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Seeking Bread

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Bread Today

There is a bit of Jewish humor that goes like this: An old man goes to a diner every day for lunch. He always orders the soup du jour. One day the manager asks him how he liked his meal. The old man replies, "It was good, but you could give a little more bread. Two slices of bread is not enough."
4 Slices
So the next day the manager tells the waitress to give him four slices of bread. "How was your meal, sir?" the manager asks. "It was good, but you could give a little more bread," comes the reply.
8 Slices
So the next day the manager tells the waitress to give him eight slices of bread. "How was your meal today, sir?" the manager asks. "Good, but you could give a little more bread," comes the reply.
16 Slices (whole loaf)
So . . . the next day the manager tells the waitress to give him a whole loaf of bread, 16 slices with his soup. "How was your meal, sir?" the manager asks, when he comes to pay. "It was good, but you could give just a little more bread," comes the reply once again.
6 foot loaf (half and buttered)
The manager is now obsessed with seeing this customer satisfied with his meal, so he goes to the bakery, and orders a six-foot-long loaf of bread.
When the man comes in as usual the next day, the waitress and the manager cut the loaf in half, butter the entire length of each half, and lay it out along the counter, right next to his bowl of soup. The old man sits down, and devours both his bowl of soup, and both halves of the six-foot-long loaf of bread.
The manager now thinks he will get the answer he is looking for, and when the old man comes up to pay for his meal, the manager asks in the usual way: "How was your meal TODAY, sir?"
Punchline
The old man replies: "It was good as usual, but I see you are back to serving only two slices of bread!"
Grocery Store
It is quite difficult for me, as an American, to understand the importance of bread unless I turn on my TV and watch what is going on in so many parts of the world today. When there is a lack of the basic stuff of life, there is suffering and famine. A simple loaf of bread: Something, which we do not give a second thought, but in certain parts of the world it means life itself.
Well, sometime this week you will make a trip to the grocery store to get a loaf of bread. It will be readily available on the shelf. There will be quite a variety to choose from. You will pay little attention to the price, not realizing that the packaging that the bread is wrapped in actually costs more than the wheat that is in the bread. All in all, you will think it a very uneventful trip, but you will be wrong.
I recently watched a documentary about farmers in Africa who are dealing with a very long and very severe drought. While they are still producing food, it is only enough to barely maintain their farms… but not enough to feed their families. The food they grow is not food that they get to eat.
It is quite difficult for us, as Americans, to understand the importance of bread unless we turn on our TV and watch what is going on in so many parts of the world today. When there is little bread there is suffering and famine. A simple loaf of bread: Something, which we do not give a second thought, but in certain parts of the world it means life itself.
It is only as we comprehend situations like that that we can really begin to understand the importance of bread not only now but also in the time of Jesus.
It is only as we comprehend that situation that we really begin to understand the importance of bread not only now but also in the time of Jesus.

Bread Then

Just think for a moment how so many major events in the Bible revolve around the subject of bread. The most important event in the Old Testament of course, was the Exodus event--the trip from Egypt to the Promised Land.
But what caused the Hebrews to be in Egypt in the first place? It was for want of bread you will recall. The wheat crop had failed due to draught, and the Hebrews had migrated to the land of the Pharaoh because there was a surplus in storage there.
It was bread, or the lack of it, that initiated this whole chain of events.

Purchasing Loyalty

Last week we heard the great story of the Feeding of the 5,000. After the miracle of everyone receiving food, they chose to try to make Jesus their king! Jesus stood in danger of being proclaimed Caesar right then and there—a political uprising to overturn Roman rule.
The feeding of the 5,000, miracle though it might have been, was actually a tactic used in Rome to gain the favor of the people.
And, in the ancient world, loyalty could be purchased with bread, it was a proven strategy—200 years before Christ, Emperor Aurelian started something called the “bread dole” through which citizens could purchase bread at half price. It won the Emperor great support—and later rulers of Rome employed the same tactics of handing out cheap bread to win over voters. And that is exactly what Jesus had done, though rather than trying to rule the people he meant to care for them instead.
It won the Emperor great support—and later rulers of Rome employed the same tactics of handing out cheap bread to win over voters. And that is exactly what Jesus had done, though rather than trying to rule the people he meant to care for them instead.
Despite his intentions, the crowds began to seek Jesus out to be their king. He wasn’t trying to enslave them with the promise of food—but they were seeking it. The hope of a constant supply of food would win their favor and would have set Jesus up on a path toward a full-on rebellion against Rome. But that is not what he had in mind. He had fed them before out of compassion… but if he fed them again he could control them… and so he refuses.
And people from the crowd of 5,000, many of whom were still likely seeking to life Jesus up as their king, searched for Christ and company. Now, they finally catch up to him and begin to ask questions—hoping for another helping of that loyalty buying bread.

Cardinal Vs. Jesus

There’s a fictional story that takes place between an old church Cardinal who is engaged in the Spanish Inquisition with Jesus, who supposedly has now come back to earth.
The crooked old cardinal chastises Jesus for missing his golden opportunity in the desert when he did not give bread to the people.
"Mankind would have run after you, grateful and obedient, though forever trembling with fear that you might withdraw your hand and they would no longer have loaves. You did not want to make men slaves but here too your judgment was too high for all men are slaves."
I have always thought that the temptation to give bread to the world was the greatest that Jesus ever experienced, because I am certain that his great compassionate heart melted at the sight of those who were hungry, so many of whom were children.
With the snap of a finger it could have been done. But Jesus understood the ramifications of this and did what he had to do by refusing to fall into that tempting trap.
Rather than unintentionally enslaving the people to his miraculous bread and fish, he offers the people a different bread. The bread of life… himself. And he says, “Whoever comes to me will never again hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never again thirst.”

Slavery Today

While we here in Oklahoma today could likely not have our loyalty purchased with a loaf of bread when it’s so readily available a the store… there are things that we seek out for satisfaction of our hungers.
And no, I’m not just talking about the physical hunger of needing a nice BBQ pulled pork sandwich covered in Head Country BBQ sauce.
What I’m talking about is how we can find ourselves afflicted with a dissatisfaction about the way life is. Boredom creeps in, restlessness, anxiety, a desire for more.
We lift up powerful vehicles, high-performance cell phones, beautiful men and women, amazing vacations, academic or sports achievements… We seek affirmation through Facebook, Twitter, and more… looking for more “likes” and comments on our quirky posts and pictures. And yes, there is a place for all of these things.
And before we know it…
But, when we start spending more and more of our time seeking out these things we can quickly find ourselves enslaved to the mere pursuit of them without ever finding a lasting satisfaction.
When Jesus challenges the crowd that they were seeking him out not because they hope to be filled with the Spirit of his teachings but rather that they come only to fill their bellies… it is fair to also challenge ourselves and ask ourselves that hard question of what we are seeking in life and why.
Are we seeking answers to our boredom? Are we seeking affirmation in what we say and what we do?
Are we seeking to understand our purpose in life? Are we seeking to grow in our spiritual life in Christ?

Mother Teresa Quote

Or maybe we’re seeking something else entirely.
They feel unwanted and unloved ... These people are not hungry in a physical sense but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don't know what it is. What they are missing really is a living relationship with God.”

M*A*S*H

How many of you remember the watching MASH? If you do, then you likely remember that it was about a group of doctors and nurses trying to make sense of their assignment to the 4077 Mash unit during the Korean War.
In an effort to discover an answer to the question “Is there life after death?” he goes to the front lines as a medic to see death face-to-face. As one soldier lies dying, Winchester asks the soldier what he sees.
The only answer he gets is, “I smell bread.” This answer is enough to change Winchester’s perspective.
our hope in the face of death, our gratitude toward a gracious God, is not an answer but an experience beyond words.
The
In one particular episode, Major Winchester, who often protects himself from the horror of suffering and death around him, finally breaks when he has a near-death experience with a sniper round. He slips into a depression and struggles to seek out some answers to life’s most perplexing problem…death.
And by the end of the discussion between the crowd and Christ… after Jesus had made these great pronouncements that he himself is the bread of life, the crowd becomes rebellious. The people who had just wanted him to be king depart with disappointment and a bitter taste in their mouth from something they thought would be so sweet.
Finally, in utter desperation, he leaves the base hospital and goes to the battalion aid station where the wounded are first taken from the lines of battle.
Colonel Potter discovers his whereabouts and calls him, ordering him to return to the MASH unit. However, a medical corpsman intercepts the conversion and calls the surgeon over to a man who is dying. Winchester confirms the impending death with a glance.
At the end, after amassing enough followers to make a sizeable army at the time, Jesus finds himself surrounded only by the Twelve—and there is question of doubt even within their ranks. Peter will hear the reply that one of the Twelve chosen by Jesus is, in fact, a traitor.
They even try to boo
Obviously in pain, the soldier cries out, “I can’t see anything. Hold my hand.” The Major grabs his hand and says, “I’m Holding it”
“I can’t feel it” comes the reply… and then soldier whispers, “I’m dying.”
With a moment of hesitation, the Major, still trying to find answers, asks, “What is happening to you? Can you see anything? Can you feel anything? What is happening to you? I have to know.”
But the dying soldier doesn’t answer any of those questions. Instead, all he manages is, “I smell bread.” And then… the soldier dies.
Isn’t that odd? What the Major wants are answers to all the pain, all the tragedy, and suffering around him. And all he gets, instead of answers, is a fragrance, a symbol, an image, an experience. “I smell bread.”
Well, I have to tell you that at times I felt like Major Winchester, overwhelmed by all the suffering and pain around us. I have to admit, that I, too, have sought for answers. In fact there have been a number of times in the last months, after seeing the tragedies from fires in California… flooding and mudslides in Japan… hearing the latest child abuse cases within the larger church…talking to a gentleman who is dying without the companionship of family and friends…there have been a number of times in the last weeks and months when I wanted to raise my voice to heaven seeking an explanation.
And as I was lost in seeking answers to these questions... rolling scripture around in my mind to make sense of the world today… I realized that this day was in fact Communion Sunday. It was then that I realized that I might not get all the answers I long for, but what I did get…was the smell of bread.
I wanted to know why it happens, and I wanted to know how to stop it. I turned to the Scripture thumbing through for some help. Then, when I looked at my worship schedule, I realized it was Communion Sunday. It was then that I realized that I might not get all the answers I long for, but what I did get…was the smell of bread. I, too, got a fragrance, an image, a symbol. What I got was the smell of bread. And surprisingly, I’m not the first to have such an experience. For in today’s text, two disciples are walking along on Easter evening rehearsing the tragic events of the last few days. They are talking and discussing the betrayal of Christ, the suffering of Christ, the crucifixion of Christ as well as the perplexing resurrection of Christ. And suddenly a stranger joins them on the road, asking what they are talking about.
I wanted to know why it happens, and I wanted to know how to stop it. I turned to the Scripture thumbing through for some help. Then, when I looked at my worship schedule, I realized it was Communion Sunday. It was then that I realized that I might not get all the answers I long for, but what I did get…was the smell of bread. I, too, got a fragrance, an image, a symbol. What I got was the smell of bread. And surprisingly, I’m not the first to have such an experience. For in today’s text, two disciples are walking along on Easter evening rehearsing the tragic events of the last few days. They are talking and discussing the betrayal of Christ, the suffering of Christ, the crucifixion of Christ as well as the perplexing resurrection of Christ. And suddenly a stranger joins them on the road, asking what they are talking about.

Seeking Closure

Christ questioned what the crowd was really seeking… not to gain loyalty or to condemn them… but to free them.
Because while bread alone can indeed sustain life… it does not on its own make life what God intended it to be. Bread has power, but in the end its power will fail.
The crowd said to Jesus: Give us the bread from heaven. Do what Moses did and we will be satisfied. But Jesus is saying: I am the bread from heaven. He who comes after me will never hunger. As bread nourishes us physically, so Jesus nourishes us spiritually.
The crowd said to Jesus: Give us the bread from heaven. Do what Moses did and we will be satisfied. But Jesus is saying: I am the bread from heaven. He who comes after me will never hunger. As bread nourishes us physically, so Jesus nourishes us spiritually.
As the proud father of now three sons, we provide them with all the physical needs that they could have. We feed them, we cloth them, we give them a warm bed, and I, have became fairly proficient in changing diapers.
In him, we can entrust ourselves… for in Christ we are made truly free.
But more and more I discover that their needs go so much deeper than those physical needs. They want to be loved and held. They want to play. They have a desire for knowledge. They hunger after new experiences.
In short, they desire quality of life and not mere existence. That is what Jesus Christ ultimately provides for us--quality of life--a way to get beyond ourselves and mere existence and experience life and an intensity of life that we have never before experienced.
Let us this day eat of that food which does not perish. Let us eat of the bread that is not here today and gone tomorrow. Let us eat of the staff of life, which nourishes us for all of eternity. To satisfy your hunger for heaven you cannot eat the bread of earth. To satisfy your hunger for heaven you must eat the bread of heaven. What is this bread? It is Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the bread of life—now and forever more. Amen.
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