Sermon Seeds: Spend Time Well
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost Year B
(Liturgical Color: Green)
1 Kings 2:10–12, 3:3–14 and Psalm 111 or
Proverbs 9:1–6 and Psalm 34:9–14
Spend Time Well
By Cheryl Lindsay
Sustenance is food and drink. Sustenance is considered a source of strength and nourishment. Sustenance keeps us alive, keeps us moving, keeps us growing, keeps us thriving. We cannot live without sustenance. The cells in our bodies require nourishment, vitamins and minerals to regenerate, renew and restore. Sustenance sustains life and livelihood. The air we breathe is sustenance, then but so are other things that we need not just to live but also to live a life worth living.
Sunshine is sustenance. Food on our table and in our cupboards, the clothes on our back, money in our pocket are all sustenance as they provide access to things that we need. No less important is human interaction; touch, communication, laughter, a hug and a smile are sustaining.
In our text today, we come across Jesus having an interesting conversation about sustenance. To this point, in the Gospel of John, we have seen his first miracle, when the wedding reception would have ended in the host’s embarrassment…but Jesus steps in and transforms the situation by changing water into wine.
We have witnessed his encounter with the woman collecting water at the well…the Samaritan woman…whom had isolated herself and others had shunned in judgement, when Jesus approaches the woman to ask her for a drink and then turns around to offer her a taste of his living water…so that she will thirst no more.
We have marveled as he fed the 5000 (not including the women and children) from five loaves of bread and two fish, and somehow managed, after everyone’s hunger had been satisfied, to produce so much abundance that the leftovers were greater than the original meal.
Jesus has taught Nicodemus under the cover of night, healed the sick at Bethsaida, and even walked on water. And now Jesus has offered himself as sustenance for those who will receive him, which leads to a question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”.
Jesus retreated after feeding the five thousand. That action fits a pattern. He’d do something miraculous, the crowds would be amazed, and then Jesus would go off for some “me-time”–a staycay, a personal retreat, or just escape to be left alone for a moment. He’d leave them hanging. God’s timing, after all, is not our timing. And while Jesus entered into our time, he did it according to his own divine timing. That’s captured by the Greek understanding of kairos time, it’s not based on a calendar or a clock, but by the movement of God in the particular moment by God.
Our impatience may stem from looking at the clock or the calendar when we should be looking at God and for God. Scripture assures us “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) So Jesus, discerning that the people would get ahead of themselves and ahead of God’s time, would give them some breathing space. And, sometimes even though he was still near, he seemed far.
Don’t we experience times like that? Those moments when the urgency of the moment, of the need, of the circumstance weighs heavily…and it seems like God has left us hanging. Those are the moments when time seems to function differently and to move contrary to our desires.
I like what Isaiah said about renewing your strength, but it reminds us that waiting on God can at times be exhausting. At times, life seems to be a series of waiting on God in numerous ways when God does not appear to be concerned about our timing.
And, I confess..I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of praying for the same thing. I’m tired of disappointments. I’m tired of two steps forward, ten back. I’m tired of doubting that change is going to come. Maybe it’s just my personal confession, but sometimes I get tired of the wait. I’m tired of looking in a mirror dimly, not seeing the fullness of the plan, all the while knowing that God is calling, expecting, and compelling me to be faithful to the plan. Sometimes, I don’t want to wait for the unfolding plan, I just want to see the end.
It’s hard to remain in the right and righteous state of mind when you have questions. When will the struggle before you ever end? When will love overcome hate, antipathy, and acrimony? When will justice roll? When will the arc of justice reach its intended position? When will the kingdom come and God’s will be done? It’s natural to have questions.
Then, we return to the text and consider that the people had been waiting centuries for their Messiah. Yet, every time Jesus showed them some sign, he also pulled back in some manner. So they search for him after he retreats. When they find him, they ask, “When did you come here?” He’d gone across the sea. And he responds, ““Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” In other words, they were still caught up in temporal things when Jesus is most concerned about things eternal.
Does that mean that Christ doesn’t care or doesn’t move or doesn’t see the temporal? No, otherwise he wouldn’t have directed them to feed the five thousand. There’s no indication the people were starving. They were probably hungry, but they weren’t going to die if one meal was delayed or even missed, but they would experience a different perishing without the sustenance Jesus Christ, bread of heaven, could provide.
The truth is that Jesus offers life that joins the temporal and the eternal. That was the life of Christ and is the life in Christ. Jesus enters into creation at the center—at the intersection of heaven and earth. It’s no coincidence that Jesus teaches us to pray for the kindom to come on earth as it is in heaven. But the most remarkable thing is that Jesus is the actual fulfillment of that prayer as the bread that comes down from heaven.
Jesus is the messenger from heaven but he’s also the message. He bears the good news and he is the good news. Jesus is the One who was glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration and he’s the Person who wept at the death of his friend. Jesus is God and Jesus was a human being. Our restoration comes at this intersection as hope and glory become flesh and blood.
This is part of the central message of John’s Gospel as it responded to a rising belief in the church that Jesus was just a really great man. A new human being who was all that the first human being was created to be but still just a man. It’s understandable that they’d begin to think that way. It’s so improbable, according to our own understanding, that God would strip down of God’s power and majesty in order to be like us. We’re supposed to strive to be like God, why would God take on this form? Why would God subject Godself to the needs of the flesh, food and water, exercise and sleep, walking, working, making a living…learning a trade and memorizing the Torah? We think that if the situation were reversed, would we not consider it beneath us to be born, to be a baby with parents telling us what to do, to become an adult and to minister to a hard hearted people not having a place to lay his head, with dusty sandals on his feet and coarse clothing on his back?
What would make the Creator of the Universe decide to live this life for us? Who is this God who doesn’t condemn us but demonstrates compassion and care for us even when we fail to extend that same love towards our neighbors? Who is this Jesus who comes to us, meets us, keeps us and sustains us?
Jesus self-identified as the Living Bread:
“The imagery in verses 51-58 describes the believers’ need to eat, to drink, and to chew–in other words, to incorporate completely the incarnated logos of God that has become flesh and blood.”(Jan Heilmann)
Jesus offers himself as nourishment as the Bread of Heaven enabling us to feast on the word and be revived, renewed and restored.
Our job, our role, our responsibility, is to take Christ in so that we can be transformed. I am reminded of the expression, “You are what you eat.” That old adage referred to a physical reality, but Jesus informs us that it also has a spiritual dimension.
There’s so much negativity and injustice in the world. We take in so much, through popular culture and even interactions with one another that competes with the good news in Jesus Christ. It can be so easy to fall into patterns of behaving and being and thinking that are more of this world than the world that Christ calls us to help recreate and restore and renew.
God’s plan embodies a kindom where there is abundance and no lack, so even though we live in a world that encourages us to strive for our own good, we must embrace generosity and the common good. God is love so we have to love those who aren’t particularly loveable. Jesus has commissioned us to be witnesses to the end of the earth and co-labors in the pursuit of God’s justice and peace.
We who know Christ and claim Christ and love Christ need to be like Christ, and the only way we can do that is by taking Jesus in.
“This is the bread that came down from heaven.”
This is sustenance for our lives. The living water and our daily bread.
Most people reading this, I imagine, do not buy a fresh loaf of bread every day. I do understand that is a practice of some cultures, but with refrigeration and preservation of food, we’re more likely to buy bread once a week. Yet, there’s something special about fresh bread. We recognize the smell wafting through the air. We see and feel the steam that emits when we break it open. Many years ago, I tried making fresh bread. I purchased a bread machine that did most of the work, but I still learned the fundamentals of the process. In all the various recipes that I attempted, the most important part was the yeast.
Yeast makes bread rise. It’s the activating agent. It makes the difference.
What is the activating agent for our faith that amplifies and nourishes us? I believe it’s the time we spend in communion with the one who creates, sets, and supplies the table. Sometimes, there’s physical food at that table, but most importantly, it the bread of heaven that provides the sustenance that we need at the center of our being. Do we take Jesus in?
Draw near to God and God will draw near to you. Abide in Christ and Christ will abide in you. Take Christ in and be sustained, nourished and nurtured by the Bread of Heaven. Take Christ in. It’s time spent well.
For further reflection:
“The practice of finding often takes our breath away and bring tears to our eyes, for through these precious and unforeseen ‘aha’ moments we discover that the gift we receive is more cherished than the one we’ve been seeking.” — Holly W. Whitcomb
“Be faithful to the time spent in prayer and make sure that at least half of your prayer is spent in silence. This will bring you closer to Jesus. If you deepen your prayer life you will grow in holiness and obtain many graces for the souls entrusted to your care. Deepen your love for one another by praying for each other and by sharing thoughts and graces you have received in prayer and reading.” — Mother Teresa
“Deliberately seeking solitude-quality time spent away from family and friends-may seem selfish. It is not. Solitude is as necessary for our creative spirits to develop and flourish as are sleep and food for our bodies to survive.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach
Suggested Congregational Response to the Reflection: Explore ways to amplify moments with God, collectively and individually (i.e. extended prayer time, Godly play, or journaling). These methods can be modelled in worship for private, family, or small group adaptation.
Heilmann, Jan. “A Meal in the Background of John 6:51-58?” Journal of Biblical Literature 137, no. 2 (2018): 481–500. doi:10.15699/jbl.1372.2018.344754.
A Bible study version of this reflection is at Weekly Seeds.
1 Kings 2:10–12, 3:3–14 and Psalm 111 or
Proverbs 9:1–6 and Psalm 34:9–14
1 Kings 2:10–12, 3:3–14
10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.
3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”
1 Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he is ever mindful of his covenant.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever.
Wisdom has built her house,
she has hewn her seven pillars.
2 She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
4 “You that are simple, turn in here!”
To those without sense she says,
5 “Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6 Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”
9 O fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, 20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.