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John 6, 24-35

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TITLE:     Food that Endures

SCRIPTURE:    John 6:24-35   

STORY: By Mary Orr

 Jimmy and Joey, normal boys

   Like fishing in the brook.

   Of course they dug in garden soil

   For worms to bait their hook.

   I'd wryly glance into their can

   Then quickly look away

   To give each one a hasty hug

   And send them on their way.

   One day young Jim came grumbling home

   "To get more bait," he sighed.

   "You didn't have enough?" I asked.

   "Joe ate it!" he replied.

   My stomach churned

   My color turned

   Grey purple, green, and red--

   Till Jimmy, still disgusted, spoke--

   "This morning we took bread!"

SERMON:    

After Jesus fed the five thousand, he went off by himself.  The crowd, however, was not about to let him go so easily.  They knew that he was living in Capernaum (Matt. 4:13), so they got into their boats and set out across the Sea of Galilee to find him.

When they found him, they asked, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"  He ignored their question, and accused them of looking for him only because he had fed them.  They weren't looking for a spiritual leader -- they just wanted free food.  They didn't care about Jesus -- they just cared about filling their bellies.  Jesus said:

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life."

That is good advice, isn't it!  At least it sounds good!  We know that it is all too easy to get caught up in making a living without ever beginning to live.  We know in our hearts that Jesus is right -- that his words are exactly what we need to hear:

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life."

But those are hard words to hear. The reason is that the food that perishes -- the food that we put on the table every day -- is important, and we know it.  Not many of us have missed a meal lately, but that is, in part, because we work hard and plan well.  We know that it wouldn't take much to disrupt our delicate world.  We live from paycheck to paycheck.
Most of us are only a couple of paychecks from poverty.

Jesus says, "Do not work for the food that perishes," and we reply, "Wait a minute, Jesus!  That makes a great slogan, but it doesn't compute in real life -- where the rubber hits the road.  I MUST work for the food that perishes.  As a matter of fact, I must work several months every year just to pay my taxes.  Only then can I buy the food that perishes -- and
clothing -- and shelter -- and school for my kids -- and a car – and medical care -- and a whole lot of other things."

Jesus says, "Do not work for the food that perishes,"
and we reply, "Wait a minute, Jesus!  I have responsibilities.  For one thing, I have a family to support -- I want to do right by them.  For another thing, I have a responsibility to my employer.  I get a paycheck every month, and I need to feel like I am earning it.  People depend on me.  My family depends on me.  My boss depends on me.  My co-workers depend on me.  My customers depend on me."

Jesus says, "Do not work for the food that perishes," and we reply, "Wait a minute, Jesus!  You say that, but I hardly have time for anything else. I go to work at oh-dark-thirty in the morning, and I keep at it all day. By the time I get home at night, I'm tired, but I can't just put on my slippers and read the funny papers.  When I walk in the door, it starts all over again.  There is dinner -- and dishes -- and helping kids with homework -- and laundry.  It never ends."

Jesus says, "Do not work for the food that perishes," and we say, "Just a minute, Jesus!  If I don't work for the food that perishes, I will perish -- and I'll take my family and a bunch of other people with me.  I have to work for the food that perishes."

Jesus knows that we have to work for the food that perishes.  He isn't advocating that we quit our jobs and go on welfare. As someone put it, "God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into the nest."  Working for bread is important.  If we are to understand Jesus, we need to look at the broader context.  Jesus said more than, "Do not work for the food that perishes."  He said:

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life."


Jesus is calling us to recognize that life can be more than just keeping the wolf from the door.  His is a hopeful message -- a message God has created us for something better than drudgery.  His is a call to lift our eyes from the pathway at our feet so that we might see the flowers and the trees -- the sun and the stars.

Jesus knows full well that we must labor for the food that perishes, but he also knows full well that we are created in the image of God – capable of great spirituality -- and in need of spiritual food.  When he says, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life," he is calling us not to settle too cheaply -- not to allow the necessities of life to define who we are and what we hold dear.

Indeed, in the Sermon on the Mount, he acknowledges the importance of life's necessities.  He tells us not to worry about food and clothing, and says:

"Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:33).

I think that those verses from the Sermon on the Mount probably give us the clearest insight into what Jesus means when he tells us not to get overly focused on the food that perishes.  He knows that we need the food that perishes.  God knows it, too.  God created us to need the food that perishes.  God created us to need three meals a day, in part so that we might be reminded daily of our need for God's help -- so that we might be inclined to give thanks daily for God's gift of food.

God knows that we need the food that perishes, but he knows that we need something more as well.  God created us to need the food that perishes, but he also created us to need the food that endures for eternal life. God created us as physical beings, but he also created us as spiritual beings.  God created us for this world, but he also created us for eternity.

There is a classic prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that captures in a few words the full scope of our God-given potential.  It says:

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then in Thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.

I love that old prayer, because it places the emphasis exactly in the right place.  It asks God to support us throughout the day -- when we need the food that perishes -- when we must be concerned about the mundane things of life. But it deals with those things quickly, in eight short words:

"O Lord, support us all the day long."

Then it moves to eternity -- when the busy world is hushed -- and the fever of life is over -- and the busyness of our business is over and done with.  Listen once again to the ending:

Then in Thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last.

That could be a sad prayer, because it acknowledges that this life comes to an end -- but I have always heard it as a comforting, encouraging prayer, because it anticipates a safe lodging -- and a holy rest – and peace -- eternal life in the presence of God.  It summarizes our faith so nicely -- God with us now, and God with us always.

I was interested, as I prepared this sermon, to find a quotation by B.C. Forbes that fits nicely.  B.C. Forbes founded Forbes magazine a century or so ago.  Forbes is a magazine about money -- business -- wealth.  Each year they publish a list of the wealthiest 400 people in America.  B.C. Forbes compiled the first such list in 1918.  There were only thirty people on the first list.  It was called simply the Rich List. Rockefeller was number one on the list -- the richest man in the world in 1918.

B.C. Forbes became wealthy writing about wealth, but listen to what else he had to say.  He said:

Don't forget until too late that the business of life is not business, but living.

Even this man who dedicated so much of his life to money knew that there was more to life than money.  He knew money and possessed money, but he warned us not to focus so intently on money that we missed that which is really important in life:

Don't forget until too late that the business of life is not business, but living.

I was surprised to read that, because B.C. Forbes spent his life as the chronicle of business -- as the voice of capitalism.  His remarks sound almost anti-business -- anti-capitalist -- but they weren't really anti-anything.  They were simply a reminder that, as important as our daily bread might be, there are even more important things.  He was simply reminding us to lift our nose from the grindstone now and then so that we might smell the roses or see the sunset.

TRUE STORY:     

A physician told about treating a boy who was brought into the hospital with critical injuries.  The father, a wealthy, powerful man, hearing of his son's injuries, arrived at the hospital shortly thereafter.  As the doctor worked on the boy, the father became quite upset.  A man accustomed demanding whatever he wanted, he asked the doctor, "Why aren't you doing
something?"  He said, "I want the best care that money can buy!  I want you to fly him to the best specialists in the country!"  He demanded, "Do something for my boy!"

The doctor listened for a moment, and then he said, "There is nothing that your money can do for your boy.  All you can do is wait and pray."


That was probably the first time in a long time that the man had faced the reality that money can't buy the really important things in life
.

Jesus said:

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life."


We need, periodically, to stop for a moment and look at where we are and where we are headed.  We need, periodically, to ask ourselves whether we are marking time or making life count.  I invite you to do that this week.  Take a good look.  See where you are and where you are going. 

Most of us, in our desire for meaningful faith, seem to be saying to God:  "Show me, and I'll believe!" This approach never works.  God has made it very clear to us, in the life and teaching of his Son Jesus, that the process must be reversed.  He is saying to us:  "Believe in me, and I'll show you." 

 Are you marking time for Jesus or making life count?  It is never too late, if we will only heed Jesus' counsel:

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life."

 If you are not sure where your are or where you are headed, seek the answer with Jesus; come to the alter. It is always open. 

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