Sunday, 9 August 2009

Running on Empty

Pentecost 11 year B Sermon Bread of Life

Running on empty…

It’s an old Jackson Brown song from the 70’s

…if you’re a baby boomer you’ll probably know it

It’s song about driving your car or your motorbike…

on an endless highway of performance…and activity

About driving ourselves on and on blindly toward depletion…the young man sings

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by

like so many summer fields
I don’t know where I’m running now,

I’m just running on

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
I dont know when that road turned onto the road I’m on
Everyone I know, everywhere I go running on empty

People need some reason to believe
I don’t know about anyone but me
I dont know how to tell you all

just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends I used to turn to
to pull me through

Looking into their eyes I see them running too

And the chorus

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind

running into the sun But I’m running behind

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In the belly of the young man who sings and in many of us today…there’s a great bit gaping hole…a sense of emptiness…you know where it is…it sits right under your rib cage…

a lot of the time you don’t even know its there…
but every once in a while…when you’re under stress or in emotional pain…you can feel it begin to tear open
…your aware of the…of the what…

You’re aware of the emptiness aware of your hunger…pangs of hunger…mixed with loneliness and maybe a little fear…

You’re uncomfortable you want to run away from it
…you want do something to make it stop

So you go to the fridge…or the cupboard…or the liquor cabinet…or the computer…or the bread bin …ah…bread…

And Jesus said…

Slide words

I am the bread of life. Those who come to me will never go hungry, and those who believe in me will never be thirsty.

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This week it dawned on me for the first time…that when we eat food…we incorporate…we put other life into our bodies …...

to nourish our own body. Freshly baked bread will sustain our physical life.


But after a while our blood sugar level…will signal our brain that our tummy’s empty again. And so we look for more food to satisfy that hungry feeling.

When we ask someone we just met…what they do for a living… we’re basically asking how they get their bread in the world.

‘What do you do for a crust?’ is a classic kiwi question…

Some people are kind of stuck…driven to making a living … so they can eat…so they can live…

so they can eat more … so they can live to eat another day…and round and round it goes. Theologian Soren Kierkegaard once cynically remarked… such people go through life asleep…until one day they wake up and realise they died.

Instead of asking what someone does for a living…
it might be a lot more interesting to ask them
why they do it. Why they chose a particular way to ‘get their daily bread’. What’s the point of their life? What do they feed on to sustain the will to live?

The God question is…Who do you feed on to sustain the will to live?

In Luke and in Matthew… Jesus quotes a verse from the ancient Hebrew scriptures from Deuteronomy

Slide words

‘Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’

And did you notice in today’s reading from the Gospel of John…fresh from feeding the five thousand

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Jesus makes it plain…he’s sent to be God’s life giving teaching in the flesh. He has come to embody the Word of God…

but his claim is outrageous and dangerous and subversive worse… its blasphemy… because in the mind of the Jews he’s talking to…there is only one ‘bread of life’ and that is the Torah…the Law…the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures…

To underscore his claim … Jesus echoes Israel’s exodus from slavery…just like manna… given by God in the desert for their survival… Jesus tells them

Slide words

I’ve come down from heaven… to do the will of the one who sent me…

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The crowd and his enemies have followed him… begging for more miracles and basically Jesus tells them to get a life
…stop looking for signs and wonders. It’s not my mission to dazzle you…

But learn from me and you will have eternal life… pay attention to my teaching…my words and my actions… not my miracles … they won’t satisfy you in the long run

They won’t ensure life on earth for generations to come…

Relate to me follow me believe what I’m teaching

‘humanity won’t survive on bread alone…but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

And Jesus tells them radical or not understand it or not…

I am that word… in the flesh.

Eternal life…the salvation of the world…depends on your understanding what I’m trying to teach you…

There’s a sense in which one of the purposes of the Gospel of John is to establish the term ‘eternal life’ as the equivalent of ‘kingdom of God’. Life everlasting in the presence of God… eternity starts now by believing and following Jesus

Later Jesus prays…

Slide words

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

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But in the first century under Roman rule Jesus radical assertion that the Kingdom of God had entered the world was a threat to both Imperial and religious authority implying God’s people could neither be domesticated or controlled.

Today God’s people present a challenge to the powers and principalities of consumption and greed. To those who would convince us we’ll finally be filled up…

finally be satisfied …with just one more bite…one more glass…one more purchase…

But when your primary source of nurture and guidance is Jesus When you belong to the kingdom of God even the most powerful weapon of control – the threat of execution

…loses its power… because even death can’t separate you from the source of your life.

For the Jews the real bread of life the ultimate source of the knowledge and wisdom of God was the written Torah…this didn’t work too well…this wasn’t satisfying…the Law couldn’t fill them up when they were running on empty.

It is my experience that the only thing that will truly satisfy …is to allow God in Christ by the Holy Spirit…

to fill us up…

we are created by and for this relationship…and it is the source and nutrient of life.

There’s a sense in which the whole godless world is running on empty…people have consumed and consumed and still they are depleted…They come to the end of the road having exhausted their own resources and wisdom…

The real bread that satisfies…the ultimate thing that will fill us up… is not a thing at all but a who…God the giver of life… its source and its end… through Jesus…God speaks words of hope forgiveness and grace… to those who hunger and thirst … To drink from this well to eat from this table is to have everlasting life.

Have you eaten today?

Whether you feed yourself by reading Jesus words or by listening for his guidance in contemplation…to stay alive… to stay full you must eat or sooner or later you will be running on empty.

As Jesus says…

Who ever comes to me I’ll never drive away