Friday, August 24, 2012

In the Wilderness

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing 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, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who 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 shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:27-40

Years ago, when I worked in a restaurant, it was common to describe a waitress who was in trouble as being in the weeds. When you work at a restaurant, particularly a summer place that is packed all season, you become a community of support, and you work together to keep everything running smoothly. Otherwise, every body suffers - the patrons and the staff. When someone is in the weeds we would shift customers to someone else, offer them a break, and take up some of the slack. Not because we were good people but because the consequences hit us all, and when the tipping goes south, everyone suffers.

Jesus continues his talk about himself as heavenly food, as the substance of life sent by God. The people understand what happened to their forebears in the wilderness. They know they were saved in the past. Jesus wants them to understand the importance of relationship with him, the basic necessity and essential nature of Christ. The incarnate God in our midst promises to be our food and sustenance at all times, not just when we are in the weeds, when we are wandering in the wilderness and when the world has turned a cold shoulder our direction. And we are invited to remember how many people are in the weeds and in despair in the wilderness, and make room for them, making a place at the family table for the good of all.

Today, I ask God to help me see beyond my own wildernesses to the people around me who are suffering and alone. May we not be self-centered but community minded knowing that the food and drink we need is provided by God in Christ. May we be agent of refreshment and respite for those wandering and lost. May we hold a place open for the unlikely among us, knowing that we strengthen all of us as we share the love and sustenance we have.

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