Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Daily Bread. Sermon given at 2nd Cong/1st Pres Sept 2, 2012.

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
16:2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
16:3 The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.
16:9 Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, 'Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'"
16:10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
16:11 The LORD spoke to Moses and said,
16:12 "I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'"
16:13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.
16:14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.
16:15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

John 6:24-35
6:24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"
6:26 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal."
6:28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?"
6:29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
6:30 So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?
6:31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
6:32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.

6:33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
6:34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."
6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

{BOB Uecker, "Voice of Milwaukee Brewers" recognized at Miller Park, sharing a few of his quotes}

"They said I was such a great prospect that they were sending me to a winter league to sharpen up. When I stepped off the plane, I was in Greenland."

"When I came up to bat with three men on and two outs in the ninth, I looked in the other team's dugout and they were already in street clothes." 

I knew when my career was over. In 1965 my baseball card came out with no picture.

going into football season...
watching professional sports and even the Olympics last month....

To compete at that level requires not just practice, but hours of watching training films, learning about adequate hydration and rest...athletes need to sleep 8-10 hours every night, plus rest an hour or 2 in the afternoon, because the body needs to rest to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during such extreme activity. And they have special diets, Lots of protein of course, for muscles, carbohydrates for energy—carbs like vegetables and breads with whole grains, not sugary cereals or cupcakes...yummy as those are!
There are all kinds of experts to advise athletes on each area of training. Sports medicine and sports nutrition are areas of training that didn’t exist back when Ueck was playing (or in the Lombardi Era in Green Bay) and just in the past few years there have been tremendous advances in these areas.

Thousands of years ago, there was no such thing as a nutrition educator was there?! But God-- the creator of all, knew a thing or two....

OT lesson, Moses was leading the Israelites, they had left slavery in Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, leading the people through the desert. The people are complaining! They complain that it would have been better to have died in slavery, where they were also constantly complaining, BUT they had enough to eat!
God hears their complaints. Note the text does not say they prayed about it, but that God heard anyway. and God told Moses that they would receive food! “Draw near to the Lord for he has heard your complaining!” God hears, and God provides!
God provided quails to eat in the evening and in the morning was fine powder to make bread. “manna' The Hebrew word manna, literally means, “what is it?”

could God have provided them with wheat, or barley or corn, sure!! but the people needed something that was unusual, that they would realize was indeed from GOD!

God provided for the Israelites.

Gospel lesson...this story comes just after the miraculous feeding of 5000 men, not counting the women and children. And following that, the Disciples are rowing across the Sea of Galilee at night, the water is rough because of winds, and the men see Jesus walking on the water! He calms them saying, it is I do not be afraid, they take him into the boat and immediately they arrive on the other side.
Then we read this story...
READ Gospel lesson

Jesus says you were looking for me, not because you saw signs but because you ate your fill...

does this mean the people were looking merely for the provision? For food, bread and fish, sustenance, easily provided. And Jesus says to them, don't be so caught up in the temporary things of life!! bread will spoil, look instead to eternity!

The people seemed to not 'get it' yet....the feeding of 5000 was a one-time thing. The manna from heaven was a daily occurrence for 40 years! The people of Jesus' time expected that the coming of the Messiah would be marked by a miracle as great as or greater than the giving of the manna in the desert.

and so the people still doubt or maybe they are challenging Jesus. After all he is making some pretty bold statements!
he corrects them saying Moses didn't provide the bread in the desert, it was God...Moses was chosen by God to lead, but God did the providing!

but Jesus says :MY father who gives the true bread from heaven'

the true bread from heaven. The word “true” has a special meaning. Jesus refers to what is everlasting, as opposed to something merely representative. The bread God provided through Moses was only material and temporary, not spiritual and eternal.

And they demand he give them this bread always!

And then he says HE is the Bread of life!!

this is one of the 7 “I am” statements Jesus made in John's Gospel. Saying “I Am” in itself was pretty bold, because the Hebrew people knew that “I AM” is the name God used to Moses! “tell them I AM sent you”

so when Jesus made these statements saying, I AM, he was indeed claiming to be Divine, claiming to be One with God.

Jesus' followers were Jewish, they regularly celebrated feast days, including the feast of Unleavened Bread. This is the feast commemorating the flight from Egypt. God gave Moses specific instructions for the people to make unleavened bread -bread with no yeast at all- as the Israelites were to leave Egypt. Then later gave specific directions on celebrating this holiday, the Passover, every year afterwards. The Israelite people understood the symbolism of bread as sustenance and also sacrifice. Unleavened bread, which has no yeast in it, was to be used for this is pure. What was used to leaven bread in those times, since they couldn't go to the store to buy a jar of yeast...was a bit of dough saved from a previous batch, dough that was fermenting a bit. A small bit would be stirred into a batch of dough, mixing through it and causing it to rise. Because of the fermentation, This is dough that would spoil very quickly if not baked right away. So leavening, and leavened bread has to be cleaned out of the house to prepare for the passover. The leavening is symbolic of sin. Only a little bit of it can affect a big batch of dough. So the Hebrew people even today, do an intense cleaning project before the Passover holiday, to remove all the leaven, to become completely clean and without sin.

When Jesus spoke of bread, here and in other places in the Gospels, it was sometimes symbolic and sometimes very real. Here he is saying he is bread...sustenance, something we need and want every day, and yet something that is pure and without sin. Later, when he introduced the communion story, he was definitely claiming the pure and without sin aspect...using the unleavened bread of the Passover celebration, to say “This is my body -given for you”

When He told his followers, "I am the Bread of Life," Jesus was reminding them-and us- that He is basic to our daily lives. Just as we need daily nourishment, we need to focus on God, We need Jesus Christ every day, as much as we need basic sustenance.

Could this be part of what we pray when we ask “Give us this day our daily bread”? Yes we are praying for our daily needs, food, clothing, shelter, but could there be even more to that prayer? Could there be more to life if we follow Jesus every day, asking him to be closer to us every day? And therefore helping us to better reach out to others in love?!

Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World
When I hear people talk about what is wrong with organized religion, or why their mainline churches are failing, I hear about bad music, inept clergy, mean congregations, and preoccupation with institutional maintenance. I almost never hear about the intellectualization of faith, which strikes me as a far greater danger than anything else on the list. In an age of information overload, when a vast variety of media delivers news faster than most of us can digest—when many of us have at least two e-mail addresses, two telephone numbers, and one fax number—the last thing any of us needs is more information about God. We need the practice of incarnation, by which God saves the lives of those whose intellectual assent has turned as dry as dust, who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know more God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God.

In reading some of the references in the Bible to bread...i was struck by this..when Jesus said, 'man cannot live on bread alone but on every word from the mouth of God'
this is in Matthew 4, when Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness. It is a quote from Deuteronomy chapter 8. what struck me was the phrase “every word”...

whole of The Word. We need ALL of the Bible. Not some of it, not a few select verses, or even a favorite chapter or two...but EVERY Word from the mouth of God.

It's sort of like bread that is processed so that the bran and wheat germ are gone's tasty, but it's not as nutritious as the whole grain! It just doesn't stick with you.

We Congregationalists & Presbyterians, are children of the Protestant Reformation. We are people of the Bible.

I know how hard it can be to make time to read the bible every day. I struggle with it. Yet, the days that I do read, seem to go better. My life seems to go better, not that I have fewer troubles...but that I cope better. I pray better. I have a teeny bit more patience...well sometimes...

and having more of Jesus every day has actually helped my faith grow! The more I know of Jesus the better I want to know him! The more I read and learn the more I want! Its like when you first fall in love, you can't spend enough time with the other person!

Prayer, bible reading, these are how we find more God...these are among the spiritual disciplines that help us to be better followers of Jesus, and therefore better people!

In Life With God, Richard Foster writes...Spiritual Disciplines involve doing what we can do to receive from God the power to do what we cannot do. ...Freedom comes not from the absence of restraint but from the presence of discipline. Only the disciplined gymnast is free to score a perfect ten on the parallel bars. Only the disciplined violinist is free to play Paganini’s “Caprices.” This, of course, is true in all of life, but it is never more true than in the spiritual life. When we are on the spot, when we find ourselves in the midst of the crisis, it is too late. Training in the Spiritual Disciplines is the God-ordained means for forming and transforming the human personality so that in the emergency we can be “response-able”—able to respond appropriately.

Spending time with the Bread of Life, in prayer, reading the Bible, helps us to better serve. As we head into fall, a new season of school or work, and we as a church are working through this merger process, let us draw ever closer to the our Loving Lord.

Let us work with the Ultimate Trainer. Enjoy the Bread of Life, and never be hungry again. We may not be professional athletes, but we can be better people, better church members and better followers of our Lord Jesus.  

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