Sermon for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

So it’s full blown wedding season, and I’ve been invited to a grand total of exactly one wedding: my cousin’s. Also I officiated at that wedding so I guess they had to invite me. Also, my son was their ring bearer and my wife made their cake… so they really had to invite me. Oh yeah, and also we’re family too.

The truth is, I’m kind of sad about it. Not officiating my cousin’s wedding, or that my family was so involved, or that he’s my cousin, but I’m sad that there was only one wedding for me to attend this year. Because as stressful as it is to prepare for a service, as tiring as it is to get the whole family ready to go to a fancy party, and as expensive as it could be considering the gift and the new clothes if new clothes were needed, weddings can be a lot of fun.

And it isn’t just the dancing, the funny speeches, the embarrassing photos, or even the open bar, but I think it is the community there together, celebrating a single event, a single relationship, something so uplifting and rejuvenating as a deeply committed love and promise not just maintain, but to uphold this relationship until death do they part. Or 50% of the time, at least. I think the fact that we are mostly all there together in celebration of love, being reminded of our own love that we have, is what does it for me when it comes to weddings.

Oh and also the food is usually pretty good too.

Of course, depending on the venue, but it just seems like people go all out when it comes to wedding banquet food. Spare no expense. Only the best for their guests, at least, the best they can afford for their guests. As shallow as it sounds, the quality of the food could make or break an event. It’s like if you don’t choose your menu carefully, then maybe the party isn’t as fun. It’s almost as though the quality of food is directly correlated to how much you’re loved, not just at weddings, but at pretty much any event. I mean, I know it’s not, but doesn’t it feel like it sometimes?

So it makes sense that at a wedding, they would make sure that the food is as tasty and high quality as possible. It makes sense that people would do their best to ensure that their guests will be well fed enough that they won’t have to hit the drive-thru after the wedding. It makes sense because these people are there to celebrate your love so you want to show them love back through food.

But regardless of how good the food is, no matter how full you feel after you eat, in spite of the level of satisfaction you feel after that last bite, you are always hungry again in the morning. Weird how your body works that way. Your stomach might be full now, but wait a couple hours and you’re wanting, no, needing to eat more.

This has been true for the entire history of humankind. From the dawn of time the eating protocol would be catch something, eat it, and go catch something else, eat that, go hunting again, and the cycle perpetuates until the day you die. Even now in the days of super markets, refrigeration technology, and modern food preparation techniques, it is a lot easier but it is basically the same. Just instead of hunting in the wild, you go hunting in your fridge. That is just how it works. We know it’s true now, and it was true in today’s gospel lesson that we just read.

This takes place right after the events of last week, if you remember was the feeding of the 5000. The people had their fill, there were 12 baskets left over, and Jesus went and walked across the sea to Capernaum. Yeah, literally walked. Today, the people were so busy rubbing their full bellies that they didn’t even notice that Jesus left. But when they did, they ran after him and caught up to him, because why not? And they were like, hey Jesus, where did you go, man?

Jesus then calls them out on their being human and says they just wanted to find him because he was able to produce a feast out of a snack, and as full as they were yesterday, they’re hungry again. But really, could you blame them? This is the time I was talking about before supermarkets, proper refrigeration, and cookbooks, so food wasn’t the easiest thing to come by. Especially a lot of food. Unless you were super rich or knew how to really stretch a dollar, food was not in abundance for the average person.

And now they meet a guy who could stretch 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread? Well, that is a literal Godsend right there. So of course they’d follow him. He had exactly what they wanted to help them feel satisfied. He had what they needed to feel full. He had what they hungered for as those who need sustenance, people who need to be filled and energized, humans in need to eat.

But he doesn’t give them more food, although I’m not sure what happened to those 12 baskets from just several hour prior. Instead Jesus tells them that they needn’t worry so much about the food that perishes, and calls himself the bread of life.

But uh, Jesus? We kind of have to, because if we don’t, it causes us to die, and we don’t really want to die.

It’s at this point a lot of people, preachers even, like to tell you that wanting food is shallow and that we should just focus on being spiritually fed; or that Jesus’ point is to care only for our souls, not our bellies; or that as long as we trust in God, we’ll never feel hungry again. Believe in this Bread of Life, and be fed always. But I don’t think that is the case here. You’ll recall that at other times Jesus tells us to feed the hungry. Jesus spent time eating with his friends. He even made the effort to miraculously spawn food for these exact 5000 people that are complaining now. So I think Jesus is deeply concerned with our need of food and sustenance and staying alive and all that.

Rather, I think what Jesus is saying here is metaphoric. I guess that is obvious, as he is clearly not literal bread, but I think what Jesus is saying is while we might need food and to be fed, while we need to eat and be nourished, while we get hungry every single day and are required by life to quest for more food every day, he is saying that we can find satisfaction elsewhere. We don’t need to judge ourselves by how we eat, compare our cupboards against our neighbours, or rank our level of love by how tasty the food that is given to us is. But Jesus is saying that know that you are loved, know that you are cared for, and know that you are forgiven. Know this so that you don’t need to go out in search of markers to fulfill your self-worth, your value, or the importance you might erroneously place upon yourself, because to God, you are enough.

Or maybe it isn’t in food where we try to find that value and worth, maybe it is material gain or wealth. Or maybe it is the number of trophies we have on our mantles and walls and shelves. Or maybe it is the number of names on our follower lists or likes on our social media posts. It could even be number of relationships we have, the amount of “love” we can gain from those we take advantage of, or how much respect we can get from people by impressing them with our impressive impressiveness.

Jesus says he gets it. Sometimes we feel like those things can satisfy. Sometimes we feel like we are full because of them. Sometimes we feel like they are exactly what we need to feel important, valued, loved. But he says be careful because tomorrow you’ll want it again, but more. Tomorrow your satisfaction will turn back into hunger and desire and want. Tomorrow, what you had yesterday is no longer enough so you yearn for more. And the cycle continues. I don’t think Jesus is saying there’s anything wrong with wanting stuff and being happy and appreciative when you get it, but I think Jesus is saying that we needn’t put our value and worth solely on these things that we can gain.

Because… Jesus says, we are worth so much more.

Jesus reminds us that we are God’s beloved children. We are chosen, redeemed, and brought into the fullness of life. We are given that value and worth so much more than material wealth, than prestige or experience or achievements, than the number of weddings serving good food that we’re invited to. We are given that value and worth so much so that God constantly reminds us of whom we are through the literal water, bread, and cup. We are given that value and worth so much, that Jesus, once and for all empties himself and gives himself up for you.

See while we sometimes can measure how we feel loved and valued through things like food, like gifts of material possessions, or even our own accomplishments, God surprises us with and reveals to us a love that is not bound by time, space, or social media likes, but God gives us God’s Son, the Bread of Life, in which we will never be hungry. See, Jesus is also the trophy of life, in which we will never fail. Jesus is the work promotion of life, in which we’ll never be undervalued or unnoticed. Jesus is the liked post of life, in which we’ll never be unappreciated. Jesus is the wedding banquet of life, in which we will never be unfed, unnourished, and unloved, for it is in Christ that we find our true value and worth in unending and eternal welcome and acceptance into God’s kingdom and declared as sons and daughters, part of this community and body of Christ, now and forever.

As we move along through this season after Pentecost, may we continue to look at God for our value and worth, knowing that it is God’s love alone that can satisfy and ever be enough. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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