Sermon Recording – Jesus, The Bread of Life (John 6, Matthew 4)

I am Jesus

Message: Jesus, The Bread of Life
Scriptures: John 6:28-40
I’m catching up on some 2017 sermons which haven’t been posted. This is message 1 of 7 in a Lenten sermon series entitled I AM Jesus. It was offered 3/05/17 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. I’m sorry, no recording is available, just the notes.

Lenten Sermon Series – I AM Jesus
Who does Jesus claim to be? Join us this Lent as we explore his seven I AM statements from the Gospel of John.

Click Here for a Reader’s Theatre version of John 6:28-40, which includes a contemporary or traditional sung response.

Late Night Snack
Ever go to the refrigerator, open the door and stare. You’re hungry but you don’t know what you want. So you nibble on something, but it just doesn’t do the trick.

You close the door, you’re still hungry, at least you think you’re hungry. You could actually be bored, stressed, sad, exhausted, thirsty, lonely… You walk away, but a few minutes later you’re back. You open the door again hoping something new has magically appeared. You nibble some more of this and some of that, but you’re not satisfied.

Hunger is a good gift of God. It’s built into us to remind us we need something- food and water. Without hunger, we will die.

Hunger in our stomach is a good gift of God. There’s a deeper hunger which is also a good gift of God- a hunger in our souls. As the hunger in our stomachs reveals we need food, so the hunger in our souls reveals we need something. That something is a someone, Jesus the Bread of Life, the only One who can satisfy.

This is what Jesus was trying to explain to the huge crowd in today’s scripture reading. The day before, Jesus was teaching, sharing the Good News of God’s grace and hope. It grew late in the day. Rather than send everyone away for dinner, Jesus performed a miracle. A child offered his lunch, 5 loaves and 2 fish. Jesus received them, gave thanks, blessed them, and they were multiplied to feed over 5000 people.

So the next day, did the crowd come to saving faith? No. The crowd didn’t follow Jesus out of devotion and thanksgiving. They followed Jesus around the Sea of Galilee for another meal. They only wanted Jesus as consumers- entertain us again with your stories, feed us again for free.

Jesus, be like Moses
Moses freed the people from their oppressors
Moses brought down bread from heaven
Moses fed an entire nation for decades

John 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. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not, including Jesus

We turn food into something it’s not

  • We eat for comfort instead of for hunger.
  • We self-medicate with food and suffer from eating disorders in hopes of finding some control.
  • We have food insecurity and food deserts in a culture of plenty
  • We overprocess food, twisting a healthy blessing into something that makes us sick
  • We’re served huge portions and at the same time huge amounts of food is wasted

Professor and Author Jeffrey Sachs reminds us, “For the first time in history, we have as many people dying of obesity as dying of starvation.”

The classic temptation is to turn something into something it’s not and to seek temporary things for what only Jesus can supply
Need rest, buy sleep- best bed, sheets pillows
Need joy, buy entertainment
Need relationship and belonging, buy companionship
Need a home, a safe place, buy a house
Need satisfaction, buy food and drink

It the classic first temptation of the Devil to Jesus in the Wilderness
Jesus, turn something into something it’s not meant to be to satisfy your need
Jesus, fulfill the need in your own strength
Jesus, become a consumer

Matthew 4:1 Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness- to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

4 But he answered,
“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Moses didn’t supply the freedom and the bread, God did
Jesus wasn’t sent to be dinner and a show
Jesus came to satisfy the deepest needs and the deepest hungers of all time

John 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…. 40… All who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day

Come. Lent is the season where

  • We come face to face with your deepest need- salvation.
  • We come face to face with the truth, asking God to reveal what is false, create in us clean hearts, and to fill us with what truly satisfies.
  • Where we refocus our appetites on God and what pleases God, rather than ourselves.
  • Where we feast on Jesus and are nourished by his grace.

We receive bread into our body and it sustains life. We receive Jesus into our soul by grace through faith and it sustains life forever. Jesus is the bread of life. Come to him.

I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Wilderness: a place to prepare

Not by Bread Alone by Michael Dudash

Matthew 14:23 (NRSV)
And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.

Jim Harnish defines “the wilderness as the barren space between where we’ve been and where we are going; the empty place between a familiar, comfortable past and an unfamiliar, often risky future. It’s the place where we, like Jesus, are tempted to find some short cut to get to Easter without going through Lent; to leap ahead to the future without dealing with the very normal feelings of anxiety, sadness, loss, or fear that are always a part of every change or transition in our lives.”

On more than one occasion Jesus withdrew to deserted places to pray. Perhaps they reminded him of the wilderness experience that launched his ministry. There too life was seen and tempted in its elemental simplicity. Where the tempter sought to redefine life’s basic elements as fame and security and a full belly, Jesus discerned the exquisite but taxing simplicity of faithfulness to God in the absence of abundance… Jesus’ withdrawal perhaps has less to do with escaping ministry and more to do with seeking the strength to reengage and keep perspective. Simplify. Simplify.
– John Indermark, Traveling the Prayer Paths of Jesus

To thirst for God is to desire God; it is to know that God is essential. Sometimes we have to be in the wilderness before we recognize our thirsts, our desires. The Bible speaks of wilderness as a place of testing, trial, emptiness, absence. The rabbis called the wilderness the school of the soul. In the wilderness we discover the essential.
Kenneth H. Carter Jr., Pray for Me

If you therefore go to the desert to be rid of all the dreadful people and all the awful problems in your life, you will be wasting your time. You should go to the desert for a total confrontation with yourself. For one goes to the desert to see more and to see better. One goes to the desert especially to take a closer look at the things and people one would rather not see, to face situations one would rather avoid, to answer questions one would rather forget. – Alessandro Pronzato, Meditations on the Sand

The desert sometimes issues its own invitation: “Come! Enter into my silence, my uncluttered solitude, my stark beauty, and I will show you depths of your own soul you never knew you had. Come and listen to the Holy One who speaks within, tells you that you are loved, and clarifies your call to service. Come and find strength; let grace encompass you; let go of the baggage; and wait simply for God.”
– Elizabeth J. Canham, A Table of Delight: Feasting with God in the Wilderness

In the spiritual tradition, wilderness is the place where we leave the world behind and place ourselves at God’s disposal. – Daniel Wolpert, Leading a Life with God

The word “presence” is a relational term. The real Presence is offered in the Eucharist, but if we don’t know how to be present to the Presence there is no presence; certainly no “real” presence that can change you. What we’re doing in contemplation is learning, quite simply, how to be present. We’re learning how to access what is — and how to offer ourselves to it. – Richard Rohr

Somehow we know that without silence, words lose their meaning; that without listening, speaking no longer heals; that without distance, closeness cannot cure. Somehow we know that without a solitary place, our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the spiritual life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention.
– Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit

I wonder if we are afraid of being silent. Do we fear that if we suspend words and thoughts the world will stop or something terrible might happen to us? … Are we afraid that if we practice this kind of prayer, we might discover our falsehoods and pretenses? Maybe our brokenness and vulnerability would be exposed. These fears can seem terrifying, but they should not deter us. God is above us, below us, beside us, and within us. And we know from the revelation of God in Christ that this God loves us. We need not be afraid. So the purpose of contemplative prayer is to listen, to be loved, and to love. The purpose is not to get what we need or what we think we need but to allow God to commune with us and communicate grace and goodness in the deepest part of our being. – Daniel Vestal, Being the Presence of Christ: A Vision for Transformation

If we picture all the obstructions between us and God as a wilderness, Lent presents us with time to clear and cultivate a part of that wilderness, to create an open space in it. In this newly opened space, we may live more freely and commune more closely with the divine. We can transform this wilderness and make it our home, our garden, a place that invites God in and asks God to stay.
Sarah Parsons, A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent

Matthew 4:1-4 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Be sure to also check out Jan Richardson’s post, Where the Breath Begins

Devotion: Calling Disciples (Matthew 4)

Calling Disciples by He Qi

Calling Disciples by He Qi

Matthew 4:18-20 (NIV)
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

My friend Jeff Stiggins oversees the Office of Congregational Excellence for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. That’s a really fancy title for a really important job. Jeff and his team pray, plan, coach, and encourage congregations to become the healthy, effective, and faithful family of believers God intends them to be.

Back in 2009, Jeff posted an article on his blog entitled, What if you don’t like fishing? In the post, Jeff referenced the scriptures where Jesus calls Andrew and Peter to leave their nets and follow him. If they did so, Jesus promised to make them “fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18)

Jeff raised the idea that Jesus worded the invitation in this specific way because the disciples were fishermen. If the disciples had been bakers or lawyers, he would have worded it in a way specific to those professions.

This got me thinking, what might that have sounded like?

Jesus says, “Come follow me, and I will…

  • Mail carriers- send you to carry Good News to your neighbors
  • Electricians- empower you to bring light to the nations
  • Mason- work alongside you to raise up spiritual houses made of living stones
  • OB/GYN- breathe with you as you midwife new life in people and communities
  • Guard- stand with you as you make people secure in their relationship with God
  • Construction worker- supply the materials for us to build the Kingdom together
  • Teacher- instruct you in how to make people wise in the ways of God
  • Parent- rear you to raise up children of God
  • Judge- give you the authority to release all who are imprisoned by sin and death
  • Chef- share my recipes with you so the world can taste and see that the Lord is good
  • Farmer- cultivate through you a harvest of new believers
  • Mechanic- give you the tools to repair broken souls
  • Poet- open your lips to proclaim justice and freedom for those who have no voice

You get the idea. The point Jeff was trying to make was this.

God has already equipped me to make the contribution that God wants me to make. Sure, I grow and learn as I follow Jesus, but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to be something or someone I’m not. It means that as I follow Jesus, as I offer up to him all that I am, I become more fully who God created me to be. – Rev. Dr. Jeff Stiggins

So, who has God created you to be? In what ways can you use your gifts, skills, and influence to share the love of God with others and make a lasting difference in the world? What would your calling from Jesus sound like?

Disturbing stranger, You call and we follow.
You call, and we leave behind the nets of our past lives,
The things that bound and hold us,
Our old selves and old regrets. …

For calling and disturbing,
For surprising and making new,
For moving us towards wholeness,
We thank you, Lord.
– Kate McIlhagga, The Iona Community

Click here, for more information on today’s featured artist, He Qi.

Click here and here, for great posts based on this scripture by Steve Garnaas Holmes. Both are entitled Fishers of People. Be sure to also check out his beautiful reflection, Follow.

For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please leave a comment.