Sunday, August 2, 2015
10th Sunday after Pentecost
Shera Nesheim, DM
Even though it wasn’t said aloud today, I have heard you say it when I’m in your cottage for game night: you just want to have a break from being in your cottage. Maybe it is to see your “church friends,” as my 3 year old would say? Is it to sing and listen to amazing music like we have today? Is it to simply sit in the presence of others? Is it to hear God’s Word? Is it to receive the bread of life?
Whatever your motivation is, do you ever think about why you show up under the graceful eaves of this church? What or who, do you hope to meet while you’re here?
Well, it’s summer in North Dakota. Honestly that means people don’t come to church regularly. So just in case I’m going to take a moment and catch you up to speed with where we’re at with the biblical narrative we are working through, especially because you get at least 5 weeks of bread…. Last week we heard about the miracle Jesus performed as he took 5 loaves and 2 fish and managed to feed over 5,000 people on a grassy hillside. These people were ready for a new leader, a revolutionary, so when they wanted to make him king by force, Jesus and his disciples fled. Today we hear that these same people managed to jump on boats and track down Jesus and his disciples across the sea. These people were relentless. They were passionate. They were stubborn and innovative, and they were not about to let this Jesus-fellow slip through their grasp.
But what were they seeking in Jesus? What did they expect to find? Perhaps their sudden jump to conclusions that Jesus was the Prophet through whom their lives would change politically, socially, and economically. Perhaps they thought they could force and control him to be king. Either way, I’m guessing Jesus knew right away they weren’t quite understanding what they were expecting out of him, and what they would find.
My guess is that this is why Jesus is so disappointed as he says, “you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” They are following him for the wrong reasons – their bellies are grumbling and oppression has clouded their vision. You may think that this passage is just about bread, but I think it is pointing to the reality that these people were hungering for a savior. They were longing to find satisfaction in their lives. They want their temporary circumstances to change; yet Jesus wants to change their eternity. They want to eat their fill; Jesus wants to satisfy their hunger and thirst. They want miracles of healing; Jesus wants to transform their lives. They want a quick fix; Jesus wants a real relationship.
I read a story this week, about a man named Soren Gordhamer and his work with a young incarcerated man. He does contemplative practices with them, like yoga. He says,
“A guy named Michael was in for a gang-related murder and used to come to the classes. But during the yoga, he would never really do the yoga very much. During the meditation, he would just kind of look around. He wasn’t very involved. But afterwards he gave me a big hug and always thanked me. Over the weeks I started to get frustrated with him. Like, ‘Why do you show up to class if you’re not interested in practicing?’ And then one day it hit me: he didn’t come for the meditation or the yoga. He came for the hug….
If you never formally sit and close your eyes and meditate, but [if] you’re creating a space that supports people where compassion can come forward and where they feel accepted, that is actually more the central issue, and really maybe the heart of contemplative practice.”
This “contemplative practice” that Michael was a part of, is a lot like our small gathering of Sunday people who come together for healing, worship, song, meditation, and forgiveness. This is a unique space: warm and inviting and is filled with compassion. We laugh together. We cry together. We celebrate and we struggle together. Many people who sit in these seats have to actually seek out this place to worship here. There are no signs by the road, no heavenly presence of angels pointing the way. This place. This unexpected, not ordinary place, is a place where Jesus meets us. Jesus meets us in the water, in the word and in the bread. Jesus meets us in a smile, in a hug, in the look of acceptance. Jesus meets us in the quiet moments when we nervously look around, when we’re not sure how to use the hymnal, when we aren’t sure if we’re brave enough to read scripture, and Jesus even meets us in the laughter of children. Jesus meets us here, even when we aren’t sure what we’re seeking in this place.
We’re all seekers. Whether we come to Heart River for 30 years or for 21 days, we are all seeking something. We, like the confused people in this story in John, are longing to find satisfaction. While we want our temporary circumstances to change, Jesus wants to change our eternity. We want to eat our fill; Jesus wants to satisfy our hunger and thirst. We want miracles of healing; Jesus wants to transform our lives. We want a quick fix; Jesus wants a real relationship. When the addiction can’t fill the empty spaces in our hearts. When money can’t buy us happiness. When we realize that losing a loved one doesn’t mean we have to lose ourselves. When we find ourselves seeking other gods, and not the one true God who can truly care for us and give us life. When we feel like we’ve lost ourselves. That’s when we seek. And he has been there all along. Patiently waiting for us to truly believe that it’s only Jesus that we need, it’s Jesus that we are longing for. I pray that you, too, are stubborn, relentless, passionate and innovative in your seeking, and that you know, with certainty, that Jesus has you in his grasp, and he will not let you go.