|4:45pm||Sunday Organ Recital - Jean-Luc Thellin|
Sermon (ii) preached on the ninth Sunday after Trinity (5 August 2012) by The Very Reverend Dr David Ison, Dean
The Dean of St Paul's looks at the Olympic crowds and says that in his day, Jesus was the crowd-puller - the
'attraction that people wanted to see'.
John 6: 24-35
What are you looking for this morning? Why are you here?
I guess that for some of you, there may be difficult personal circumstances – relationship problems, bereavement, illness, disability, unemployment, addiction, difficult decisions at work, and many more.
These things dominate your life at the moment, and it's difficult to see past them.
Some may be here because you're looking for hope and meaning in the midst of an uncertain life: wanting help, guidance, a new start, a sense of security and knowing that God is with you.
Some of you are here because you usually come to church, from a sense of deep conviction and commitment; or perhaps from habit, or because of other people’s expectations.
And some of you here this morning may - just be here.
Well, I guess that you and I with our varied thoughts and concerns are much like the congregation that went looking for Jesus around the edge of the Sea of Galilee on that bright morning a couple of thousand years ago, as John's gospel tells us.
Last night, thousands of people were cheering British athletes in the Olympic stadium. Today thousands more are out there watching the women's marathon. And in his day, Jesus was an equivalent crowd-puller: HE was the attraction that people wanted to see.
It had been a very large crowd that followed Jesus into the wilderness the day before. They came because they'd heard of healing and miracles.
And their hopes were then confirmed by their experience of the feeding of 5000, the miraculous provision of food in the desert.
This is what they were looking for! For them, Jesus is the new Moses – the one who will give them bread from heaven to eat, like Moses provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus would be the leader, the answer to all their needs – He would help them.
So they want to make him their king, their prophet, their leader. They want to own him. They want their needs met. And then Jesus runs away from them and goes over to the other side of the lake. And that's where we pick up this morning's gospel reading.
'Why did you come here?' is the question the congregation asks Jesus.
Which really means, why did you run away and leave us, just as things were going so well?
So Jesus tells them straight: you're chasing me for more food and miracles, not because you've seen God at work and want to respond by giving your lives to God. Don't work for physical food, but work for the eternal food which the Son of Man will give you.
OK, say the congregation, 'What must we do to perform the works of God?' - how do we work for this eternal food?
And Jesus gives that congregation and this congregation the punchline at the heart of John chapter 6 which is at the heart of our worship today:
'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent'.
Pause for a moment and imagine we're part of that other congregation – what do we bring to Jesus – what are our own concerns, hopes and fears.... hopes we share with all the other people in this church and round that lakeside....
Let's summarise the conversation:
We say to Jesus, Why do you leave us when we need you? –
He says: Because you want your needs met, but you don't want God.
We say: How do we get God then?
He says: Believe in me.
We say: Give us a sign to prove that if we believe in you, you will deliver what we want.
He says: It's not me but God my Father who delivers – he gives the true bread, the life from heaven you really need.
We say: Yes, that's what we want! Give us the answer to all our needs!
He says: I am the answer. I am the bread of life which God gives you.
Whoever comes to me will never hunger or thirst...
The crowd was expecting Jesus to make it all better. But Jesus has to open our eyes and hearts to something else. And that something else is to meet God in and through Jesus Christ.
The Christian gospel is at heart very simple. It is that God loves us passionately, overwhelmingly, and sends us Jesus to be that love to us, love which is greater than our own needs and our despair and death itself. God asks us to respond and accept his love, to let go of our self-concern, and to be transformed by the love of God, that we may love God above all things, and love our neighbours as ourself.
Why are you here today...? I have to say that none of us are going to go away from church this morning with our problems answered and our lives sorted out. Why? because whatever we bring here this morning, we’re here to meet Jesus. And we can’t meet Jesus until we let go of what we bring, and open our hearts to him. We cannot predict what meeting with Jesus will do to us – as today’s gospel reading shows. All we can be sure about is that God's love is here to touch and transform our lives: that if we ask, God will give us the bread of life – but in God's way, in the way we need it, not in the way we want it to be.
Most of the crowd who came to meet Jesus were disappointed that they hadn't got what they wanted, and left him, and went away. You can do the same, if you wish...
In a few minutes we come to Holy Communion, and you are invited to come
forward: if you want to follow Jesus, to let go of your own needs and accept the love of God in Jesus to be the bread of life in your own heart, then come and receive the bread and wine as a sign of your commitment to him. If you're not sure about following Jesus, then come with your hands folded and we will pray for you to find God's love and life in your heart.
What must we do to be doing the works of God? This is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom he has sent.