2 August 2009 * Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15/Ephesians 4:1-16/Matthew 6: 24-35
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life
worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
We will be reflecting on “the bread of life” for the next several weeks. There is much that demands our attention. And we will get to all that in due time. But like Maria in The Sound of Music, let’s start at t he very beginning.
Which of course is the story of manna. Note how the people are already grumbling. They want to go back to being slaves where you at least got three squares a day! What is interesting for us to note is that the Lord hears their complaining and addresses the problem immediately. Of course they have no idea what this stuff is – they call it “whatizit”? It is up to Moses to point out that “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”
Note also that this all happens after Aaron calls them to “Draw near to the Lord.” So after we complain, we are to draw near to the Lord – whatever that may mean. It is worth considering, for it may be the most important step between complaining and getting the bread the Lord gives us to eat.
Which of course begs the question, what constitutes “whatizit” for us? It’s obviously not bread, but it is what the Lord provides, and the Lord seems to know what they really need. So as we draw near to the Lord, what do we really need?
Looking at the Gospel for a moment, not a dissimilar circumstance. Jesus has just arranged for the five thousand to be fed, and then takes off for some quiet time. Not to be. As soon as the crowd figures out he is gone, they get into boats and went “looking for him “ in Capernaum.
When they find him Jesus gets a bit snippy: You only followed me because you want more bread and fish! Don’t you realize there is something more important going on here? Don’t you see that you can have bread that endures for eternal life?
Leave it to a view of religion providing for our wants – a religion of convenience – rather than seeking religion that endures for eternal life. Such religion of convenience sees our relationship with God as a kind of lobbying effort on a grand scale. The Romans called it do ut des, “I give so you will give.”
So they ask, “What must we do (give) to perform the works of God?” To which Jesus rather succinctly replies, “Believe in me. For the bread that comes down from heaven gives life to the world.” Which means something more like, “Trust in me, align yourself with me and my life.” Or, as Paul so quaintly puts it in Ephesians, “Be a prisoner of the Lord.”
Still not really getting it they cry out, “Sir, give us this bread – always.” Which echoes throughout the Gospel of John. Recall the Samaritan woman at the well who says, “Sir, give me this water (the water of eternal life) so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Do we see how people just do not get it? He is speaking to her of a well of eternal life that springs up within her, and she is still thinking of drawing buckets from a well!
And does she not echo that pivotal phrase coming in chapter 12 when some Greeks come looking for Jesus like the crowds in the boats today, and they say to Philip, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
Which, like the hokey-pokey, is what it’s all about: seeing Jesus. Drawing near to the Lord. Getting in our boats and looking and looking and looking until we find Jesus. And upon finding Jesus, or Jesus finding us as he did with Paul, we are to dedicate our lives to him – believe in him whom God the Father has sent – and so become prisoners for the Lord so that we might lead lives worthy of the calling to which we have been called.
Which Ephesians asserts is building up the Body of Christ – his Church.
Looking at page 299 in the Book of Common Prayer, do we see that these words come from Ephesians? And on the page facing, it says that the bond established in Baptism is indissoluable, incorporating us into the Body of Christ! This is the calling to which we have been called.
So let us find ways to draw near to the Lord. Let us get into our boats and go looking for him. And like all the people in all these stories, may we persist in our looking for and seeing of Christ so that we might indeed live lives worthy of the calling to which we have been called. Let us partake of the bread the Lord provides – the bread we need, not the bread we want - and the wisdom to know the difference.
To be continued. Amen.