Sermon
August 3, 2003
Rev. Virnette Hamilton
First Congregational Church, New Milford, CT  06776
Write to Rev. Hamilton

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Scripture Reading

John 6:24-35 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.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 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. 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." 28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 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? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' " 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."

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. (NRSV)


Exodus 16:2-15 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 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."

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. 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.' " 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. 11 The LORD spoke to Moses and said, 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.' "

13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 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. 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. (NRSV)

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Sermon - It takes a great big faith

its all about food – that’s what our scripture lessons conclude this morning. Life is only possible when you have food. We all know that. And we all know that life is more than difficult when you don’t have enough food.

A friend of mine Anna and her family, immigrated here from Poland in the 80s. She told me what life was like before they left Poland. in the early 80’s when Poland was struggling with dock strikes, unrest and impending war, strikes snowballed until the economy began to collapse. Russia, who had amassed troops on their border…took whatever food they could get. The grocery stores in Poland were empty, they had only mustard on the shelves. People who had been considered prosperous found themselves without food. Meat was rationed – and families especially those with children struggled to eat every day. My friend tells of standing in line for meat, with her meat stamp for 5 hours holding her infant in her arms, all this time her baby cried, he was so hungry… because his mother was hungry. only to be told that the meat was gone, come back tomorrow. It took her 3 days of standing in line to get her ration of meat.… one pound for her family for a week.

There was no gas for their car so she would walk to her mother’s house, in the country once a week, Her mother would give her vegetables – which she would carry back home in a sling strapped to back, with the baby in her arms. This was in1981.

Today she is glad to be in America.

Food is necessary for life. People will do anything to get it.

That is what Jesus saw in the people that followed him Of course – the middle east is not the bread basket of the world… at best food - is scarce. Arid and sandy, with small bodies of fresh water, that are over used. The people following Jesus were looking for healing, and instinctively knew that adequate food was part of the solution. – he fed them bread and fish – good fish sandwiches - and they were willing to follow this food maker anywhere.

Life is all about food, for those poor hurting people that followed Jesus, for the starving people of the world and for us today. All of us here know that. When the statistics about overweight Americans are slammed in our face repeatedly, when every other sign you see along the road is for fast food, when you have to plan your trip to the grocery store for early morning to avoid the crush, especially if a holiday is near… when you can find someone cooking on cable TV, anytime day or night, and nearly always find an infomercial for weight loss or exercise equipment or cooking equipment. Our culture is all about food.

And I wonder if Jesus would say the same thing to us as he did to the crowd.

“Hey, don’t follow along because of the free food, I am not a deli-clerk. Follow me because I can give you something that the world can not give. I can give you an even better bread, the bread of life. After all - not all bread is created equal.

Now there is the thin sandwich style bread, elegant bread, it is so thin.

It is thin like your check-book, thin like your credit card, thin like your stock certificates, thin like the deed to your home, thin like your impressive resume with all of your accomplishments named.

Thin, elegant, high-priced bread… lets see if it can hold your life together.

So here is your bread - and here is your life

Mayo, - sticky, connective, your relationships with other people. Mayonnaise

Mustard/ horseradish sauce to spice it all up

Lettuce, “Let us” - representing all of the choices you make some good, others not so good.

A pickle for those problems that seem to arise – don’t we all get into pickles occasionally.

Beef, your complaints, the injustices, the unfairness of it all, the anger, your beefs with the world…

Ham, salty, like tears, your disappointments, the losses, your grief, the wounds that make you cry.

Chicken – your fears and frustrations, the times that you were confused and lost.

And some good Munster cheese, your wonderful memories, your family and friends. Say Cheese!

And finally a slice of tomato, that rich surprise in your life. Those moments that are so filled with joy that you laugh right out loud… is there anything better than the first juicy ripe tomato of the season?

Add another slice of bread –

So, I ask you, how well will this thin bread hold your life hold together?

It has a tendency to fall apart – unfortunately. Maybe not right at first, but before you get finished, some part of this will end up in your lap. Bits and pieces of your life will end up all over the place.

Jesus says to the crowd, I tell you there is a better way. I am the bread of life… I am the thick crusty style bread - I will wrap around your life, and hold it all together. let me show you.

Your joys and your concerns, your celebrations and your fears, the spice and the glue… your anger and your choices… I will wrap around them and hold you together – no matter what comes, your life will be in my caring hands, it will never fall apart.

Jesus clearly knows that we need both spiritual food and real food to fill our stomachs, that is why he made sure that all who followed him were fed both the bread and fish and the bread of life. And my friend Anna from Poland said that when the government ran out of food, the churches stepped in and offered both food and prayers and in fact both were critical to their survival. We do not live by bread alone.

This morning we hear the invitation from Jesus - Come to me for the bread that will fill your life with assurance - come to me with your trust and you will receive bread that will endure. With me you will never be hungry, with me you will never thirst.

Come…

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