Being “well” means so much more than getting food for our rumbling stomachs or relief from the symptoms of our illnesses. We need to fasten ourselves to Christ… like a branch to a tree… and grow from him… from all that he would teach us, show us, give us and make us.
10th Sunday after Pentecost
August 5, 2012
Ephesians 4:1-16, John 6:24-35
Years ago I planted about a dozen buffalo berry bushes in my back yard. The once little seedlings have now grown into handsome plants. Around the bushes, I have planted wildflowers that add a lot of bright color. The buffalo berry patch, however, is about a lot more than just bushes and flowers. The place holds all sorts of life. Many tiny creatures make their home there. Small insects, worms, bees and butterflies are all attracted to the place because it offers them food and shelter. They are found on the flowers, under the leaves, and in the ground.
The birds love the buffalo berry patch as well. It provides them shelter… a place to hide from danger. They search for nesting materials there. And the place is full of food for them. They eat the seeds from the wildflowers, the berries from the bushes and the wide variety of insects that are found there.
I’ve seen parent birds take their young fledglings there to feed them. They station the young bird some place safe under the cover of the vegetation while they find some juicy bug to feed it.
The buffalo berry patch is a reminder for me of how connected life is. God has created this amazing world in such a way that all life is connected, like a web. And when those relationships and connections are healthy… life is strong and truly amazing to behold. Everything that is a part of the web thrives.
I can see similarities between the wonder of my buffalo berry patch and today’s Gospel lesson. They both relate or reflect the way God feeds his world. They both show us how it is God’s intention that everything get fed. And they both remind us that there’s more to nourishment than simply eating our fill.
At one point in today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus scolds the people that are looking for him. He scolds them because like other crowds that have followed him everywhere, they do not understand the bigger picture. They do not grasp the deeper message of the gospel. They pursue Jesus because they ate their “fill of the loaves,” Jesus says.
In other words, Jesus satisfied their physical hunger… and that’s all they care about. They think that’s good enough. But Jesus knows it’s not.
Other places in the Gospel, Jesus becomes frustrated with the crowds because they get fixated on the healings and can see nothing else in him except that he can heal their physical ailment.
In both cases… feeding the hungry and healing the sick, Jesus acts to bring health and strength to the lives of his people. But underlying those acts is a truth which he works very hard to deliver today.
Being “well” means so much more than getting food for our rumbling stomachs or relief from the symptoms of our illnesses.
We need to fasten ourselves to Christ… like a branch to a tree… and grow from him… from all that he would teach us, show us, give us, make us.
Our whole being needs to be nurtured. Strong, healthy life grows when it is part of a rich, vibrant web of life. Like the bushes, flowers, bees, bugs and birds of my back yard.
We too must be a part of a life-giving web. And that is the message Jesus wants us to understand. He is the web… and we need to weave our lives into him.
On Tuesday, some of us attended the funeral of Alvin Kadrmas, the father of our own Paul Kadrmas. Funerals are always sad; but sometimes funerals also bear powerful witness to the grace and goodness of God. Reflecting on the life of Alvin Kadrmas served a powerful reminder of what becomes of a human life when it is deeply rooted and grounded in the love of God… when it is deeply connected to Christ. It becomes rich in the grace and goodness of God and it feeds life around it with the same.
That’s the truth… the life lesson… Jesus is trying to impart to us in today’s Gospel.
We human beings often have very unrealistic, very childish ideas about what we need to make our lives right and good.
“If only I had money…. If only so and so would like me…. If I could just live somewhere else… If I could just change how I look… If I could be famous… then I’d be happy… my life would be good.”
But none of these things have anything to do with health or happiness. The truth is our whole lives… our whole being — from the inside out — needs to grow and change so that we can become a strong and healthy child of God, so that we can live and function well in our world.
Our minds, our emotions, our bodies, our talents and skills all need God’s nourishment and nurture. And this happens when we are deeply and broadly connected to healthy sources of God’s love and power.
And so Jesus calls on us to be smart creatures of God. He calls us to open our eyes and see what he has to offer… and where these treasures are found… and then hang on to these sources of life and growth wherever we find them.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul warns his readers: “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery…” and, I would add, by our own childish ideas about what we need… what will make our lives right.
For you students here at Y.C.C., the words of Paul, “we must no longer be children, tossed to and fro…” are especially vital.
You stand on the edge of adulthood. This should be an exciting time in life; but your lives also teeter on the brink of ruin.
It’s time for you to think deeply and carefully about what you need in your life. You cannot afford to be childish, unrealistic or simple-minded in your thinking or acting. You need to make decisions that connect you… bind you… to strong, healthy, life-giving sources of God’s power and love.
As Paul writes, “We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body (i.e. community), joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promoting the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
If we are to grow up, we must be fed well. And so Jesus reminds us where to look for nourishment: “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Further, Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus IS the nourishment that strengthens us and makes us fit to live this life well.
Therefore, we look to Jesus. We look to him to feed us with love and wisdom, hope and strength. We learn from him what it means to be a child of God, how to care for gifts he’s given us, how to share them graciously with others. We let Jesus shape us and guide us through all of life’s joys and sorrows and, finally, we let him take our hand and lead us beyond death and this world to life eternal.