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It's Not Just About the Cat Food

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Ephesians 4:1–16 ESV
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
John 6:24–35 ESV
So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:24–35 ESV
So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
John 6:

It’s Not Just About the Cat Food

I’m an early bird. I’m usually up around 5:30. Yes, I mean “AM”. If it’s a rest day on my training schedule and I’m not going to the gym, I’m sitting with a cup of coffee getting some work done in the quiet of the morning.
I’m an early bird. I’m usually up around 5:30. Yes, I mean “AM”. If it’s a rest day on my training schedule and I’m not going to the gym, I’m sitting with a cup of coffee getting some work done in the quiet of the morning.
This is my sacred time, this early morning time, but I can’t go to the gym or make my coffee without doing something first. I have to feed my cats. They know the sound of my alarm and even if I try to ignore or snooze the alarm, the cats will demand their breakfast. And they have a system. They pester me in order of seniority.
The first one up is usually the new kid- Fufu, the 8 pound fluffy ball of attitude. If she doesn’t get me to wake up, giant, chubby, dopey Julius, our orange tabby takes a crack at it. After Julius, Moses - the smart one, a gray and white tabby - will find the most uncomfortable place he could possibly stand on me and he’ll stand and squeak at me until I either get up or toss him. And if Moses gets tossed, they send in the big boss: Coca Cola.
Coke is 16 years old and we’ve always joked that he’s half Siamese, half black lab. In his prime, he was 15 pounds of muscle. We also refer to him as the “house panther” because of his shiny, black coat. As old as he is now, he’s kind of scrawny and scraggly, but nobody messes with him: not even me. By the time Coke starts to bug me, I get up. In case you’re wondering, they only got as far as Fufu this morning.
Last week, we read about Jesus feeding 5000 people with just a couple fish and a few loaves of bread. I like to think that my cats are impressed by my can opening skills in much the same way that crowd was impressed by Jesus feeding all those people.
Think about it. . . if you don’t have thumbs. . . opening a pull-top can is pretty miraculous!
Here’s the other thing that my cats and this crowd have in common: the next day after being fed, they come to Jesus and expect him to do it all over again. Day after day, my cats expect the miracle of the open cat food can because they know that the day before, they came to me hungry and I helped them and their bellies were filled.
The crowd following Jesus came to him hungry and he helped them and their bellies were filled.

Grace in the text

The difference is that where my cats are concerned, it’s just about the cat food. They have not missed a deeper point to what is happening. They are hungry, they bug me, I feed them. But the crowd following Jesus totally missed the deeper point - the real reason Jesus was there.
The people haven’t just been filled, they have been fullfilled. Jesus doesn’t just bring regular old food-food, he brings food for the soul. The food that Jesus offers is lasting, abiding. It’s not a meal for the body, it’s a meal for the soul. They seemed to totally forget how miraculous and important what Jesus did was and just got hyper-focused on getting more physical, belly-filling bread. They want to see an encore.
Think about how you feel when the run of a favorite TV show ends. You’ve invested countless hours getting to know the characters, engaging in the story, growing and changing with the people in the show and then one day, you’re watching the series finale.
And we know we’ve loved it. We know we’ve gotten something good out of it. But instead of embracing what we’ve gotten from it, we usually want to return to when it was still fresh and new and exciting. This is why spin off‘s are such a big thing. This is also why spin-offs rarely do well. They almost never quite capture what we left behind in the original. At best, they tend to be watchable for a few episodes. Usually, they are just not very good.
The people haven’t just been filled, they have been fullfilled. The food that Jesus offers is lasting, abiding. It’s not a meal for the body, it’s a meal for the soul. They seemed to totally forget how miraculous and important what Jesus did was and just got hyper-focused on getting more physical, belly-filling bread.
Mark just told me last night that there will be a new Star Trek spin off. Actually, several people excitedly text messaged me about that last night, but Mark wins for breaking the story. Star Trek is an exception to this spin-off phenomenon. Several of the spin offs (there have been many - both TV series‘ and movies) have been better than the original. And soon, there will be a spin off of one of the spin offs - featuring Captain Picard.
The reason spin-offs are a phenomenon is because we like to remember when some sort of hunger was being filled and we want to feel that way again. In the case of a TV show, it’s our human hunger for a good story. In the case of my cats and the crowd following Jesus, it’s literal hungry hunger.

Chrysostom, the “golden tongued” preacher of antiquity, thought so. “By His words to them He was all but saying this, ‘It is not the miracle of the loaves that has struck you with wonder, but the being filled’.”2

Trouble in the world

When we are hungry in some way, it’s normal to want to return to the place where that hunger was last filled. But look at how Jesus answers the crowd’s question. Remember, in the previous part of this narrative, just after the feeding, the crowd saw Jesus NOT getting in the boat with the disciples, but now he’s on the other side of the lake with them. We know, and the disciples knew, that he walked across the water to get to them. But the crowd didn’t see that happen. So they are totally mystified when they see him somewhere other than where they last saw him.
It’s not out of line for them to wonder how he got there and ask him. What’s out of line is their intent. They aren’t following him around because he is the one who restores them, they are following him around like cats follow the sound of a can opener.
So he doesn’t answer their question.
Sometimes, I feel like it’s my Presbyterian obligation to toss a John Calvin quote into a sermon every so often, so here’s what Calvin says about this passage:

“Christ does not reply to the question put to him,” writes John Calvin, when we seek “in Christ something other than Christ himself.”3

What are we seeking when we seek Christ? Are we seeking to fill a natural hunger? Are we seeking to relive or re-feel something that Jesus did yesterday or yesteryear? Are we seeking some sort of vindication or validation? Or are we simply seeking the Holy One himself?

The very signs the crowds look for obscure what is already there for them of life-and-death significance. The demands they make are overtaken by the bread of life that they are given. The works they insistently ask about performing mistake the work God is performing of bringing them to life in faith. What Jesus here saw before him, Martin Luther (1483–1546) in a sermon surmised, were “uncouth and coarse people who were interested solely in eating and drinking.”

However uncouth and coarse, a misplaced confidence is shown to pervade their quest. And yet it is precisely with these that the Jesus of John’s Gospel engages in such a way that they are led to prayer.

Like the crowd, we are often so focused on what Jesus has done or could do, we forget to seek Christ himself.
Stop looking backwards or trying to figure out where Jesus should be. Just look beside you to where he is sitting right here and now.
We have to stop asking
Some people are sad for the church in the United States today. I’m not. I’m excited for it! No, we are not being fed in the same wa
We have to stop seeking full churches on Sunday morning and just start seeking Jesus because the salvation of the church is not in the salvation of the church, but in the spiritual life of the people within the church. The building up of the Body of Christ has nothing to do with building up the earthly church and everything to do with building up each believer to be an integral part of Christ’s body and mission on earth.
The salvation of the church is not in the salvation of the church, but in the spiritual life of the people within the church.

Grace in the world

Ephesians 4:11–16 ESV
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians
Until we have matured in Christ, we are going to be hungry. We’re going to be tossed here and there. We’re going to go off track from time to time.
Ephesians 4:14 ESV
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
And the only way to mature in Christ is to stop asking for bread like yesterday and start dwelling with him here and now.
Jesus says, “Abide in me.”
“Just sit here with me.”
“Stop worrying about the other stuff and dwell in this place a while.”
As we move into Communion this morning, let us do so reflectively and remembering that this is not about bread for the body, but bread for the soul. It is a celebration of what connects us to Jesus and to one another. It is a way to abide in him.
Amen.
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