Monday, August 31, 2009

Sermon: Good News for People with Heart Problems


Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 - The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered together before [Jesus]. And they saw that some of his disciples had profane hands, and they were unwashed; they were eating bread. For the Pharisees and the Jews unless they might carefully wash the hands, then they don’t eat, because they kept what was handed down by the elders. And from the market, unless they might ceremonially wash, then they don’t eat. And there are many other things which they received to keep, ceremonially washing cups and jugs and a cooper kettles and beds.
 
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him a question, "Why don’t your disciples behave according to what was handed down by the elders, but with profane hands they eat bread?"
 
And [Jesus] said to them, "Rightly Isaiah prophesied concerning you hypocrites, as it has been written, This people with lips honor me, but their hearts are far away from me. But in vain they revere me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of people. You abandon the commandments of God and you keep what is handed down by people."

And again he called to the crowd and said to them, "Everyone listen to me and understand. There’s nothing outside the person which comes into him that is able to make him profane, but the things that come out from a person are what makes a person profane. ...For it’s from within, out from the human heart, that evil comes out: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, ruthless greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness. All this evil comes out from the inside and profanes a person."

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Now I want y’all to take a look at cartoon above. Poor Tin Man. And without knowing any of the details, I’d be willing to bet that this was the last thing he expected. I mean, he was probably ready to face all the stuff that could get him from the outside, and I’m talking about flying monkeys and wicked witches, man, even the kind of rain we saw on Friday. I think he was ready for all that. But not a bum ticker, no sir; that was something he didn’t count on, that the little clock in the center of a big red heart on the end of a chain would suddenly stop. No that can’t happen, right? And even if he didn’t really know how to wind it: he could trust his heart and should fear what’s on the outside. It’s out there where the problems lay. But he was wrong. Poor Tin Man.
 
But you know, when you think about it, couldn’t we pretty much say the same thing about ourselves, nd right now I’m not just talking about the physical. I mean, it sure seems to me that we usually act as though when it comes morality, when it comes to compassion, when it comes to faith, my gosh, when it comes to our relationship with God, well, we assume that the real trouble we face is out there, you know, on the outside, because I’ll tell you right here and now, there’s nothing wrong with our hearts, you know, the inside, right?
 
My goodness, isn’t that what we often believe? And doesn’t that explain why, when faced with some kind of decision, maybe even a personal crisis, well-meaning people, even Christians, will say things like, "Listen to your guts. Get in touch with your feelings. And of course, trust your heart." Isn’t that the kind of thing people say in movies, and when we hear it, we smile and kind of nod to ourselves, as though what comes from the guts or the mind or the heart is trustworthy and true? Man, we’re a hero when we tell someone what we think, even when we know it’s going to hurt them. We’re doing a good thing, right? And if you’re a Christian, aren’t we taught that when we give it to him, our heart belongs to God, and how can we question anything that belongs to God.

And so we don’t. We assume that there’s nothing wrong with our hearts or what they lead us to do or say or feel; therefore, whatever threats we face as believers, my goodness, they pretty much have to be external, right? Evil’s out there, in that horrible, wicked world. It’s not in here. Out there, there’s where the real danger lies, and I’m talking about all those people who are trying to wheedle their way into our church and all those ideas that we all know will bring us down and all those values that will, if we’re not careful, corrupt the puddin’ out of Christians. It’s the world with all it’s immorality and wickedness and sin, there’s where the danger lies, am I right? Therefore, to feel safe, I mean really safe, we better circle up the wagons and protect ourselves. Let’s face it, there are Indians riding all around us, just hankering to scalp us. I’m telling you, for the sake the children, we better keep the evil out.
 
And to do that, well, we’ve got to come up with something, maybe some set of standards, you know, some system of rules so that we can separate the good from the bad, the saints from the sinners, the wheat from the weeds. And so that’s what we do, we develop the lists, the piddly little laws so that we can know who and what we can let in or toss out. And we base it all on what we think and feel is right in here. And even if we use the Bible, we decide what parts we apply verbatim and what parts we ignore completely and what parts we interpret to death. You see, we decide in our heart of hearts what we need to do so that we can be protected from all the evil that might creep into our lives and defile us, because if there’s anything we can trust, it’s got to be our hearts.
 
And I’ll tell you right here and how, that sounds pretty good to me, that is until I read these verses from Mark, and I’m talking about this little passage in which we meet some fine, upstanding Pharisees who were absolutely sure that the disciples were doing something that was morally wrong and dangerous. I mean, for those moral men, the followers of Jesus were defiling themselves, they were profaning themselves, they were polluting themselves, they were corrupting themselves by eating food without going through a formal handwashing ritual. You see, they weren’t worried about germs or hygene. Their issue was about a set of laws that they’d developed themselves. You see, they had listened to their guts and gotten in touch with their feelings and of course, trusted their hearts and with that in mind they’d opened their Bible and created a whole bunch of rules and regulations to separate the good from the bad. And I’m telling you, based on their law, they knew that the path to Hell was paved with dirty hands. Man, they knew.
 
But you know, it’s interesting; it was to those people who were absolutely sure that they were protecting themselves from evil and to the surrounding crowd that Jesus said something that must have knocked their sandals off. You see, he said, "There’s nothing outside the person which comes into him that is able to make him profane, but the things that come out from a person are what makes a person profane. ...For it’s from within, out from the human heart, that evil comes out: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, ruthless greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness. All this evil comes out from the inside and profanes a person."
 
In other words, he looked those cup washing, bed wetting Pharisees right in their eyes and told them that they had it all backwards, that nothing from the outside could morally corrupt them or their community. That’s not where the danger lay. They were wrong. What was really corrupting was the garbage they were producing on the inside, that’s where evil comes. That’s what makes a person depraved and perverse. And that’s what makes a community pretty much worthless and empty in the sight of God. You see, whether they acknowledged it or not, the real source of evil was right there in the place they trusted the most. And you know, I think if he were here, he’d say the same thing to us.
 
And although I think that’s probably not something we want to hear, I know I’d much rather believe that I can trust my guts and by feelings and believe that all bad stuff is out there, I’m really glad he did say it, and I’ll tell you why. If we accept these words from Christ, if we accept the fact that it’s our thoughts and our attitudes and maybe even our nature that messes us up and that it’s the evil on the inside that really corrupts and defiles, you see, if we have the courage to accept this uncomfortable reality, I’m telling you, I think it can change our lives.
 
You see, the minute we put aside what we think and listen to Jesus, all of a sudden we’re going to be a whole lot more realistic, and I’m talking about realistic in the way we view ourselves and others. I mean, once we’re free from our delusion that we possess some kind of internal purity, we’re going to be less likely to be swept to and fro by our feelings and emotions. And I think we’ll be less inclined use what we think or feel to justify our intolerance and our ignorance, and we’re sure not going to run around and blame others for our frustrations and unhappiness. We’re going to look inside.
 
You see, I think we’ll be more likely to take responsibility for ourselves and our words and our actions. In other words, we’re going to realize that maybe we shouldn’t say something which we know is going to hurt someone else, just because we think and feel it’s right. Maybe we’ll be ready to follow the advice I bet every mother here gave to her kids, "If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all." Well, it’s not just for kids. I’ll tell you, letting love guide our words would sure cut down on the griping and grumbling and gossiping, wouldn’t it? And if that’s all that changed, imagine how much better our country and our community and our families and our churches would become. Now, how many of y’all would like that? We’re going to have a different view of ourselves.
 
And you know, as we look at others, we’re no longer going to delude ourselves into believing that guns cause violence or pornography causes lust or drugs cause addictions and that if we legally eliminate all things bad, people will become morally good. You see, we’re going to recognize that evil is more complicated and insidious than that. Now that’s what I mean by realistic. But that’s not the only change that’ll occur.
 
I also think that when we recognize that evil comes from the inside, we’ll become more open, open to ideas that we may not like and people whom we frankly wish didn’t even exist. You see, once we understand that the stuff on the outside only has the power we give it on the inside and that it can only corrupt us if we let it, now all of sudden, we can come out of the cave, and we can tear down the barricades we’ve created, and we can begin living our lives without fear. And wouldn’t that be nice, to live without fear?
 
As a matter of fact, we may even come to a point where we can start listening, imagine that, Christians actually listening: listening to ideas and approaches that we’ve always rejected out-of-hand, listening to people and groups that we’ve always been sure have nothing to offer, and get this, even listening to the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word of God in ways that are new and exciting. I’m telling you, instead of being afraid of and therefore, opposed to anything and everything that’s contemporary and different, finally, we’ll be able to listen to it all. And although we may still not like much less agree with what we hear, we’ll still be open to genuine growth and change.
 
And finally, when we accept that we really are sinners through and through, I think we’ll become more thankful, and I’m talking about being more thankful to the one on the outside who gave up everything for us. You see, the Father doesn’t love us because we’re loveable. No sir, Christ died to save sinners, just like us. And in spite of hearts and frankly heads that are more often than not pretty hard, the Holy Spirit still moves us into a closer relationship to God. And I’ll tell you, that’s pretty exciting.
 
And you know, just as exciting, at least to me, is the fact that this God who loves us directs people and ideas into our lives that enable us to grow into the individuals and the communities we’ve been called to be. You know, it’s interesting, although Jesus said that it’s not the stuff that goes in that corrupts us, he never says the opposite is also true, you know, that external things can’t make us better. As a matter of fact, in Matthew, he said that "where your treasure is, there your heart will also be." In other words, if we claim those wonderful, positive ideas and people God has lead into our lives, it just might soften up our hard heads and move our stubborn hearts. And speaking for myself, that’s something for which I can sure be thankful.
 
Like that poor Tin Man in the cartoon above, I think it’s easy to focus on the external and completely miss what’s happening on the inside. In other words, just like the Pharisees in the passage we read, we can assume that we can trust our thoughts and feelings and at same time, see threats all around us, completely missing the fact that according to Christ, we’ve got it all turned around. But you know, when we get ourselves straight and accept that Jesus just might be right in how he describes us and our world, I think we’ll be a whole lot more realistic and open and thankful. And when you get right down to it, that’s be pretty good news for people with heart problems.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Distracted by the Surface


Well, I'm glad to be back at work. Although the vacation was nice, I think it's even better to be home. Of course, this has been a busy week, because Maggie started back to school on Wednesday. It's hard to believe that she's already in the second grade. Sometimes I wonder if there's any way to slow things down a little bit, but I know that's not possible. And I guess I should be grateful that we still have a few years before boys enter the equation. Praise the Lord for little blessings.

But although I don't have to worry about guys right at the moment, Maggie is becoming more and more interested in fashion and in particular, how she appears to others. In other words, outfits have become a big deal. And so on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, we spent a lot of time selecting the right clothes and accessories for her Second Grade debut. Everything had to be just right.

And you know, it seems to me that we generally take the same approach to our relationship with God, even how we live our lives. I mean, we seem to spend a lot of time and energy on how we appear to others, as though what people see is more important than what's on the inside. As a matter of fact, if we're not careful, we can focus so much on the surface that we completely forget that Jesus said, "There's nothing outside the person which comes into him that is able to make him profane, but the things that come out from a person are what makes a person profane. ...For It’s from within, out from the human heart, that evil comes out: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, ruthless greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness. All this evil comes out from the inside and profanes a person."

And so, with that in mind, during the worship service on Sunday, we'll consider the significance of these words and discuss the Good News we'll be in a position to understand and appreciate the second we accept that evil comes from within.

Sermon: You Are What You Eat (preached by Karen Edwards)


John 6:56-69 - 56“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This 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.” 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” 66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

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Over the past few weeks, Pastor Ed has guided us through the 6th chapter of John. In the first lesson, we found ourselves on the mountain with Jesus, his disciples, and five thousand hungry people. What followed was Jesus personally distributing the donated 2 fish and five loaves of bread to all who were reclining in a dining position. Notice Jesus demonstrated "Who's the Boss" by feeding the crowd personally...no disciples assisted him. WE CAN'T LIMIT THE POWER OF GOD!!!

The following week Pastor Ed taught us that "You Can't Put Peanut butter on the Bread of Life"....that is the people who wanted to control Christ by having Him prove himself again, like a trained animal, even after they had all been witness to the feeding of the five thousand! Christ had to explain..."I am the Bread of Life and the one who comes to me will never be hungry and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty...ever! When our focus has shifted to the eternal and our faith is grounded in God's will and not our work, FINALLY we will be able to accept the Bread of Life.

Week three brought us that crazy Tractor Beam story. We find ourselves drawn to God - not by what we do but by what HE does...It is by the action of God! As Isaiah wrote - "They will all be taught by God...those who hear from the Father and learns comes to the Son." As we listen to God speaking through His Word, through learning what He has for us to learn, through education we are DRAWN to Christ! Yet we have to be aware that the Holy Spirit has to be involved...the disciples admitted difficulty of hearing "The first shall be last and the last first;" or" Blessed are the poor, hungry, and sad, woe to the rich, full, and happy.' Belief in these things would take a MIRACLE...The works of the Holy Spirit!

Last week we heard that GRUMBLING drowns out the good news. It lets people know how unhappy you are. What are the positive attribute of grumbling? There are none! Why should we want to stop? We need to stop because it robs of Joy/ Happiness/ and Good News! The way to stop Grumbling? We simply have to TRUST that God is in charge. Then we have to LISTEN to others with an open mind and LISTEN to Christ. Finally we have to put the needs of others before our own wants. It's hard to complain when you are helping people. We have to Trust that God is in Charge!

Today I am here to tell that YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!! Perhaps today I might be that giant GRAPE or maybe an EGG-PLANT! You've seen the commercial of the couch potato that refused to get up and GO! For years I was one big Potato Chip...Talk about addictions. Never the less with the help of God, doctors and a lot of protein, I am now almost half the size I once was... yet I feel that I am now twice the person... Thank you Jesus!

Think about it, what would you be if you were what you eat??? A sirloin steak? a leafy salad or vegetable plate? a ham sandwich? or would you resemble the fellow on the front of the bulletin?

The phrase "You are what you eat" got its start as far back as 1826 when a man named Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are."

In 1863, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach wrote:"man is what he eats." Neither men meant their quotations to be taken literally. Both were stating that the food one eats has a bearing on what one's state of mind and health.
Later in in the 20's, 30's and 40's Victor Lindlahr wrote: "Ninety percent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. (That might be even worse today) Then in 1942 he even wrote a book You are what you eat: how to win and keep health with diet."

One of the resources even went so far as to remind us that the cells of our organs are replaced every 7 years...that is to say that we are what we have eaten for the past seven years! Aunt Tillie's roast beef may still be with us!

In today's lesson Christ tells his disciples, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." Now the disciples, (not the 12 but just the followers of Jesus) responded by being repulsed by this teaching and wondered who could accept it. And they may have been justified. The Jews believed that life was in the blood. They would not eat anything with blood in it. It wasn't kosher! Yet here is Jesus not only asking them to eat his flesh but to also drink his blood!

We see here, once again in chapter 6, John's reference to what we celebrate as
communion. We each periodically partake of communion throughout the church year. We acknowledge the symbolism of the bread and the wine as the body and blood of Christ being ingested into our own bodies. Jesus said, "Just as the living father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me." He then becomes our connection or bridge to God!

He went on by reminding his listeners that God provided manna for their forefathers . Manna that would spoil so no one should take the leftovers, but whoever lives on this bread that came down from heaven in the body of Christ will live forever!!! How does that make you feel??? Does this seem too much to take? Although we only partake of the bread several times a year. Most of us take in bread daily during our meals. We give thanks for our food, but perhaps as we are blessing the food we should also be reminded that Through the Living bread Christ is still with us and in us! Another way we nourish ourselves is on the hearing of the Word each Sunday, the study of the Word in Sunday School classes, Brown Bag Lunch, PW Bible Study, and the Men's Breakfast group. We also nourish ourselves by maintaining a relationship with Jesus by personal devotions and prayer. I'm sure you can add to the list of ways to strengthen your relationship to Jesus.

Thus Jesus abides in us through our learning about him, our trusting him and even our ingesting him into our bodies, our minds, and our souls and by our loving one another as He loves us.

But Jesus also said , Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will abide in me. Now we all know that Christ died and rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. How can we possibly abide in Him??? Folks I am here to tell you that this congregation is part of the body of Christ right here in Weirton, West Virginia. We are part of a much larger global Body of Christ. Let me explain...Having taught sixth grade science, my students learned about how we each started out as a single cell called a zygote. Then as we grew in our mother's womb, those cells took on a process called cell differentiation. Therefore some became brain cells, some muscle or bone cells etc. Each had their own jobs to do, and they all functioned together. The body of Christ is also made of millions of so-called cells. No one was better than the other. And each had their own calling. The apostle Paul wrote about the differing gifts in the church, teaching, preaching, interpreting, faith, healing, and so on. The body of Christ must be made of many differing folks. Look around, do we all have the same gifts? No, we are each unique & specialized! Yet there is one gift we each have within us and the same gift that we are called upon to share with all we meet...that is God's greatest gift...the gift of Jesus the Christ. Perhaps God made us so diverse in our interests so that we could reach more people for Christ, and demonstrate the love of Christ in our lives.

Earlier in my teaching career, I helped to establish a Human Relations Program. Our mascot was a Koala Bear named H.R. Harry. We purchased aKoala Bear costume from Kreegans to use as a public relations tool. When H.R. Harry visited the schools, we would allow a student to wear the costume around the building for the smaller children. More often than not the student with the right build for the costume would also be a discipline problem for the teachers. Yet, when the student was fully dressed as H.R. Harry...He became H.R. Harry. That is to say the very teachers and librarians he would normally torment, he would hug and treat with the utmost respect. That costume transformed the child and he took on the character of H.R. Harry.

Isn't that the way it is with Christ? The more we ingest him into our systems and the more we truly know Him through study, prayer, and listening...then the more our lives are transformed??? The transformation may take a lifetime,, as it did in the life of Abraham, but from the moment we partake of the bread of life and ingest Jesus, we are His!

So I guess what God is guiding me to say today is that Jesus IS the BREAD of LIFE. Everything we do to befriend Jesus and making Him a part of our very being by...listening to his word, praying to him, sharing our problems with him, being comforted by him, and loving him makes us a stronger Christian. And the stronger we are as Christians, the stronger this body of Christ at Cove Presbyterian Church and throughout the world will be, as each of its many parts witness in their own way to everyone in our community and the world.

So Yes...Jesus is the Boss

and No, You Can't Put Peanut Butter on the Bread of Life

Yes, we are all caught up in this Tractor Beam and DRAWN to Christ

Yes we have to Stop the Grumbling

and Yes, We are what we eat...,Jesus abides in us and we abide in the body of Christ at Cove. Amen and Amen

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sermon: You Don't Have To Grumble


John 6:51-58 - "I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone might eat from this bread, then he will live into the ages. And also the bread which I myself will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
 
Then the Jews began to quarrel violently among themselves, saying, "How is he able to give us his flesh to eat?"
 
Then Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, if you might not eat the flesh of the son of man and might not drink his blood, then you don’t have life in yourselves. The one who chews my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is the true food, and my blood is the true drink. The one who chews my flesh and who drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living father sent me and I live through the father, the one who chews me, this one also will live through me. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, not like the Fathers ate and died. The one who chews this bread will live into the ages." 

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Look at this; there’s no ice cube in the water. Don’t they know that lukewarm water is lousy? And I don’t know when someone’s going to fix that microphone over there. Man, it’s just hanging. And don’t get me started on attendance. I’ll tell you, today I’m just not in the mood for this kind of nonsense. You see, we had Vacation Bible School last week. Over seventy kids registered. You know what that means? Laughing, singing, running around. I mean, I want kids, as long as they do what they’re told, you know, if they know how to behave, like I did when I was a kid. And so on and so on and so on.
 
Now let me ask you, if that’s what I talked about this morning, how would you feel after about, oh let’s say, fifteen minutes? Would you be inspired, excited, ready to live and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ? Now think about it, would you leave feeling the love and the grace and the joy that can come from God if I went on and on about all the stuff that I don’t like? Would you? I kind of doubt it. I know I wouldn’t if I were sitting in a pew. In other words, the very thing that you came to church to experience, you would miss if I stood up here and complained and griped and bellyached, wouldn’t you? My goodness, you might completely miss what is most important if the good news is drowned out by grumbling. Ain’t it great.
 
Of course, we all know something about this stuff, don’t we? Good night, we should. It’s something every single one of us does from time to time, and I certainly include myself. And if you don’t believe me, ask Debbie. Now, it may be called something else, depending on voice you use. You know what I mean, whining is more nasal and high-pitched, and gossip is more like a whisper and good, old-fashion griping is kind of gravelie. But you know, regardless of what you call it, they all accomplish the same thing. It let’s people know that we’re just not happy, right; but does it in a way that never really confronts the problem. For example, I may complain about President Obama until the cows come home, but I’m probably not going to write him a letter (it wouldn’t do any good anyway). And I’m certainly not going to take any positive action to change the situation I don’t like. Instead, I’m just going to talk about it and talk about it and talk about it.
 
And you know, it’s interesting, by doing that, we really become a lot like those people we read about in the passage from John. You know the ones I’m talking about. After Jesus said, "I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. If anyone might eat from this bread, then he will live into the ages. And also the bread which I myself will give is my flesh for the life of the world;" the Jews began to quarrel violently among themselves, saying, ‘How is he able to give us his flesh to eat?’" But of course, this isn’t something new and exciting; they’d already done this same thing a little earlier, with maybe a little less violence, when John wrote that "the Jews were grumbling concerning him because he said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven,’ and they said, ‘This is Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we ourselves know, isn’t he? Then how does he say, "From heaven I have come down?"’" I’m telling you, when it comes to grumbling, we could probably learn some things from those Jews, and sadly, they probably could learn from us as well.
 
And you know, for that very reason, our ears should probably perk up when Jesus said to those little bundles of joy, "Don’t grumble among yourselves." In other words, "Hey guys, stop the quarreling, stop the complaining, stop the griping, stop the grumbling." Now, that’s kind of what he said, and you know, it makes sense. I mean, give me a break, not only are there absolutely no Bible verses where grumbling is called a good thing, it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why we should probably stop doing it, especially as followers of Jesus Christ.
 
I mean, I think we all know that it affects other people. Good night, that’s why most folks tend to grumble in the first place, isn’t it: to let others know about all their frustrations and disappointments, maybe even to fire them up so that they grumble too, kind of like misery missionaries. Man, someone complaining about the dip can sure mess up a good party.
 
But you know, even sadder than the affect they have on others, grumblers end up really hurting themselves the most. It’s like the passage we just read. Those guys who were quarreling and acting silly completely missed what Jesus had already taught, you know, how he was "the living bread which came down out of heaven and how "if anyone might eat from this bread, then he will live into the ages;" not only did they miss all that, they also missed that wonderful, if graphic assurance of his real and constant presence with us: "The one who chews my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is the true food, and my blood is the true drink. The one who chews my flesh and who drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, not like the Fathers ate and died. The one who chews this bread will live into the ages." You see, people who are always griping and complaining actually miss a lot of joy, a lot of happiness, a lot of good news all because the grumbling just plain gets in the way.
 
And I’ll tell you, what makes that an even greater shame is that it’s all so unnecessary, and I’ll tell you why. No matter how long you’ve been doing it, no matter how natural it’s become, no matter how much other folks have come to expect you to do it and that’s why, when they’re happy, they tend to avoid you, you just don’t have to grumble any more. You see, that’s more than possible, and I’ll tell you, you don’t have to join GA or stand up in some kind of support group and say "Hi, my name is Ed and I’m a complainer" or wear a bunch of anti-griping patches. If you want to put a stop to the grumbling, all it takes is following three very simple, straight forward steps. And let me briefly tell you what they are.
 
You see, if you want to stop being known as a complainer, the first step is simply to trust that God is in charge, sort of like we talked about last Sunday at the picnic, that he’s the one who draws us to Jesus, just like we’re a bunch of cows in a tractor beam. You see, if we trust that it’s God who ultimately calls the shots and that his will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven whether we like it or not and it’s through the word made flesh and I’m talking about Jesus Christ that we can have a relationship with God, in other words, if we trust that he really is the bread that offers life, I think we’re going to be less likely to complain about how that divine will is working itself out. My goodness, what right do I have to complain about what God is doing in his world. To do that, I’d have to assume that I know more than him, and if I did, that would make me, what? It would make me God; talk about something above my pay scale. I’m telling you, if you want to become free from grumbling, the first step is to trust God.
 
And the second step, well, I think stopping this stuff comes when we take the time and make the effort to listen to others with an open mind. I mean, in John, the crowds where so sure that they knew his family and were so certain that they understood what Jesus mean when he said that he was "able to give us his flesh to eat" that they didn’t need to hear anymore. My goodness, on one hand he was getting too big for his britches and on the other, he was advocating cannibalism. They didn’t need to listen and they didn’t. And as a result, they never understood what he were really getting at, that he was talking about something that we now call communion, a concrete sign of God’s relationship with us. Instead, they grumbled and they quarreled and they complained, because they didn’t take the wax out of their ears and listen. You know, I don’t care if you’re talking about the church or the government or the life-style some member of your family is living, you’re going to grumble a whole lot less if you listen a whole lot more, and I’m talking about listening to what others have to say, you know, so you can understand why they’re doing some stuff you don’t like, and then sort of put yourself in their shoes. Now it doesn’t mean you’ll become a fan, but it may mean that you may understand the situation and the person a little better. And that comes by just listening.
 
And then after trusting and listening, if you really want to be stop grumbling quite so much, you can make the decision to put the needs of others before our own wants. You see, I think sometimes, not always but sometimes the biggest complainers just have too much time on their hands. I mean, it’s pretty hard to complain when you’re out helping the people around you. My goodness, if I’m working to feed the hungry and give fresh water to the thirsty, if I’m trying to cloth the naked and provide shelter to the homeless, my gosh, if I’m out there comforting the sick and visiting the prisoner, frankly I’m going to be too busy doing the work God has called me to do to bellyache about what I think you should or shouldn’t be doing. Somehow I don’t think Mother Teresa spent a lot of time griping about what they fed her at the hospital. Man, grumbling takes both time and energy, and folks that are active and involved are too busy to waste either on something that usually makes situations worse and that only another unhappy person wants to hear anyway. Life’s too short. Grumbling goes the minute we get going.
 
Now remember how I started the sermon. Well, I really don’t care about the water or the microphone or attendance. And as to Vacation Bible School, that was a wonderful experience and I’m both happy and proud to have been a part of it. You see, even though, as Debbie would tell you, I do my share of griping, I’m thankful that God has called me right here. But you know, when you get right down to it, I really don’t have to grumble at all. And neither do you, not if you decide to trust that God is in charge and to listen with an open mind and to put the needs of others before our own wants. I’m telling you, trust me, you really don’t have to grumble.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Passing of Joseph Castner

As a congregation, we offer our prayers and sympathy for Katy Allen and her family on the passing of her brother, Joseph Castner.

Joseph W. Castner, 85, of Steubenville passed away Thursday, August 13, 2009 at Valley Hospice North. He was born in Steubenville on February 7, 1924 a son of the late George and Helen. Joseph was retired from Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel after 39 years of service and was a U.S Navy veteran of WWII. In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by his son Brent; brother Albert and sister Georgia. Survived by his wife Dorothy; step-son Charles; brothers Calvin, Donald, Kenneth, and Herman; sister Katy; 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. Friends may call at Dunlope-Shorac Funeral Home, 215 Fernwood Rd., Wintersville, OH on Monday from 11a.m. until time of service 1p.m. with Chaplain George Romage officiating. Burial at Fort Steuben. Ohio Valley Veterans Memorial Burial Squad will conduct graveside services.

Friday, August 14, 2009

With Every Silverlining...


I hope you're having a wonderful Friday, and unlike the forcasts last week, it looks like we're going to have a sunny weekend. In fact, on AOL, the very brief description for Saturday is "abundant sunshine." Man, it doesn't get better than that. And after a week of Vacation Bible School, this is like the cherry on top of the sundae. I mean, we spent five evenings with kids having a great time: singing songs, doing crafts, and of course learning about Jesus. Even though it was a little cloudy outside, there was a lot of sunshine in the church. I guess it's true; in every single cloud there's a silver lining.


And you know, it's interesting, I recognize that for a lot folks the reverse is also true. Regardless of the silver lining, some people can always find a cloud. Of course, church people don't have a monopoly on this kind of attitude. It seems as though some members of our society have made grumbling, griping and complaining almost an art form. And you know, I can't help but to feel sorry for them. You see, when you get right down to it, they tend to do more damage to themselves than anyone else. I mean, they push away other folks because let's face it, only a select few enjoy being around negativity. They also cut themselves off from those situations that could fill them with excitement and joy. And that's sad. Imagine being alone, unwilling to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. To me, that's barely living. And it's certainly not the kind of life our heavenly father wants us to live. And it's all because they grumble.


And because this is an issue that we all face, in varying degrees, on Sunday we'll talk about how we can put a stop to griping and complaining. In other words, during the sermon, we'll consider three things that we can start doing Sunday afternoon that will free us from the need to grumble.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sermon: Like a Cow in a Tractor Beam


John 6:35, 41-51 - Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. The one who comes to him will absolutely never be hungry and the one who believes in me will absolutely never be thirsty ever."
 
Now the Jews were grumbling concerning him because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven," and they said, "This is Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we ourselves know, isn’t he? Then how does he say, ‘From heaven I have come down?’
 
Jesus answered and said to them, "Don’t grumble among yourselves. No one is able to come to me, unless the father who sent me might draw him, and I will rise him up on the last day. It has been written in the prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ All who heard from the father and have learned come to him, not that anyone has seen the father except the one who is from the father. He has seen the father.
 
"Amen, amen, I say to you, the one who believes has life eternal. I am the bread of life. Our fathers ate in the wilderness the manna and died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven so one might eat from it and might not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If one might eat from that bread, then he will live into the ages. And the bread which I myself will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

**********

According to the bulletin cover, "a tractor beam is a hypothetical device with the ability to attract one object to another from a distance. Tractor beams are frequently used in science fiction books and movies. ...Tractor beams are most commonly used on spaceships and space stations – as a device for securing or retrieving cargo, passengers, shuttlecraft, etc., or as a means of preventing an enemy from escaping. If a small spaceship applies a tractor beam to a large object such as a planet, the ship will be drawn towards the planet, rather than vice versa."
 
Now, that’s what it says, but I imagine that most of y’all already knew that. I mean, anyone who’s seen any Star Trek or Star Wars or that episode of the Simpsons when those drooling, octopus-like aliens needed two beams to get Homer onto their ship, man, you already know what a tractor beam is. And I’ll tell you something else, based on the cover, that farmer’s going to know more than he may want to know when he wakes up in the morning and finds both his tractor (get it, a tractor in a tractor beam) both his tractor and old Bessie gone. Because, in my experience, there’s nothing worse than a cow in a tractor beam. Poor Bessie.
 
But you know, it’s interesting, I think the cover of the bulletin this morning and this business about tractor beams, well, I think that really applies to us. You see, as it relates to our relationship with God, in a very real way, we’re awful lot like that cow in a tractor beam. At least, that’s how Jesus seemed to describe us in the passage we just read. I mean, just take a look at your bulletin and notice that right after the crowd started to grumble and to suggest that since they knew his mama and daddy, Jesus was getting just a little too big for his britches, saying that from heaven he’d come down, after they said that, Jesus nailed them when he "answered and said to them, ‘Don’t grumble among yourselves. No one is able to come to me, unless the father who sent me might draw him, and I will rise him up on the last day.’"
 
In other words, not one man, woman or child can come to Jesus, unless they are drawn to him by God. And so we don’t miss exactly what he was getting at, the word that’s translated "draw" is the exact same word that John uses twice in the twenty-first chapter to describe Peter hauling in a net full of fish and then dragging that net to shore. You see, those were the words he used, and that’s what God does to us. And although we may not be doing cartwheels over this picture, according to Jesus, we don’t become a Christian because they’re smart or because we’re spiritual or because we’re young, good-looking and dynamic. You see, when it comes to our relationship with God, we’ve got to park our ego at the door because, my goodness, we’re here this morning only because we’ve been drawn, we’ve been hauled, we’ve been dragged here. It’s all the work of God. How do like them apples?
 
But you know, when you think about it, that’s really not all that bad, because instead of bouncing back and forth between arrogance and fear, you know what I mean, arrogance when we think we’ve done enough to have a relationship with God and fear when we remember some of the things we’ve done, said and thought in the last twenty-fours and know we haven’t, I’m telling you, instead of that kind of nonsense, as fish in a net or maybe a trailer behind a pick-up, we can feel this kind of blending of humility and peace all the time, humility knowing that we did not choose God and peace knowing that God chose us. Man, because we didn’t choose, we can’t lose. Now, you tell me, if we assume that Jesus knew what he was talking about, aren’t we a lot like a cow in a tractor beam?
 
Sure we are, and if he’d said nothing else, man, that’s good news. But you know, he doesn’t stop there, not in this passage. He also tells us exactly how that beam works, in other words, how we’ve been drawn to Christ. Again, look at the passage and notice that right after he talked about how God pretty much roped and hog-tied us and dragged us kicking and screaming, Jesus said, "It has been written in the prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ All who heard from the father and have learned come to him."
 
Now think about it; how does God hook up to us and pull us to Jesus? Just like Isaiah wrote a long time ago: they will all be taught by God. Man, everyone who hears from the father and learns comes to the son; it’s as simple as that. Because it’s through listening to God speaking through his word, it’s through learning what he has for us to learn, it’s through education, that’s how God draws us to his son. You know, it’s no accident that the Greek word that’s translated "disciple" is related to the word that means "to learn." Disciples are learners; therefore, it’s going to be pretty difficult to grow and to follow Jesus in any meaningful way if we’ve made the decision to agree with Robert Fulghum and say that all we really need to know about God and Jesus and the Christian life we learned in kindergarten or maybe better, Sunday School. God-directed, Christian education is just, plain necessary for faith.
 
But I’ll tell you something, it takes more than just reading the right books or listening to the right sermons or talking to the right people. The Holy Spirit has got to be involved. You know, later in this chapter, after Jesus had finished giving out what he wanted them to learn, the disciples said, "This word is difficult, who can hear it?" And you know something, I think they were right. I mean, this stuff is hard to hear. Because frankly, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean, think about it. We’ve got a God who was born and who died. He was a king who wore a crown of thorns. And in his Kingdom, the first will be last and the last first. And blessed are the poor and the hungry and the sad, and woe to the rich and full and happy. Now you tell me, who in their right mind can believe this stuff? It would take a miracle from God. And that’s exactly what happened.
 
You know, maybe we should stop wondering why we’ve got so many folks who don’t attend church regularly and simply be amazed that so many people continue to come and listen and learn. They must be dragged here by the Holy Spirit working through the word, like a cow in a tractor beam.
 
And why does this happen? Again it’s right here. "Amen, amen, I say to you, the one who believes has life eternal. I am the bread of life. Our fathers ate in the wilderness the manna and died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven so one might eat from it and might not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If one might eat from that bread, then he will live into the ages. And the bread which I myself will give is my flesh for the life of the world."
 
I’ll tell you, that’s why he does it. That’s why God draws us to Christ. It’s like Jesus said to Nicodemus: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
 
You see, it’s all about salvation and eternal life. God took the initiative to draw us to Christ. And he gave us his word so that we could hear and his spirit so that we could learn. And he did it because he wanted us to understand who Jesus is and why he came, that he’s like that serpent Moses lifted up in the wilderness so that people could be healed, that he’s the living bread that offers us life right now and into the future. Why did he do it? Well, when you get right down to it, God loves us just that much, to do for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves, to bring us close to the source of life itself.
 
You know, I bet tractor beams will continue to play a role in science fiction movies, because let’s face it, it’s really cool to think of this beam that can actually bring two things together. And I’ll tell you something, I think that’s exactly what happens to us. God draws us to our Lord and savior through his word and spirit so that we can understand and have a relationship with him now and into the future. You see, that’s the good news. Praise the Lord, we really are a lot like a cow in a tractor beam.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A New Season


As I say every week, I hope you're having an outstanding Friday and you'll have an even better Saturday. Of course, generally that's just wishful thinking, but this week we have good reason to believe it'll come true (and I'm not talking about the Peach Festival as St. Thomas). No, on Saturday, the Tennessee Titans take on the Buffalo Bills in the Hall of Fame Game. Of course, I realize this is just a meaningless, pre-season game, but what makes it exciting is what it represents. Like the first flower of spring, this marks the beginning of football season. And before you know it, we'll be in the thick of it, with a game on every evening. But for me, this season is particularly important, because for the first time since the '40s my college, Old Dominion University, will actually field a team. And although I don't expect much from them this year, right now I'm ready for some football.

Of course, during the season, I expect to see my share of on-field celebrations and to hear the customary off-field trash talk. And this is to be expected; it shows that the players take pride in the quality of their play and want to express it. And when you think about it, that's really no different from most of us. Regardless of what we do, I think we all feel pretty good when we've done it well. I mean, I certainly feel excited when I preach a good sermon, and although I don't think you'll ever see me spike a Bible, I feel a genuine sense of satisfaction.

And although that may be appropriate at work or play, I think this attitude can cause us some problems when it creeps into our relationship with God. In other words, when we assume that we have reason to feel proud of our faith and dedication, we're probably drifting away from the truth of the gospel. As a matter of fact, according to the passage I'll preach on Sunday, Jesus said that we're literally dragged to God, in the same way a net full of fish is dragged to the shore. In other words, our relationship with God is the result of God's action and our response, not the other way around. But more than that, we're able to accept God's love only because of the Holy Spirit working within us. Therefore, we just don't have reason to feel proud. During worship, we'll talk about the implications of believing this.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sermon: You Can't Put Peanut Butter on the Bread of Life


John 6:24-35 - Now when the crowd saw that Jesus wasn’t there nor were his disciples, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum because they were seeking Jesus. And when they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you; you seek me not because you saw signs but because you ate from the bread and were satisfied. Don’t work for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains into life eternal, which the son of man will give to you. For that one, God the Father certified." Now they said to him, "What should we do so that we might work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you might believe in this one whom he sent." Now they said to him, "Now, what sign do you do, so that we might see and believe in you? What work? Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, just as it’s written, ‘Bread from heaven he gave them to eat.’" Now Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven, but my father gave you the real bread from heaven. For God’s bread is the one that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Now they said to him, "Lord, always give us this bread." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life, the one who comes to me will absolutely never be hungry and the one who believes in me will absolutely never be thirsty ever."

**********

Now before anyone says it to me, I want to beat you to the punch. I understand that this is kind of a cutsie title. And whether you like it or not, well, that’s going to depend on whether you like cutsie or not. I mean, if you kind of like the off-beat, you probably looked at the title of the sermon, and all of a sudden the cover made sense, and then you smiled, nodded and said to yourself, "well, isn’t that cute." Of course, I also understand that if cute isn’t exactly your cup of tea, at least not in church, and you know who you are, you probably looked at the title of the sermon, and all of a sudden the cover made sense, and you frowned, shook your head, grumbled to yourself, "well, isn’t that cute." Now I think I’m safe in saying that y’all probably reacted in one of those two way, if that is you reacted at all. But I’d wager that no body read the title, "You Can’t Put Peanut Butter on the Bread of Life" and thought, "Wow, he is right on the mark. But not only that, how could a man as young and as dynamic and as good-looking as Ed come up with such a profound theological/christological statement. Let’s give him an enormous raise and as many season tickets as he can stand." Now, am I right, nobody thought about that? Of course, if you did, please come and see me after the service.
 
No, I doubt that those words crossed any minds here this morning, and yet, I’ll tell you something, I think they’re true. Of course, I’m not talking about the stuff about being "young and good-looking" or about the raise and season tickets. (although if I’m wrong, again, talk to be after the service.) No, I talking about this title being a pretty profound theological statement, because you know, it really is. You see, if you think about it, it really says a lot about not only what God offers to us right here and now but it also about who Jesus Christ is and why he came. Because, I’ll tell you, no matter how you spin it, you really can’t put peanut butter on the bread of life.
 
But you know, it’s interesting, this is something the people described here in John kind of missed, didn’t they? I mean, just look at the passage and notice that throughout these verses, that crowd kind of got all gummed up with themselves and what they’d just eaten. In other words, they just couldn’t get past their stomachs or their assumptions or their wants. For instance, they just couldn’t see beyond the stupid bread. My goodness, what’s the first thing Jesus said when he ran into these folks? "Jesus answered them and said, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you; you seek me not because you saw signs but because you ate from the bread and were satisfied.’" I’m telling you, Jesus knew. He knew that they’d shown up to get another fish sandwich.
 
And so did they. My gosh, why else would they have said to Jesus, when he didn’t jump right into another miracle and instead started to talk about God’s work and believing, why else did they say, "Now, what sign do you do, so that we might see and believe in you? What work? Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, just as it’s written, ‘Bread from heaven he gave them to eat.’" Now I love this. It’s like they’re saying, "O.K. Jesus, you want us to believe, well just do another sign. Now it doesn’t matter than you just fed five thousand people, including us, with five loaves and two fish, for us to believe, you’ve got to do something else. But what? What can you do? I know, how about giving us more bread, sort of like Moses gave manna to our ancestors in the wilderness for forty years? Man, give us food and we’ll give you faith." Let’s face it, these guys were all stomach. But that wasn’t their only problem.
 
They also couldn’t get past the assumption that they had to do something to get it. I mean, just think about it. Right after Jesus said to them, "Don’t work for the food that perishes, but for the food that remains into life eternal, which the son of man will give to you," these guys skipped right over that part about the son of man giving them this "eternal food." Man, they pretended he didn’t even say it and immediately asked, "What should we do so that we might work the works of God?" And by "works of God," they were talking about the works they assumed God wanted them to do. I mean, these people must have believed there’s no such thing as a free lunch. They just wanted to know what they had to do to get it, something else they could get past.
 
And then, in the end, what they wanted was front and center. I mean, not only did they think they could control the distribution, one meal wasn’t enough, they demanded a source of food that would never end. "Lord, always give us this bread." Well, isn’t that nice? They sound like they’re ordering a Whooper at Burger King. "Give us this bread, with an order of fries and a diet coke. And I’ll tell you, why don’t you just supersize it." Man, they sound like they’re talking to a waiter, not the Son of God. But you know, if that wasn’t bad enough, they just don’t want one order or two or three. They want this food "always," as though Jesus is this machine, who has nothing more to do than to supply bread, sort of like that little guy in those old Dunkin’ Donuts commercials. I’m telling you, these folks were totally stuck on the bread, with or without the peanut butter.
 
And you know, the same thing can happen to us if we’re not careful. I mean, just like them, our stomachs can get in the way. In other words, we can become so focused on the tangible, you know, physical stuff we expect to get from God, that we can’t see anything else. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about bread or cars or money. And even though Jesus compared all of this to food that perishes, often when Christians describe their "blessings," it comes down to things that are, at best, temporary and passing. That’s what God gives, right?
 
And I’ll guarantee, if you asked most Christians how they got them, you know, the blessings, they’ll tell you exactly what they did. Because, they just, plain know that if you want to be blessed, you better do X, Y, and Z and of course, avoid A, B, and C. Just do what God wants you to do, in other words, do the work of God. And bango, it’s like putting a coin in a gum ball machine and turning the crank.
 
And just think about how we express our wants. It’s no different from the people in the passage. Generally, it’s like either a trip to McDonalds or a conversation with Santa Claus. "O.K. God, I hope you’re writing this down. I’ll take this and this and that, but only if you can get it in blue." You see, just like that crowd, who’d already been fed by Jesus but wanted more, sometimes we can’t get beyond the bread either.
 
And you know, I think that’s a tremendous shame, and I’ll tell you why. If we get gummed up with the baked goods, we’re going to be just as clueless to Jesus Christ and the truth he came to share as those guys in the passage, and just like them, we’re going to miss the power and extent of God’s love and grace. I mean, if we can’t see anything of value beyond what we can have and hold, you know, what we shove into our stomachs, we may end up with all kinds of food that perishes and all kinds of stuff that moths can eat and rust consume, my goodness, we may find ourselves with bigger and better barns to hold all our excess grain, but we may never appreciate that "food that remains into life eternal," you know, those things which the son of man gives to us, I’m talking about that knowledge and understanding that can give us confidence as we look into the future and hope as we live in the present. You see, right here and right now, we have the opportunity to live in relationship with the creator of the universe, and through that relationship we can experience a source of comfort and support that we may never have imagined in the past. Man, that’s food that doesn’t perish, but it’s not something that necessarily tastes good with jelly.
 
And I’ll tell you, that food isn’t the result of us doing the good and avoiding the bad; no sir, it’s the result of God’s gift. You see, if we’re not careful, we’re going to misunderstand that when Jesus talked about the works of God, he wasn’t talking about the works God wants us to do but rather the work God is doing within us. Therefore, when he said, "This is the work of God, that you might believe in this one whom he sent," he was telling them and he’s telling us that it’s through the spirit, something that Christ has already taught leads to a birth from above and that he’ll give his disciples after he rose from the dead, it’s the spirit of God which can warm a cold heart and open a closed mind. It’s thought the Spirit that we understand who Jesus is and why he came. That’s what believing is all about, and man, that’s the work of God. It’s sure not anything we do.
 
And I’ll tell you, when our focus has shifted to the eternal and our faith is grounded in God’s will and not our work, finally we’ll be able to accept what is truly the bread of life. And take it to the bank, when we do it, it’s not going to sound like we’re ordering dinner at Eat n Park and it sure won’t be anything like Chinese food, you know, something you stuff yourself with now but are left hungry in a couple of hours. No, just listen to what Christ said. "‘Amen, amen, I say to you, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven, but my father gave you the real bread from heaven. For God’s bread is the one that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Now they said to him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life, the one who comes to me will absolutely never be hungry and the one who believes in me will absolutely never be thirsty ever.’" Jesus Christ, the one who entered our world to show us the love and grace of God and who then returned to the Father so that when we pray, we know that God understands exactly how we feel, he’s the bread that endures. You see, when that light cut through the darkness and that word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, everything changed; man, it changed forever. And once we accept that, once we claim that heavenly food, once we enter that relationship, once we know and trust in the Son of God, just like Scarlet said in "Gone with the Wind," "as God is [our] witness, [we’ll] never be hungry again."
 
You see, if we end up with that crowd and like them, if we’re never able to see beyond the bread, I think we could end up missing a whole lot. I mean, if our stomachs and our assumptions and our wants continue to get in the way, we may never appreciate the eternal gift, given to us by God himself, in the form of Jesus Christ. Now this is something we’ll talk about over the next few weeks. But in the meantime, we can start thinking about it right here and now, and we can make a very simple yet profound theological decision. You see, we can decide that you really can’t put peanut butter on the bread of life.