empty. I was a bit dumbfounded. Where did everyone go? I walked up to the front desk and asked where my team mates had gone. The person at the desk to me that they went down to see the lake with the girls. I had been left behind and I was kind of bugged.
Looking back, I probably should have just stayed where I was since they would probably come back my way. But that’s not what I did. I did think about following them down to the lake, but I knew the path was probably narrow and it was pitch black outside, not a good combination. So, I chose option B, which taking the big main road back to the campground.
Did I mention the road was not lighted?
So, I walk, no, run down the road scared for my life. It took a while, but I finally made it back to the campground.
So, today’s gospel is kind of familiar. This is another telling of the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, a story that is found in all four gospels. We will get to the whole miracle, but I’m really interested in something else in this text. Did you notice that after the whole feeding thing, Jesus went away? He had to: the crowd was demanding that he become their king. Now, maybe Jesus did what I did, not tell anyone you are leaving since you were going to be right back. I don’t know. What we do know is that for whatever reason, the disciples got in a boat to go to the other side-without Jesus.
Now I know things can get busy and sometimes you forget things. But I find it hard to imagine the disciples could just forget Jesus- the guy that had just fed 5000 people with a bit of bread and a little fish. The one that when he told them to gather up the leftovers there were 12 baskets full? How in the world could you forget someone like that?
Well, the disciples get in the boat and the run into a storm that kept them from getting to the place they wanted to go. After a while they see Jesus walking on the water. They start freaking out and Jesus tells them not to be afraid. Once they realize this is Jesus, they arrive at where they were going.
I’ve read this text a few times, but I’ve not really focused on this part of the passage. It’s fascinating because it just seems odd for Jesus’ friends to just leave him behind. But as I think about it more, it’s not so strange. It’s not so strange because more often than not, you and I do it all the time. We forget to bring Jesus. But the funny thing is, Jesus tends to show up even when we forget about him.
It’s easy for all of us to get into the day to day dealings of life. We get up, go to work, go to meetings, take care of kids, go to sleep, repeat. In our busy lives it is so easy for us to not do things like pray. It’s easy for us to act like God doesn’t exist.
And yet, Jesus is present with us, providing for us. The crowd that had been fed immediately want to make him a king. They fail to see Jesus as the Bread of Life, instead seeing of the Bread of Right Now.
This passage is about Providence. Jesus is the one that provides for us. We are given the Bread of Life, we are given the one that calms the storms in our lives. Even when we forget about bringing Jesus, Jesus tends to show up.
Maybe that’s what Paul was getting at in Ephesians. His prayer to the church in Ephesus is that they get to know the height, depth and breadth of the God’s love, that the living Christ will live in their hearts. He wants to remind them to not to leave Jesus behind. Every Sunday we gather around this table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I don’t know about you, but sometimes you do this without thinking. It becomes just another part of the worship service, one more thing to tick off before we leave church. We sometimes forget to bring Jesus with us to the meal that he instituted.
But communion is so much more than that. As I was explaining to the kids, one the words we use to describe communion, eucharist, is derived from a Greek word which means to give thanks. That’s what we do when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper: we give thanks to the one who shared our common lot with us, the one who saved us from the powers of sin and death, the one who frees us. The meal reminds us that it is God that sustains us, that prepares us to go out into the world and preach the good news.
One of the things I’ve noticed about African American funerals is how much food there is. I saw this after the funeral of my uncle. There was a large spread of tradition African American soul food. If you were a vegetarian, you were out of luck, because everything had some form of meat on it. I’ve always wondered what is the connection between funerals and food. Maybe the meal is supposed to bring a bit of healing to the mourners. Maybe it not only fills the belly, but also fills the soul. Maybe it helps still the storms going on in the lives of the mourners if only for a little time.
One of the things this church does extremely well is food. You all are wonderful cooks and preparers. I have seen how people who come off the street are invited to join us in our meals and how thankful they are to get a good meal and some wonderful fellowship. I have to believe that when we serve these folks, they are seeing Jesus show up. They get a glimpse of someone who might not always still the storms in their lives, but does promise to be with them in the storms and in the calm times.
Don’t forget that Christ is present with us. Don’t leave Jesus behind. Expect to see Jesus in the midst of our storms, in the feeding of the hungry, in our times of prayer, anywhere and everywhere. May all of you continue to know the height, depth and breadth of God’s love and share that love with others. Thanks be to God. Amen.