Sunday, 5 August 2012 ~ “Clueless in Capernaum”

Scriptures:        Ephesians 4:1-16        John 6:24-35

LET US PRAY:  Holy, still-speaking God ~ open our ears that we might hear Your holy  Word today; open our hearts and minds, that we may live out Your message for our lives each day.  Amen.

???  Why are you here today?  What are you looking for?
(take a few moments; find a few people nearby and share your
answers … preferably NOT a family member or person you
came with!)

Would anyone be willing to share one of the answers they heard from their group … NO need to identify the source!!!

NOW:    ???    What difference does being here make in your life    ???
(popcorn style)

These questions, I believe, lie at the heart of our Gospel reading for this morning.  Today’s reading picks up where last week’s reading left off.  Remember:  a large crowd has been following Jesus because of all the wonderful SIGNS He has been doing.  This is a HUGE crowed … 5,000 strong.  It’s getting late … and Jesus asks Philip what was his plan for feeding this crowd ~ knowing all the time what He had in mind.  Well: we know the outcome … Jesus blesses 5 loaves and 2 fish … everyone is fed until their stomachs are filled to the brim … and still there are 12 baskets of leftovers.  Besides full bellies … the crowd is also filled with amazement at the works of this “prophet.”

The lesson ends with Jesus withdrawing for some private down time … the disciples heading across the Sea but encountering rough waves and winds … and Jesus calming their FEARS with the words: “It is ME … do not be afraid!”

And, today we hear that the crowds have grabbed every boat available ~ traveled over the Sea to look for Jesus themselves.  And, once they find Him, Jesus very effectively puts a damper on their enthusiasm by ~ in essence ~ asking them the same questions I asked you a moment ago:  Why are you here today??  What are you looking for??

And, just like last week with Philip ~ Jesus already knew the answer to His questions.  “You are NOT here because you were paying attentions to the “signs” I performed.  You’re here because you ate bread until you were full ~ now you want … ???”

I love John’s Gospel because it always makes us dig a little deeper into his stories.  It was written more than half a century after Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension … and to a people who, within the past 20 years or so, had survived another bloody  war with Rome and seen their Temple totally destroyed.  These were a people desperately in need of Jesus the Savior ~ the Redeemer ~ the King.  The stories that we read in John all focus on the deeds that Jesus is doing as SIGNS that point to something more important than mere actions.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000 people simply by blessing 5 small loaves of bread and 2 little fish IS a wonderful and inspiring story.  But its true importance, for the author and for all of us, is the fact that ~ WHAT Jesus did was a sign that points to an even bigger truth: Jesus, as the Son of God, has the power to turn even the most insignificant moments and things INTO moments and objects of blessing, especially when we  need them most.

Why are you here today?  Instantaneous gratification?  What are you looking for?  Live-giving renewal?  I recently read a wonderful story entitled “Jackpot vs Blessing.”

“A slicked-up church supply salesman stops at a pastor’s office, trying to sell him some Bible games for the youth group.  The best-selling game was called “Dollars and Sense.”  “It’s a board game, kinda like Monopoly,” the salesman says.  “Players move around a board.  If they land on a square labeled “college graduate”, they receive a certain sum of money.  If they land on a square named “middle level executive,” they receive even MORE money. But, if they are lucky enough to land on the square labeled “company president,” they get a VERY large sum of money!

Regardless of the money they receive, however: if they give 10% to the “church” square on the board, they will reap a bonanza of blessings should they land on the “showers of blessings” square ~ being showered with all the money in the game’s jackpot!

The pastor was not impressed.  “I think that’s a crass lesson to teach a child,’ he said to the salesman, “that the word “blessing” is synonymous with the word “jackpot!”

Without missing a beat, the salesman said: “Yes, Reverend.  But isn’t that the way the world works?”

Looking at our on-going story from John’s Gospel, it is easy to see that the people were still looking for the “jackpot.”  After all: just a day before, they had been fed bread and fish until their bellies were ready to burst … probably even loosening their belts and lying back in the grass to catch a quick snooze.  AND, NOW … we hear that they have jumped into boats, traveled to the other side of the Sea, and tracked down Jesus … all because they want MORE … just like their ancestors had received in the wilderness.

And, sometimes, it’s that way with us too, isn’t it.  It is much easier to come, looking for more … for the instant gratification … for the jackpot that takes care of our immediate needs.  It’s a lot harder, on the other hand, to stop what we are doing … to pause and catch our breath … AND to take the time to discern the signs of the life-giving, long-lasting blessings that Jesus is working in our lives ~ as individuals and the church.

Now, I will be perfectly honest with you.  As much as I like John’s Gospel ~ I had tremendous difficulty with this reading this week.  I read the story … I check ed the commentaries … I checked UCC Sermon Seeds … and still came up DRY!  NOTHING!  ZILCH!  ZIPPO!  NOT one word of HOPE that I could share or one ray of light for the dark places of our days!!!  I couldn’t find one discernible sense of blessing to share.

And, then I came to a rather painful realization.  I couldn’t preach a word of hope about blessing when I was stuck right in the middle of that huge crowd … following Jesus … begging for an easy meal … expecting a quick fix for my immediate problems/

I was home on vacation this week … and I am still healing from the surgery on my shoulder.  And the healing is going MUCH TOO SLOW!  In fact, 27 years worth of SLOW!!!  And so all I wanted was for the aches and pain to cease!  For the boo-boos to heal!!  And, since I still can’t drive, all I wanted to do was hop in my car and drive wherever I wanted to drive … whenever I wanted to do it!!!

In short:  I wanted to land on the  FREE PARKING ~ or on the SHOWER OF BLERSSINGS square … and collect the windfall of good things that was waiting there for me!

AND, that is when I read this Gospel reading again … and realized that my ‘expectations’ were not what John’s Jesus was all about.  In our reading for today, Jesus tells the crowd to NOT look for the food ~ the instant gratification ~ the jackpot ~ that will perish.  Instead, Jesus says:
Are you hungry?  I am the Bread of Life and will provide every day the blessings of bread that will never grow stale or mouldy.
Are you thirsty?  Like Jesus told the woman at the well, I will provide Living Water that will quench your dry and parched moments of life forever.
Are you worried?  I am the Light of the World and will illumine a true path for you to follow.
Are you tired?  I am the Good Shepherd and will willingly do all I can to meet your needs.
Are you feeling lost and all alone?  I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and will forever show you the true path of blessings and eternal life.

Why am I here this morning?   I am here to humbly give thanks to Jesus, the Bread of Life: who feeds me on my own individual hillsides; who invites me to join  all of His disciples at the Communion Table; and who daily showers me with His blessings that will sustain me for life ~ no matter how often I ignore His signs.  My friends:  why are YOU here?  What are YOU looking for?

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