Year B Proper 13, 1 August 2021
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Gather Ye Breadcrumbs While Ye May”
Collect: Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for 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, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for 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 for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform 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, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which 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 will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
C.S. Lewis said of Jesus in Mere Christianity that one of three things had to be true. That he was a liar, and was a charlatan who duped a lot of people, and still does according to our atheist brothers and sisters. He was a lunatic, he believed what he said but he was spouting delusions and we have ingested this particular “opiate of the people” (K. Marx) Or he was the Lord, he was who he said he was and he backed up his words with works of power and signs of grace. Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. This morning, I was reminded of those words in the emphatic statement at the end of the Gospel reading.
In our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures we see God’s providential hand delivering quail and manna from heaven after their complaints in the desert. Water, Food, Shelter, Rest. These are requisite in the Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The base level of that pyramid is what we are talking about. The bare necessities.
And so the rest of the sermon makes sense, let’s look at this.
The base of the pyramid is bodily needs: water, food, warmth, rest. When we torture people, these are the things we take away. In the most horrific ways we treat our fellow children of God we deprive them of oxygen, and that is when the human turns off and we are beasts again. Both those doing it and those suffering.
The second tier is Safety issues, security and a sense of safety. It is hard to get rest without feeling secure. That is what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is, that prolonged fear state and the emotional cost of being on edge for hours, weeks, months. It takes years to overcome the loss of these.
The third tier begins our psychological needs, belonging and love. Freud said that we all need two things, psychologically that is, to feel loved and that we are capable of loving. We need a sense of feeling that we are okay just as we are as Mr. Rogers would put it.
And the fourth tier is very similar. Self-Esteem, a sense of worth and accomplishment, that we are not living this life in vain. We are of value and we can give to others and our gifts are of worth.
The pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid is Self-Actualization, achieving one’s full potential and living the life we were designed to live. Our Best Self, is how we might describe it. Doing what we are born to do and being who we were born to be.
Now I went into all that to show you how miraculous and wonderful Jesus was.
The people in Exodus were pleading for something foundational, and God heard their cry. And God’s response was that base level, meeting their daily bread needs, just like we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus heard the cry of the people, too. But their cries came from their desires, not from their needs. They wanted the bread without the toil, they wanted the manna, the free gift, the grace from God without wanting to gather it. Jesus heard their cry, and saw their true need. They were claiming the base of Maslow’s pyramid, when he was offering something greater and higher.
Many of you have heard me say this before, but read the Gospels. All of them, and in his encounters Jesus met people at one level and invited them to something higher. He takes the issue at hand, reframes it, and invites them to step up to a higher level. Einstein said that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Jesus invites us to a higher level of consciousness.
This situation is no different. They want bread after his feeding of the 5,000 and their excitement over that. They wanted to make him King, if you remember. “The Free Bread Party!!! Never work another day in your life!” That sure would be an easy sell! But Jesus knew that would ruin us, we are made to be at work in the world, we are made to do and create and dream and fulfill those dreams. And that is what Jesus offers.
Hear again from our Gospel:
Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which 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 will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
So now let’s shuffle these two decks I presented today, C.S. Lewis and Abraham Maslow, and what on earth could they have to do with one another? Liar, Lunatic, Lord; Bare Necessities all the way up to Best Life Possible.
Now, if we look at the words of Jesus, that he is what we need to have a real life, our best life, our truest self then it follows that we need to direct our lives to what he said and how he modeled that Best Life principle.
If he was a Liar, then we can laugh and walk away. We need not bother at all, and keep on going the way we are going.
If he was a Lunatic, these delusions would be obvious and self-fulfilling. For some they were. I remind you that the earliest known drawing of Jesus is a graffiti mocking a believer in Jesus. Jesus is depicted hanging on a cross with a donkey’s head. Shows us what some thought of Jesus and anyone who would follow an executed criminal.
But if Jesus is Lord, the Christ, the Anointed One, the Long-Awaited and Prophesied Messiah, then we have another think coming. If Jesus is the Bread of Life, stay with me here. IF Jesus is the Bread of Life, and we will never hunger or thirst again then we have some celebrating to do. We have some life-changing to do. We have to step up to that higher plane, that fulfillment level of Maslow’s pyramid.
Friends, most likely we will have to shut down again. We are currently at the time of filming in the Orange Zone, in other words, at Substantial risk. If we move to the Red Zone, High Risk, we will have to close down to care for everyone’s base needs, survival. Our county is less than 30% fully vaccinated. God help us. God forgive us. Fear, wherever it comes from, is a dangerous thing. It makes us turn our higher selves off. Perfect love drives out all fear. And as we care for the base needs of all who worship here, I would encourage us all while we most likely will need to be away to look to Jesus.
Is he your manna, your base needs? Or, is he your Self-Actualization, that one that empowers and enables you to be the one God made you to be? Or somewhere in between?
Is Jesus the first we turn to, or is he your last resort. Your Hail Mary pass with one second on the clock? Is he the bread which sustains your life, or have you decided to Keto in regards to the spiritual cutting out the Bread of Life?
This week I had opportunity to do a few home visits, and one person when they received the wafer said how much they missed it, how much they needed it. It was a deep reminder to me how precious and special this gift of the Bread of Life is. The wafer is not much...
But Jesus is everything.
Jesus Christ is the one for me I turn to for all my tiers of Maslow. Because he is the Bread of Life, and the Living Water. Because he is the Good Shepherd, and the True Vine. Because he is the Way, the Truth, the Life. Because he is the Resurrection and the Life. Because he is the Light of the World. He meets us where we are, and invites us to Step Up to where we could be. He is the Way, from our basest needs to our Truest Selves. Thanks be to God!
The Bread of Heaven is there, the manna of God, but friends, we must gather it. This grace has come. Will we receive it? As Jesus said, “Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for my path is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
Hear it again for the first time from the Message translation: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
That, my friends, is Good News! Amen