John 6-25-35 forever eating or eating forever
Benjamin Franklin once said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to
be happy.” Some days, we’d have to agree with him! There are, of course, many other pleasures in the world that can bring us delight and happiness. When we come across certain smells, sounds, sights, touch, or tastes that we like, our senses are stimulated and delight over whelms us, and just for that moment, we seem to enjoy life more, and somehow, we sense God is found in our experience of good things. Our senses, and the experience of joy they give us, are very powerful. They seem to trigger our memory to past events in our life. Its like we are transported, by a certain smell, or taste, back to a happier time, or even to a future anticipated time of happiness.
I have something in this bag (pine tree branch) that I don’t want you to see, but I want you to smell it. I want you to close your eyes and let your senses take you back or forward to the time when you had or will smell this. I don’t want you to say anything to anybody until I ask you. (go around to a number of people) What did your sense of smell remind you of? Yes, most of you said Christmas. The smell of fresh pine needles reminded us and transported us back to the happy time of Christmas with the family gathered around the Christmas tree. In fact, as you look at the food around the sanctuary, each one of us will see or smell something special that stimulates our memory to a joyous time in the past or to anticipating LUNCH!
We should not be surprised by this, that created things bring us joy, and remind us of happy times; that we feel, in some special way, a part of creation and we have a sense of closeness to God. We shouldn’t be surprised, because we were created by God out of creation, Genesis 2 records ‘the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.’ We are created by God from the same dust as this tree comes from.
We live and breathe God’s creation, we eat of God’s creation and till the soil and rule over creation as God has commanded; everything we sense, experience and enjoy is for our good and well being. God created the world for us, as Genesis says ‘And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground– trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.’ And the prophet Jeremiah also reminds us of the goodness of God ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ Today is Harvest Thanksgiving, when we thank God for his goodness to us. We display the fruits of his earth to remind us of his providence towards us; to praise him for his wonders.
Sadly, however, because of our sinfulness, we can easily mistake our happiness in creation, and the continual abundance of good things, as a sign that God is happy with us, like Benjamin Franklin’s quote, and so we are content to just chase after worldly happiness and nothing else…after all, if God is happy if I am happy, what else is there to chase after? We receive so much joy and delight from the things we love, thinking its proof God’s happy, that we forget Jesus’ word of warning in Matthew 5 ‘[My Father] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’
God does indeed provide everything for our physical wellbeing, and in that sense, he is happy that we are happy enjoying his creation, but we have a problem, a relationship problem; a spiritual problem that God is unhappy about and cuts us off from eternal life. While we are glad to receive all physical good from him, we have chosen to make these things into our god, our priority in life, which is a rejection of God’s 1st commandment.
We have chosen to love and enjoy the goodness of creation, and not God. We have chosen to chase after everything that makes us happy, praising our possessions for bringing us self-worth and purpose, rather than looking to God as the giver of all things; who gives us life on earth and in eternity. God, because of our sin, is forced by his holiness to reject us and exclude us from heaven.
How frustrating and saddening it must have been for Jesus, who came into the world as the bread of heaven, to feed and bring people into life eternal, only to be rejected for earthly, perishable bread; bread that only lasted a while. Crowds of people gathered around him after he fed them with five loaves of bread and two fish. Instead of recognising that the miracle pointed to Jesus as the one who gave food for eternal life, they chased him for the perishable bread, so Jesus warned them saying ‘Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’
Jesus sets before us, two types of food side by side: the perishable and the eternal; the food of the field and the food of heaven. Both are given by God for us, both are for our good, but one, the bread of the field is limited to this life. The bread that came down from heaven, Jesus, is food for eternity. The bread of the field, we eat with our mouths. We forever eat this bread only to perish. The bread that came down from heaven, we eat with our ears, by hearing his word, and this bread we eat forever, never to perish. The bread of the field we toil and labour to eat just a few crumbs; Jesus, the bread of heaven is given to us as a gift. All of eternity and not just a few crumbs are given to all who eat of Jesus.
There is no work, labour or toil, to receive the bread that feeds us to eternal life, as Jesus said in his reply to the question ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?” …”The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ Here today, believe that Jesus is present feeding you in his word, and present feeding you now through the words of my mouth.
Believe in Jesus, the one sent from God; Jesus is the one with the seal of approval from God the Father, who said ‘This is my Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him.’ Why would we want to be fed from anyone or anything else that is only good for this life, instead come to Jesus, as Peter confessed ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’
As you come to the Lord’s Table, to receive Jesus the bread of heaven, present in the bread and wine, stop, and like you did with the pine needles, smell the fragrance of the fresh bread and the aroma of the wine. Close your eyes and let Jesus’ body and blood remind you of the joy of the eternal banquet that is yet to come. Let the aroma and the taste of the wine stimulate your senses to remind you that this is the Lord’s blood poured out for you on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. This is your meal, given and shed for you that you may eat of eternal life.
Sadly, while we are able to feast, there is a famine of heavenly bread just out those doors. Not that the bread is lacking, its just that many, like in Jesus day, still chase after the bread that perishes. As we leave the feast today, allow the fragrance of Jesus that is still on your lips, fill your home, your work place and the community you live in. Let the word of Jesus stir a hunger in those who are full of perishing bread. Just one or two words of Jesus, spoken by you, as you are prompted by the Spirit, can instill a new spiritual hunger. You have nothing to lose, yet they have everything to gain.
Just as you would recommend a great restaurant to your friends, that served fine food, so go in Jesus name and in the confidence that you can recommend such good food that it is heavenly, for the food you bring are the words of Jesus, who declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’ Amen