Reflection for Sunday, August 5, 2018
Written by Rev. Jacqueline Samson of St. Stephen’s United Church in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan
Ephesians 4: 1-16 A life worthy of your calling; speak the truth in love.
Gospel Reading: John 6: 24-35 The crowds ask for another sign from Jesus.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer…
Last Sunday I shared some of my challenges with regards to proving the existence of God to some of the significant people in my life who are atheist. The questions that I put forth were “Is there a God?” and if so, “Where is God?” These are two questions that most humans struggle to answer at some point in their lives. Some people choose to believe that there is no God, while others choose to believe in God.
When we choose to believe in something bigger than ourselves we often find ourselves pursuing a life of faith in all its varying formations and dimensions. A life of faith requires us to put our trust in a God whom no one has ever met in person. A Christian life of faith requires us to put our trust in the incredible mystery of a God who became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ … another person whom we have never met. What a challenge it is being a person of faith, as we are often being invited to believe in things unseen … the things that are not of this world!
It is no small wonder that many humans choose instead to believe in the things of this world … the things we can see and touch … things like material possessions, finances, careers, relationships, and family. We may even believe that we have the ability to control our very own lives! I imagine that most of us here can attest to the unfortunate reality that faith in these things can actually let us down big time. Perhaps our job gets terminated unexpectedly … or our health becomes an issue … or we find ourselves financially bankrupt … or the people, whether friend, family, or stranger let us down when we most need them. Truly, nothing of this world is completely worthy of our trust.
In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus places these worldly things under the heading of “perishable things.” Jesus had just fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish and then he and his disciples had decided to cross the lake … likely for a bit of a break … only to find that the crowd had followed them there. When the crowd approached him, he very quickly accused them of looking for the “food that perishes.” Jesus spoke to the fact that the crowd had followed him because of the food … the physical bread and not the spiritual bread that God was offering through him. Their following had nothing to do with trust in Jesus or in God’s cause of peace and justice and freedom in the world. The crowd wanted a repeat of the miracle of manna in the wilderness … they wanted Jesus to feed them too. The crowd wanted a tangible result … something that they could see and touch … a sign of God’s existence through this man/Messiah.
Jesus was all too familiar with the dangers of a faith that is based on tangible results. He knew that whenever humans get what they ask for it is only a matter of time until they begin to wonder, and then eventually need something more to strengthen their faith. Jesus could see through the crowd … a crowd that really wasn’t interested in the new life of God’s peace and justice and freedom, but rather they were looking for some kind of visible confirmation, so they could believe. The crowd wanted proof.
The crowd wanted to believe in something that they could see and touch.
Thankfully, Jesus called them and, in turn, us to a less tangible kind of faith. The kind of faith where we believe in a God that we cannot see or touch … a God that we can experience as we live out our lives in and through his son, Jesus. A faith that is definitely not for sissies. This definition of faith found in Hebrews 11 verse 1 states it well with these words … “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
It is the kind of faith that can feel very uncertain as it deals with “things hoped for” and “things not seen.” The paradox is that when we choose to believe in the perishable things that appear to be concrete and solid, we often find that they crumble and disintegrate. When this happens we can become hopeless or we can choose to believe in the life giving and sustaining love of God that does not appear concrete and solid, but actually provides a strong foundation for us. Jesus calls us to a faith that we are not supposed to get in the material/physical sense, but rather in the spiritual sense. A faith that we can wrap our hearts around … a faith that satisfies our soul’s deepest longings. As spiritual beings, we need the life that only God can provide.
Jesus talks about being the bread of life because he offers us the only bread that can truly satisfy our hunger, which is the life that God offers us. As we share communion with one another today. we will experience the tangible offer of bread as a reminder to enter not only into a relationship with God who gives us life, but into relationship with others in the body of Christ. This enables us to share life in all its wholeness with one another.
In our reading from Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are called to use the spiritual gifts that we have each been blessed with and to mature in our faith as we journey with one another. Through the experience of being in community, God is seen in the oneness or unity of many. The amazing truth is that when we trust in Jesus and in the new life of God’s peace and justice and freedom we will experience it and in turn carry it out in our world. Together may we find ourselves believing in the things that are not of this world … together may we build each other up in love. May it be so.