Bread of Heaven

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We keep our eye on Jesus – who is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that we might, through faith and by the grace of God, receive him into our hearts, be shaped by him, and be strengthened by the life that he gives.  It is the life of Christ given for you… to dwell in you, that is your greatest treasure.  Hang on to it above all other treasures.


Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

August 19, 2012

John 6:51-58

Peder Stenslie

There’s more talk about bread in Today’s gospel lesson.  I don’t know if you’ve been counting, but that’s 4 weeks now that “bread” has figured into the main theme of the Gospel lesson.  It’s also appeared in various Old & New Testament passages.  And I’m going to give you a “heads up” here… there’s more bread again next week.  That’s a lot of bread.  It’s kind of like the feeding of the 5000.  There’s just no end to the bread.

Talk about bread, of course, is talk about food.  It is about what we take inside us….  What we put our eye on out there and decide (or desire) to bring in here.   And then, from that… from what we take inside us… we grow according to what we’ve consumed.

And that’s what I want you to think about today… what you bring inside you from the world around you.  Because that determines, to a great extent, what kind of person you become.  “You are what you eat,” the saying goes.  And that, I think, is a critical lesson Jesus is trying to get across in his teaching about the bread of heaven.

We live in a culture that is constantly feeding us market-driven images about what will make us happy… make us strong, complete… cool.  These images flood our society.  And so we consume these images and live off dreams about being as cool as a celebrity, about achieving happiness through owing things, about wielding strength through intimidation and control.  But these dreams are not only useless, they are destructive.

When we live off these dreams, we actually feed someone else… those who benefit from our chasing empty dreams.  We think it will feed us… they tell us it will feed us… but like corn syrup, it’s just empty calories.  It leaves our lives more depleted than ever.

Life is complicated and hard.  You gotta know that.  And part of what makes it so difficult is that we simply don’t know how to live.  Left to our own devices, we make a mess of things.  From within us, deep-seated feelings of insecurity, fear, jealousy and greed lay claim to our behavior and we ruin the good things in our lives.  And it is precisely those human weaknesses that respond to the flood of empty dreams our culture pushes on us every day.

Pop songs, movies and TV shows love to tell us about love; but they tend to fix our hearts, not on real love, but on the short-term exhilaration of infatuation.  They make us think that feeling is love, but it’s not.  And when it fails to last, we’re devastated.

International media tells us that celebrities are exciting and we should follow their every move and try to be like them.  So we aspire to look like them, act like them and be cool like them.  We become obsessed with how others see us which fills us with anxiety and leaves us feeling more alone than ever.

We are told that money and possessions will bring us happiness… the more money, the more happiness.  But having more money and possessions doesn’t deepen human relationships… the only thing that really gives meaning and joy in life.  So we fill our homes and lives with things as our hearts grow ever emptier.
We are taught that true power is bending others to our will… making others do what we want.  And so we chase after empty power dreams only to find these dreams have left us weaker and feeling more insecure than ever.

Christ would lead us away from the useless and destructive “junk food” of the world.  He wants us to take him inside us… his teaching, his spirit, his life, his strength… in order that a new person might be born in us… and new life and hope and joy might emerge.

I met a guy through an adult hockey league I play in who came to North Dakota from the east coast.  As a young man, he left his home town in order to get far away from a dysfunctional family. He joined the army.  And then, after that, he settled in North Dakota.

He told me how, soon after he moved here, he became acquainted with a family from the church he was attending.  They sort of adopted this young east coast transplant.  One thing that made an incredible impression on the young man was how happy this family’s home was.  He said that he couldn’t believe it; when the father came home from work the kids got so excited and came running to greet him… and the father was so happy to see them.

My friend explained, “When we heard my old man come home from work, we all ran and hid cause he was always mean and angry.  He’d hit us, not hug us, when he saw us.”

He decided that when he got married and had kids, he wanted to be a father like this new friend, and he wanted to have a home like he had, that was happy and full of love.

He lived in North Dakota for about 15 years.  I knew him for about 10 of those years.  Looking back now, I realize that he was always looking for friendships with people that he thought would help him learn to be a better person… a better husband and dad.  He was very interested in family, and it made him so happy to see happy families.

He moved back east, but I still keep in touch with him.  And I’m pleased to report he’s happily married and has 3 children.  He has succeeded in making a home and raising a family completely different from what he knew as a child.

Can you see how he did it?

His heart desired heavenly bread; his eye looked for good food… that he could take inside himself and that would help him grow.

That’s what he was doing when he left the east coast, when he joined the army, when he joined a church, when he carefully observed healthy families, when he vowed he would be a different father and make a different home, when he made friends with people he thought could help him be a better person….  He was eating heavenly bread.

I asked you to think today about what you put your eye on out there and decide (or desire) to bring in here.  We need to be hungry for true treasures of life, not chase our culture’s empty dreams.  We need to seek the life that Christ desires to give us. 

We must be humble enough to see that we need help… we need this bread.  We are not smart enough, strong enough or good enough on our own to make our life work. 

We need to see and hear the word of God and take that word inside us, so that the life of Christ… the spirit and grace of God grows in us and leads us and shapes us.

And so we keep our eye on Jesus – who is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that we might, through faith and by the grace of God, let him into our hearts, be shaped by him, and be strengthened by the life that he gives.  It is the life of Christ given for you… to dwell in you, that is your greatest treasure.  Hang on to it above all other treasures.

Amen.