2nd Congregational Church, Warren
August 2nd, 2015
“The Bread of Comfort”
In his book entitled God’s Psychiatry, Charles Allen tells this story:
As World War II was drawing to a close, the Allied armies gathered up many hungry orphans. They were placed in camps where they were well-fed. Despite excellent care, they slept poorly. They seemed nervous and afraid. Finally, a psychologist came up with the solution. Each child was given a piece of bread to hold after he was put to bed. This particular piece of bread was just to be held—not eaten. The piece of bread produced wonderful results. The children went to bed knowing instinctively they would have food to eat the next day. That guarantee gave the children a restful and contented sleep.
Before I get to far into my talk this morning, I want to thank you and Pastor Andy for inviting back to be with you, our last time together was a great blessing to me. I hope and pray that our time together over the next three weeks are a blessing to you and that we are all drawn closer to the Savior
Over the next few minutes were are going to spend time together unpacking and walking thru this very famous passage of Scripture. For those who know or have studied the Gospel of John, this is the very first “I AM” statement of Jesus. In other places Jesus says “I am the Good Shepherd”, “I am the Door”, “I am the way”, “I am the truth”, etc. etc.
For those who know the Jesus story, you will remember that Jesus didn’t spend too much time in capital of Jerusalem with those who were politically and religiously connected, instead he spent most of his ministry about one hundred and sixty kilometers north in the city of Capernaum, which was this hot bed of cross-culture that laid on the west side of the Sea of Galilee.
The greater context of this morning’s gospel reading is the famous story of Jesus feeding thousands of people along the Sea of Galilee with just five loaves of bread and two fish.
Jesus feeds the people, he and his disciples then travel over the Sea of Galilee to get away from the crowds to get some rest, on the way across the Sea of Galilee there is a great storm, Jesus calms the storm with his word, the day ends and this is where our gospel story picks up this morning.
The crowds of people who experienced the miracle of the loaves and fish want to see Jesus again, so they start to search for him. They find him in Capernaum and they ask him this question, which on the surface seems pretty normal, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
This seems like a pretty reasonable question.
But Jesus looked through the surface and saw that the question was not coming from a place of correct motivation, and in one of the rare times where Jesus gives a rebuke to the crowd, he looks at them and says this, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” This crowd of people were not really interested in Jesus, his messages or even the miracles that he performed, they were looking for some sort of gratification, they wanted some thing that was a temporal benefit, in this case they wanted a free meal. They had eaten to their fill for free the day before and they wanted to do it again today.
They wanted Jesus to give them some sort of instant or immediate gratification.
Have you ever prayed this prayer…”God give me patience, now!” or “God, I need this item right now!” Kirk Wilkinson, in his article, “The Curse of Instant Gratification” writes this; “We live in an ‘instant-on’ and ‘always connected’ world where information and entertainment is available at the touch of a finger. You can watch tv or a movie from your smart phone; you can take a library of books with you where ever you go on your tablet and you can now communication with folks all over the globe regardless of where you are through apps on your electronic devices. This type of instant gratification has lead us to society that runs on quick fixes.” In the world of fast food, social media, texting, high speed communication and information traveling at the speed of the internet, the idea of saying “no” to instant or immediate gratification is becoming harder and harder.
As people living in Twenty First Century America we are living in a society where we don’t like the word “no” or the words “not now, I can or will wait for later”. Listen to this blurb from a article from Bucknell University called “Instant gratification and its dark side”:
“The unmistakable message people receive in both the workplace and the marketplace is that faster is better. Indeed, companies are counting on people’s impatience to sell their services. Indeed, companies are counting on people’s impatience to sell their services. Internet service providers promise ever-faster connections — for a hefty price, of course. Verizon is aggressively promoting its Quantum service, which comes in several different speeds the company claims “will take your breath away.” Verizon’s “rocket fuel” speed — about $210 a month — promises to download a high-definition movie in 2.2 minutes or upload 200 photos in 31 seconds. Still too slow? There’s also “supersonic” speed — about $300 a month — that will finish the video download in 1.4 minutes and the photo upload in 20 seconds.
Similarly, a growing number of retailers are trying to tempt consumers with costly same-day delivery options. Amazon offers same-day delivery in some cities, which means packages ordered early in the day will arrive by 8 p.m. If that still seems like eons, then just wait a few years. Its R&D team is developing Prime Air unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, to get packages in customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less.
“One day,” Amazon boasts on its website, “Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.” Of course, that begs the question: Why wait even half an hour for a drone delivery when a customer can download an e-book, music album or movie in a few seconds or minutes with Verizon’s supersonic internet service?
Of course, in our modern society the idea of waiting has long been considered an annoying waste of time, and I am afraid that our technology has only intensified the feeling.
“The promise of technology was that it would make us masters of time,” says Professor of English Harold Schweizer. “It has, ironically, made us into time’s slaves.”
The professor is a passionate advocate of the value of waiting and even wrote a book titled On Waiting. To Schweizer, waiting gives people time for thinking, inspiration and regeneration.
Getting back to our gospel story this morning;
Jesus calls these instant or immediate gratifications “food that spoils”.
With out taking too much time, I want to focus some attention on some of these “food that spoils” that we see in our lives;
The first, and I hate to jump into this one first, but I find it necessary, is money. How many of us compromise for money? How many people compromise their belief systems, their marriages, their relationships, their ethics just for more money.
Jesus made it very clear to us when he said “A person cannot serve God and money. Either he will love one and hate the other, or hate the one and love the other.”
In my ten years of pastoral ministry, I cannot tell you the number of times I sat with some one on their death bed and listened to them as they regretted the amount of time and effort they spent trying to obtain more money, at the experience of those who they loved.
My brothers and my sisters, when it comes to the nature of money, let me please remind you that money, no matter the amount, will ever satisfy your soul.
Another “food that spoils” that we encounter are possessions. Now I am not saying we can’t have things, but Jesus made it pretty clear when he said “What good is it if we gain the whole world, but lose our soul?”
How quickly are we to run to the credit card for that item that we need now?
Many of us in the Christian Church have fallen into the trap of the need of keeping up with the Jones’. We want and will have the newest, best, fastest, no matter how much debt it puts us into or how many years it will put us behind the eight ball.
How many of us would like to do things like go on missions trips, or spend more time helping at the church, but we simply cannot because of how much debt we have?
A final “food that spoils” that I would like to give a bit of attention to our need to be right. How much time is spent, how much money is spent, how many hours are spent, how much energy is spent, on the need to be right. One doesn’t have to spend too much time on social media to see how much effort folks put into showing others that they have the correct political view, correct theological view, correct economic view, correct sports views.
Saint Paul reminds us that the mature believer esteems others above themselves.
So if we aren’t to go after the food that spoils, what are we to invest in? Jesus says there is “food that endures to eternal life”.
What is that food? Jesus says it is having faith in God, and having in such a way that it becomes like living bread or life giving food.
Let me ask you a question, is having faith in God an easy task? It is not is it? Some times it is a struggle. Some times it is hard. Some times is drains our emotions. Some times we question our sanity when it comes to having faith in God. Being a person of faith is not easy, there is an element of discipline to it. There is an element of effort and sacrifice. But in the end, is it worth? It sure is. Jesus says that it is much more important to have faith, then it is to have those things which are temporary, it is more important to have those things which bring eternal life than those things which spoil.
He said that the bread that fills our souls is much better than that bread that fills our stomachs.
My prayer and hope this morning is that in the middle of this society of consumerism and debt, that we find our soul’s satisfaction in our faith in God.