the one where we nuzzle up and don't look out...
August 3, 2015, 9:12 AM

Sermon from August 2, 2015

Sermon Text: John 6: 24-35

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

Signs. Signs point to a lot of things. Signs point to potential dangers up the road. Signs point the path to where we are heading. Signs point us to troubles in our lives. Signs point to those wonderful things that fill us in so many ways. There are loads of signs in our world. Stop signs, yield signs, pedestrians crossing signs, or my particular favorite the British ‘exit’ signs that point to the “WAY OUT.” Of course, there are other signs as well – signs that we know where we’re feeling good – full of energy, alert, happy, content.  Signs that we’re not doing so hot; a fever, tired, sluggish. Our body shows us signs that we’re in need of food or drink with a rumble of our stomach or the dryness of our throats. 

We have a lot of signs in our world, and we also have a lot of signs in the church as well. We have our ‘literal’ signs like the one outside next to the street that informs folks of what this building is. We have the sign of welcoming folks at the door pointing to the fact that there are open and kind people in this place, we have the signs of the ministries we offer and participate in that point folks to work is being done from this place for the community, we have the signs of bread and wine and word that point to the one who offers his life for all, Jesus Christ.

Of course, we as humans also have a tendency to not really see what those signs are pointing to. In fact, especially when it comes to the signs of the church we can and do act like the crowds gathered around Jesus in our gospel lesson this morning. Sometimes we even act like the Israelites who saw the sign from God and asked, “Manna?” “What is this?”

I read a story a while ago about a father who attempted to get the family cat to notice other cats on TV. I think that is something all of us with pets have tried to do from time to time isn’t it? This man would point his finger at the TV and say, “Look – it’s a pretty kitty – look!” Of course, the cat wasn’t interested in what its owner was pointing to, but instead was transfixed on his finger itself. Nuzzling against that finger.

Or if you’re a dog lover, you have the dogs who act like all those canines in Pixar’s Up. Where even as they are talking to one another, they are always distracted by the SQUIRREL! Pulled away from that which might be important to focus on something that isn’t even there.

Jesus’ crowd nuzzled against the sign of ‘bread.’ Bread that filled their bellies and they sought out Jesus to again fill their bellies. We, as a people, tend to nuzzle up to worship, the Bible, prayer, and other signs in the church yet fail to see what they are pointing to. Sometimes we even nuzzle up to Jesus and fail to see what he was and is pointing to.

Here in this gospel reading, we see folks who notice that Jesus isn’t around nor are his disciples. He and his friends must’ve gone to the other side of the sea, so the crowds do likewise. We have lots of folks in this place, community and world that seek out where Jesus is. This is a good thing. We follow our Lord, we seek out those places where we feel Christ might be and we go. People come to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer because a sign may have pointed them here. Could’ve been a direct invitation, maybe they heard about a ministry here, perhaps that ‘new pastor smell’ is still emanating from these doors and people are curious, possibly they might have been pushed by the Spirit to visit. Something pointed them here, something pointed you here, and you came. 

But, like those crowds sometimes we come for those ‘signs’ themselves and not what those signs point towards. We come to be filled in many ways. There are folks around the world, maybe even in this place, who come to church on Sundays simply to be around people. They are filled by a need to be with others.  Which is good, we should want to be in community. But, ultimately that’s just a sign of what is in this place. Some people come to churches because of the coffee they might serve, or simply because the church offered a meal, maybe because they sing hymns and songs agreeable to their ears, or the time is right and the distance is short. 

But, Jesus, especially in our Gospel this morning, wants us to see not only those signs, but to look out to where those signs point to. These crowds come to Jesus and he questions them – you came because your bellies were filled, not because you seek me.

So, what fills you? If we’re coming to this place, being a part of this community of faith, this Body of Christ, simply for – let’s face it – selfishly wanting our ‘bellies’ to be filled we’re probably not seeing Jesus or to what Jesus is pointing. If you ask people and one another why we come to church – you will receive a whole host of answers. My friends are here (which is what I would tell people when I was growing up in the church) or because a particular church might have a coffee house or even a state of the art work out space.

Now, I’m not saying the things that some churches offer are bad, far from it. A part of the reason we do come to worship, that we are involved in this community of faith is because of those tangible things around us – the people, the ministry, the conversations, the music. But, if that’s what we’ve ‘nuzzled’ up upon solely, we’ve lost sight of what those things are – signs, not bread, and definitely not the Bread of Life.

Even outside these walls and this community there are things that ‘fill’ us in ways that are only temporary. Being filled with the ability to consume as much as we want – food, entertainment, sport. We at times seek to fill ourselves with those things that are bad for us – an excess of alcohol, drugs, hurtful relationships just so we might ‘get by.’ So that at that moment our sense of loss, brokenness, and hurt are filled, temporarily.

We seek to be filled in many ways, but we always seem to want to fill ourselves with only those temporary things. I want to be ‘whole’, but I know full well that my attraction to that object, that food will wane in the future as something newer, better, and shinier comes along. Or I want to be in relationship with someone – anyone – even though those relationships may be harmful to me, but I’m in fear of being alone.

Those are those ‘temporary’ things that fill us in which we seek constantly. Sometimes those temporary fillers exist in the church as well. I come because we always have service at such and such time, or because I like that tune, or that setting, or seeing the colors, or because I’m filled greatly by the seat I sit in every Sunday. But what happens when those things get rocked, even a little bit.  We come face to face with the fact that we haven’t come to be filled by the Bread of Life, we saw the sign yet nuzzled up against it like that cat to a finger, never paying attention to where the sign is pointing towards.

Here, in this Gospel, and throughout these next few weeks Jesus will continually ask us to look out past the signs, to where those signs are pointing. Pointing to the one who gives life to the world, the one who has come down from heaven and is the true bread. 

When we feast upon the bread offered to us by God through Jesus we are filled with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. We no longer thirst or hunger for that relationship that is eternal, that closeness with God because Jesus is “I am” Jesus is the Bread of Life; the bread that feeds those who are hungry, both physically and spiritually. Jesus is the one, working through the community that opens that acceptance for all.

Yes, Jesus does fill bellies. Jesus does offer bread for all physically.  Jesus works through you and me so that others might be filled. But, we don’t come to Jesus because our proverbial bellies are filled and satisfied. We are filled because we are filled by Jesus, the one who has come from heaven, the one who points to the kingdom, and the one who all things point to. We come to be filled by Jesus.  To be filled with his love, his life, his service so that we too can point others here. 

We do point others here to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the Body of Christ, not because we help in feeding, in clothing, in providing for the needs of all. No, we point folks here, using those signs, so that they too might know that Jesus is the one who fills. Jesus is the one who we have faith in.  Jesus is the one who is the Bread of Life for the entire world. That Jesus is the one who is here. Amen.

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