Proper 13B, 2012: On believing

John 6:24-35

Last week Jesus fed a crowd of over 5000 people on a young boy’s offering of 5 loaves of bread and two fish… and there was more food left over than there was at the time of the offering. God is at work. We were hungry, and we were fed. Jesus made sure that each of us was gathered, that no crumbs left over. We are full, fed by Jesus, taken into His arms. We think that we were filled by bread and by fish.

The next day, those of us who were still gathered couldn’t find Jesus, and when we found him, we wanted to know how he got to the other side of the sea … we want answers. The question that we do not ask out loud is: “Jesus, how did you do that? How did you get here without a boat … did you walk on water?” Jesus doesn’t answer our question … we want to know about the magic, but Jesus tells us something about looking for eternal food. Didn’t we have bread and fish?

If we want eternal food, this blessing of God, we must have to do something. “What must we DO to perform the works of God?” What must we DO? Jesus answers us: the work of God is that we believe in God; we must believe in God who sent us Jesus. “Okay, what sign are you going to do, what magic?”

We keep putting our belief off on Jesus, asking for, later, demanding, a sign. Do some magic. (This week really is the “show me something, mister” week.) We heard about the manna. Moses did that. What will you do, Jesus? Jesus tells us that Moses did not provide the manna, God did. God provides bread …. There is no intermediary between God and us: God gives us manna, God gives us TRUE BREAD. “Okay, okay, Jesus, sir, we get it. It’s God. So give us this bread always.” We are persistent, insistent; we want all the answers, all the food, and we want it NOW. Last night’s supper is beginning to wear off …
… and that manna stuff, that was a long time ago …

Jesus is the bread of life.

Do we believe that?

Jesus gives us what we need, which is not the same as what we want. We think about food, wine, bread, money, movie tickets, happiness – when what we need is Jesus. Jesus gives us himself every day. Jesus was with us, literally, in the breaking of that bread on that hillside. Jesus IS the bread of life.

And we’re not so sure about that.

WHEN we believe, that which God provides will fill us, and we will never be hungry again. Manna, the stuff (sort of) named “what is it?” will be there every day; there is always enough of what God provides. What does it mean to be filled with God? I don’t know, I’m still working on it, experience little glimpses of it, and those glimpses leave me hungry for more, hungry to be filled. It keeps coming back to believing, to believing what we say that we believe … we believe in God. We believe in Jesus. We believe in the Holy Spirit.

I came across Christine Caine this week; have you ever heard her? She reminded me of a powerful form of belief: compassion. Remember compassion? The word means bowels, and it is that gut-level deep action … compassion. “Compassion,” says Christine Caine, “is not compassion until you cross the street.” We can see the broken man by the side of the road. We do not have compassion until we walk with the man from Samaria across the road, face the one in need. When we reach with out with our bodies and our arms and our resources and our faith – that is compassion. We do that which we can. We light a single candle in a darkened room, say one prayer, provide clothing or a story for a single child. Compassion.

God does not ask us to do that which we cannot do. We give all of those things to God. God gives us manna. God gives us Jesus. And we are called to believe. The spiritual reality of what happened in the feeding, the spiritual reality of Jesus arriving in Capernaum is more important than the physical reality. The spiritual reality is that God provided for us, provides for us still, and so great is God’s compassion is that God sent us Jesus. Jesus crosses every street that there is in order to be with every hurting person by the side of the road.

Our God-work is to believe. To eat. To be fed with the spiritual food who is Christ Jesus, to be filled and fed with God. How do we do that?

Sometimes, we laugh. When we are worried about money (and denying to ourselves that we are worried), we laugh when a nickel falls out of the couch. Sometimes, we cry. When the world comes crashing down around us, when we are so very hurt, we cry, and Jesus helps us cry and breathe and although we are not happy, we are alive. God gives us life. Jesus helps us live, abundantly. The Holy Spirit gives us breath. That is joy, and we have it when we worry, when we laugh, when we cry, when we believe. God hears us. God is with us.

Our God-work is not finished, it is barely begun, within ourselves. We who are Jesus’ hands and feet in the world? We need to “cross the street” too. We have the privilege of having a relationship with God who IS love, and we have the responsibility to respond.

So we pick up the crying child. We read our bible
We go on a mission trip
We go way beyond our comfort zone
We listen to one another, to God’s people.
We give thanks.
We return, our whole lives, to this table of life, of thanksgiving and death and new life. Of Jesus.

Live what we say that we believe. Go in peace, loving and serving the Lord. Help us, Lord, to believe.

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