TITLE: Escaping the Tyranny of MORE!
SCRIPTURE: John 6:51-58
What does God have to do to make us happy?
The book of Exodus tells the story of the Israelites in captivity in Egypt. They were in Egypt for four hundred years, and were treated as slaves for most of that time. Finally, at the right time, God chose Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery into freedom.
Admittedly, it was not an easy freedom. They went from Egypt, perhaps the greatest civilization of its day, into the desert -- but you would think that they would be grateful nevertheless. I am quite confident that, as slaves in Egypt, they had very little opportunity to enjoy the theater, fine restaurants, and other trimmings of a great culture. Instead,
they were mixing mortar and carrying stones to built the pyramids.
So you would think that they would be grateful, even in the desert, to be free -- but they weren't. They grumbled and complained. "There isn't enough food," they said. We are going to starve to death out here in the desert," they predicted. "We miss the leeks and onions that we ate in Egypt."
What they deserved was a good stiff punishment, but what God gave them was food and drink -- manna from heaven and water from a rock. The manna fed them for forty years. It fell from heaven every day except the Sabbath, and the Israelites were always able to gather enough to feed themselves.
That happened many centuries before Jesus' time, but Jews then -- and Jews today -- remembered the manna as God's heavenly blessing bestowed on their people. It was one of the ways that they knew that they were God's people. It was one of God's great miracles -- and it was designed especially to meet the needs of the Israelites. Whenever they remembered their history, they always remembered Moses and the manna.
Which doesn't mean that the manna made them happy. They got tired of eating manna. They wanted steak and potatoes -- fresh green beans -- vine-ripened tomatoes -- squash -- well, maybe not squash. On the one hand, they were grateful that God had saved them, but on the other hand, they were like most of us -- they wanted more. How much is enough? MORE! BIGGER! BETTER! MORE!
Now fast-forward with me to another story. Jesus fed five thousand people on a mountainside with only a few loaves and fishes -- a boy's lunch. Truth to tell, there were probably more than five thousand people. Matthew tells us that there were five thousand men, plus women and children -- so Jesus probably fed ten thousand people, or perhaps even twenty thousand. Another great miracle!
But did that make the people happy? Yes or no? I'll give you two guesses!
NO! OF COURSE NOT! They were impressed with the feeding miracle, and started following Jesus around. But why? Because they wanted MORE! BIGGER! BETTER! MORE!
What they said was this. They said, "What sign are you going to give us, then, so that we may see it and believe you?"
What sign! Jesus had just fed thousands with a child's lunch, and they are asking what sign he is going to give them so that they might believe him. UNBELIEVABLE! At least it is unbelievable until you have worked with people for a while.
Don't get me wrong! There are lots of wonderful people out there – but there are always a few people whose attitude is, "Don't tell me what you did for me yesterday -- show me what you did for me today!" No matter what you do, they want MORE! BIGGER! BETTER! MORE!
So these people told Jesus what they wanted. They said that Moses had given their ancestors manna in the desert -- and suggested that he might want to match that miracle -- and then they might believe in him. It wasn't that the feeding of the five thousand wasn't great, but it was only five thousand people -- or ten or twenty thousand -- and it was only one meal. Moses fed a whole nation three meals a day for forty years! Let's see you match, that, Jesus -- and then maybe we'll believe in you! What they were saying, of course, was that Jesus had not done badly with the feeding of the five thousand, but they wanted MORE! BIGGER! BETTER! MORE!
Whenever I read these Bible stories, I always think, "What stupid people! Why don't they understand! Why don't they get it!" But, when I stop and think about it, we aren't much better.
-- God feeds billions of people every day, but we still say, "Give me a sign, God, and then -- maybe -- I'll believe in you!"
-- God gives us food, clothing, shelter -- and so many things that our attics and storerooms are bulging -- and we still say, "Give me more, God! I still have some needs that you have totally failed to meet. My car is old -- my house is small -- my job is boring -- I haven't had a vacation in ever so long. Don't get me wrong! I appreciate what you have done, but it just isn't enough! Do MORE! BIGGER! BETTER! MORE!
And so I return to the question with which I began this sermon – What does God have to do to make us happy? Let me give you a clue. The answer is not MORE -- and for a very simple reason. When the answer is MORE, it will always be MORE.
-- When the answer is MORE, nothing will ever be enough!
-- When the answer is MORE, it means that we have become gluttons who will not be satisfied!
-- When the answer is MORE, there is nothing that will ever make us happy -- no food -- no house -- no job -- no car -- no money -- no adventure! NOTHING!
-- When the answer is MORE, we will be satisfied for a moment -- and then, like the most pitiful junkie, will begin our search for the next hit!
And the reason is very simple! God has created us for something MORE THAN MORE. God has created us with a space deep inside that cannot be satisfied until it is filled with GOD! That God-space is designed so that only one thing can fill it -- and that is God. MORE cannot fill it! MORE just drains through, leaving us forever unsatisfied!
Saint Augustine put it this way: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee."
Jesus put it this way: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them."
What does God have to do to make us happy? God has to give us himself! Without God, there is no happiness! And so God sent his Son into the world to fill that empty space within us -- so that we can finally be satisfied -- so that we might finally and forever be liberated from the tyranny of MORE!
When Jesus says that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood, he means two things: -- First, Jesus means that we must believe in him -- accepting him -- being willing to receive his love -- and love him in return. When Jesus speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, he is talking about establishing a deep and abiding relationship. He is talking about filling that God-space -- once and for all.
-- And, then, Jesus means that we should eat the bread that he tells us is his flesh -- and drink the wine that he tells us is his blood. He means that we should gather together as Christian folk to partake of the spiritual meal that has the capacity to fill us with himself. When we
gather together around the Lord's Table, we not only receive Christ, but our presence there witnesses to our faith and helps to strengthen the faith of others.
To the person trapped in the tyranny of MORE, it sounds like nothing—but the truth is that MORE is nothing -- a bottomless pit that will never be filled. The irony is that the bite of bread and sip of wine that we receive at the Lord's Table is the one and only meal that can fill us completely -- that can satisfy us in our deepest reaches.
Christ calls us to believe in him and to eat and drink at the Lord's Table so that we might be forever filled – forever liberated from the tyranny of MORE.
Come and partake of Christ -- and let him fill the empty spaces in your life.