Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Next Day We Are Still Hungry.

The nourishment that comes from God is about more than physical bread.
For in order to act in this world for God we first need something as the base.
Last week we talked about the unconditional love of God as part of that base.
Love is part of the substance of our lives.
The other part I want us to talk about this morning is faith.
Faith is a trust in God.
Faith is taking the long view of life.
Faith is what helps us thrive through all of life.
After Jesus feeds 5,000 people as a sign of God’s substance for our lives people have a problem.
They are hungry again.
They misunderstand that Jesus wanted to feed them with so much more than physical bread.
They missed the sign.
They lack faith that God provides for all our spiritual needs.
It comes from a misunderstanding about what God role is in our lives.
God’s role is not to make everything all right.
It is not to fix every problem we have.
It is not to fill our bellies.
It is not to make us rich, good looking, and successful.
That is not what God sent Jesus to do.

I want to linger on this point for a second because I think it is a big misunderstanding in Christian theology.
We have many supposed preachers of the Gospel telling us that what God wants for us is that we are successful, and that we get everything in life that we desire.
God wants us all to be rich and ahead of other people.
This is not the point, because it points to the materialistic as proof of what God is doing spiritually.
Spiritually God is not grooming us for success, but preparing us for failure, because we all have failed in some way in our lives.
Or we all will fail at some point.
I am not suggesting that we try to fail; I am saying it is an inevitable part of life.
Just as an example, Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback to ever play the position, but he does not always succeed.
We have seen in his last two Super Bowls that his team did not win.
He does not always make the right pass.
Not only will we fail, but our bodies will also fail.
If you are old you know this truth.
Your mind might want to do things, but your body is failing to move in the same way it once did.
This is life.

You see this morning the people were fed, but now they are hungry again.
Where will they get food today?
That is the thing about material things they always pass away.
No matter how secure we think things are there is always the possibility of it going away, except for our relationship with Jesus.
Faith is something that no one can take away from you.

The reason is that it is not dependent on you.
Notice this morning that Jesus says that faith in him is the work of God.
Faith is a gift given to us, not something we work to do.
In order to receive the gift all we need to do is see it and perceive the gift.

The problem is that we are consumed with material bread.
We are consumed with success as measured in dollars and sense, in praise and adulation.
Jesus feeds us with so much more.

I have heard many of you say it to me, “I would never make it without faith.”
That is how we not only survive but also thrive.
We give our lives into the hands of God.
We surrender our control over to God.
We trust that Jesus provides the spiritual substance that keeps us going in hard times, in dark times, in times when we are starving for so much more.

And I do believe that we are starving.
We don’t even know it sometimes.
We are happy with our success.
We are happy with our money.
We are happy with life.
Or so we think.
In the United States despite more wealth we have not become any happier.
According to the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Center, our national level of happiness has not changed much since 1972 despite the increase in per-capita wealth.
It is an old cliché but it is worth repeating this morning that money does not buy happiness.
What I want to suggest to you this morning is that faith does.
Faith brings perspective into our lives.
It helps us to define what really matters.
And helps us be prepared for the inevitable difficulties we will face.

This morning Jesus suggests that what he gives not only outlasts our money and material well being, but it also outlasts our very lives.
Faith is not only the perspective of today and tomorrow, but it is one of eternality that last beyond even our human life.

When we receive the bread and wine together on Sunday morning we receive faith.
Faith is wrapped into those little morsels of food and drink.
Because when eat and drink at communion we remember God’s story.
We remember that God brought life out of death, light from darkness, freedom from slavery, faith from doubt.

The crowd in this morning has two basic reactions to Jesus that I think are similar to our reactions to God.
One is what have you done for me lately.
Yes, you gave us some bread yesterday, but what are you going to do today.
They second is what do we have to do?
How can we work harder or be more intent on doing the right thing.
Both of these reactions are the antithesis of faith.

The Israelites in the wilderness become disenchanted with God because they no longer have the food they had in Egypt.
They somehow forget that it was only through God’s miraculous interaction that they were freed from slavery.
They forgot that God had parted the Red Sea and drowned Pharaoh’s army for them!
To have faith means to trust in God even when things don’t go according to plan.
We have that faith because we have seen what God has done for us and his people.
For Christians we have faith because we saw what God did through the death and resurrection   of Jesus Christ.
To not recognize this truth on a daily basis is to say, “Sure you raised Jesus from the dead, but what have you done for me lately.”
As if that were not enough for our daily substance.

The second assumes that somehow we are the ones who determine our own spiritual health.
True spiritual substance cannot be earned by us.
It can only be reacted to with prayers, songs, and shouts of thanksgiving and praise.
Faith is the acknowledgement that behind everything is a God who wants us to have the spiritual substance that truly sustains us.
To assume that somehow we can obtain this type of faith is why we so often feel like we failed.
Faith is given from God to us and you can’t work harder to get it.

We are hungry.
The material food and comforts we got yesterday are gone.
We need something more.
And God has given it to us.
Through Jesus God has given us not merely food to fill our bellies, but true substance that fills our souls and helps us to do more than merely survive it helps us to thrive.

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