Pastor Craig Wexler
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
(We are sorry, but no audio is available.)
In his book titled The One Percenter Code: How to be an Outlaw in a World Gone Soft, author Dave Nichols, a former outlaw motorcyclist himself discusses the human condition that we have thrown ourselves into, based on society’s deceptions and unruly priorities. The book itself is not about religion so to speak—yet, Nichols’s words could easily be placed at the heart of many sermons.
In a section, which I can’t name due to a couple of choice words that can’t be shared from the pulpit, Nichols cuts right to the chase. He states: “As Americans, most of us walk the straight-and-narrow path, not because we genuinely want to be good people, but because we are afraid of what will happen if we don’t. Most Americans don’t fear prison as much as they fear losing their job and thereby losing their stuff. Yes, our stuff—all that ridiculous bric-a-brac that we find on eBay, our gas-guzzling cars, our laptops, and our cell phones.” (Nichols, p.47-48).
In three sentences, the condition of who we have become as a society, comes oozing out through seeping words of truth, whether we like it or not. Our concern for our “stuff”—the stuff that we have supposedly “earned” out of hardship in our cubicles—out of hardship in our relentless hours of work, this concern for our stuff has taken priority in our lives, and it has blinded us. It has blinded us from what is most important in our lives. It has blinded us from who is the true “provider.” It has blinded us from remembering who the ultimate giver of life is—the one who hears our cries in the wilderness—the one who feeds us quail sandwiches.
The giver of life is not Cadillac or Jaguar. The giver of life is not Harley Davidson. The giver of life is not from the biggest or nicest house on the block or on the lake. The giver of life isn’t even our jobs or education in which many of us have acquired endless debt to pay off. Yet, we set these things on the highest pedestals—pedestals so high, that they have become our focus—our number one priority and pride—our gods themselves. Now, we could sit and debate this topic/idea for hours on end, but let’s press further.
In our text two weeks ago, the Israelites are complaining—go figure. However, the target of their complaints is Moses. On the outside, they are accusing Moses of dragging them off into wilderness and leading them towards a new demise—a demise of thirst, starvation, and even death. On the outside, they accuse another human being of leading them towards broken promises. On the outside, they blame Moses for not providing what was promised to them—a land flowing of milk and honey—a land called Canaan—the promised land—a land of their own independence.
However, the real problem is not that they are pointing fingers at Moses. The real problem is not that they are complaining. NO, the problem is that the Israelites are failing to BELIEVE. They are failing to believe that God is truly with them. They are failing to believe that God is present. They are failing to believe that God is providing them with what they need. They are failing to believe that God is keeping them alive enough, each-and-every day, to get closer to the “promised land.”
Pastor Steve also pointed out here, in the Exodus story, that the real miracle wasn’t even that God provided the quail sandwiches and manna. The real miracle in the story is that God continuously showed the Israelites that He was listening to them. He was still providing, rather than turning away.
Last week, Linda cycled this story around into Christ’s own time, a setting in front of the Jewish people who were drilling Jesus about who he was and what his purpose was in their community. Linda brought the story into a sweeping circle that pointed out this transition from Exodus to where we’re going next. She pointed out, that in the Exodus story, God used the manna—the bread—to show that He was present and that He was listening. However, in Christ—Jesus himself—God “In the Flesh,” is saying, “Here I am. I am God. This time I am the bread itself. I am the one that will give you new life. I am the one that will sustain you in the wilderness.”
But here we are today. Here we sit. Jesus in the flesh is gone into Heaven. We’re not the Israelites in the desert, and even though we say that we believe in this “Life-Giving Christ,” our lives certainly don’t reflect it.
So I ask us now, sitting here this morning, are we any different? Has this story come full circle to include us, and has anything really changed? Are we any different from the Israelites in the wilderness? Are we any different than the Jews, the Romans, and even the disciples in our text today?
The answers to these questions are up to you to think about and answer in your own time, but I certainly know that we have a lot of work cut out for us as of right now. I can’t even begin to think of how many times I’ve seen fingers pointed at political parties, blaming each other for unkept promises. I’ve witnessed fingers pointed at others saying that our doctrine, our church decisions, are “less biblical” compared to someone else’s understanding. I’ve seen people make accusations as to why they are jobless and why their homes are up for foreclosure, forgetting that they too bought into the consumerism model that our culture has deceptively created in order to give us this very unstable cushion of comfort—and let’s not even get started on the subject of racism and immigration that continues to seep into our communities every once in awhile. Last I checked, God was the God of all—not just “successful” Americans who have figured out how to navigate our cultural waters.
However, brothers and sisters in Christ, there’s hope. The future of this “Eternal Bread of Life” truly does lie in the hearts and hands of each and every one of you. This “Eternal Bread of Life”—this actual flesh and blood that Christ is talking about this morning—His flesh and blood, lies in the way each and every one of us chooses to react to this world.
The day after Memorial Day, this year, I received one of the most disheartening phone calls.
****Tell Justin Lewis’s story****
****Tell where the “Bread of Life” was****
Now let me ask you this one final question—a question that we should all dwell on as we leave here this morning. When Justin was taking in his final breath knowing that it was the last breath of God-given, earthly air that he would inhale, do you think that he thought about all the things that he thought he could acquire in this life? Do you think he thought about the stuff he deserved for being a good kid?
This same question could be asked of all of us who spent 3 weeks scouring the lake and the surrounding land looking for Justin. Do you think they thought about the “stuff” that they were entitled to through their hard work—their endless hours of hiking and diving? I THINK NOT! When life has taken you to this point, everything else that we thought mattered most, means absolutely nothing. There is nothing left except for you, your community, and God Himself.
On the night Justin’s body was found, I was standing out in our church yard having mid-week summer worship. I had just found out the official news, and it was the calmest night—the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. Though Justin was officially declared dead, we knew that He was alive. We knew that our community could once again come alive. This is the flesh and blood of Christ. This is God still at work in our wilderness. This is the manna that God continues to send down. Now it’s time for us to respond. Thanks be to God. Amen.