the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

My Photo
Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Year B - Ordinary 18

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13
Psalm 51:1-12
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35
Rachel Gunter Shapard breaks bread during the Baptist Women in Ministry worship service Wednesday afternoon. Patricia Heys photo

Why Are You Looking for Jesus?

Last week we saw Jesus feed 5,000 people with only a few loaves and fish. That story reminded us of God providing for the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai by sending them the manna, the bread from heaven. The crowd was enthusiastic and wanted to take Jesus by force and set him up as their King.

But Jesus escaped from them and withdrew from them to the mountain to be alone and to pray.

In the meantime, the disciples got into their boat and sailed across the lake toward Capernaum. It was late in the evening. The winds got up and began to blow against their progress. If you know anything about sailing, you know that to sail toward a destination that is against the wind requires a manuver called tacking. In tacking you travel cross wind to the right and then to the left. The boat is able to move forward if headed only slightly into the wind. The progress is slow. It was taking the disciples all night to get only a short distance. It was about 3 o'clock in the morning when they saw Jesus, walking on the water towards them. They took him on board and finally reached their destination.

The crowd had been looking all night. They realized that he was not there. They were also aware that he had not been in the boat with the disciples. So they went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

They were looking for Jesus. People in our own time are still looking for Jesus. The fact that you are here this morning is because literally or figuratively, you too are looking for Jesus. In our text, the Greek word for look for also meens to seek. And I think we all are seeking meaning in our lives. We all want to know the answer to questions like "What am I doing all of this for?" In Jesus' day too people were looking for hope for a better life.

When they found Jesus in Capernaum they were surprised and asked him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" More to the point, what they wanted to know was "How did you get here?"

The crowd is trying to control Jesus. They wanted to take him by force to make him King. They needed to know when and how he got to Capernaum. They wanted to know: "What must we do to perform the works of God?"

They asked, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?" They saw the signs that he was doing for the sick, and when they saw the sign that he had done with the loaves and fish, they began to say "This is indeed the prophet that has come into the world."

Jesus did not answer their question. He made a statement about their motives. He wanted to know why the crowd was seeking after him. He said, "You are seeking me not because you saw signs, but because you ate from the bread and were filled."

Their search had a selfish, self-centered motive. "What can you do for me, Jesus of Nazareth!" While Christianity is certainly about God's Love, his Mercy and the gift of Grace when Jesus died on our cross for us, Christianity is also about selflessness and other-centeredness: "If anyone will come after me, let them deny themselves...", or "What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose one's own soul?"

Is it wrong to seek Jesus for what we get out of it? Is it wrong to seek Jesus for something to fill our needs? to feed our emptiness with the living bread from heaven? to promise us resurrected life when we die? to forgive our sins? to give us new life today? These motives are the ones that bring people to Jesus in the first place. They can't be all bad, can they?

Perhaps the distinction is found in properly understanding the word "sign." A sign is something that points to something else. The sign isn't the important thing, but what it points to. Businesses pay for billboards, not so people will be attracted to the billboard, but so that they might be directed to what it points to: the hotel or restaurant or whatever might be advertised on that hunk of wood.

The feeding miracle, as a sign, needs to point to something else beside being filled with food. All the good things we receive from Jesus are signs that point to something even more important.

The church is often referred to as a "hospital for sinners." And it is that. But for any hospital to be affective in caring for its patients, it needs staff people--both paid and volunteer--people who are there, not to be attended to, but to tend to others. I don't mean to imply that any of us reach the point where we don't need to be patients in the hospital for sinners, but to point out that some of us also have a roll of being workers in the hospital. Ideally, every member of our congregation sees himself or herself as both a patient and a worker in the hospital. We should understand that coming to church--or more properly, when the church gathers together--it is not just to get something out of the service and fellowship, but also an opportunity to give and make use of our gifts and talents.

Jesus said to them, "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." There are two points to made here: First Jesus is saying don't work for the things that do not last, but work for the things that endure. How often we crave something until we get it and the satisfaction it brings is only short lived. In another place, Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupts, and where theives can break in and steal them, but rather, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...Where your treasure is, there is your heart also."

Second, I think Jesus is saying "Don't work for the food that perishes, but seek the food that endures which is freely given by Jesus himself. We work hard and long seeking the good life. At the end of our lives, when faced with our own death, will we say, "Gee, I wish I had spent more time at work." The Grace of God is freely given. But we still measure a person's worth by the worldly things he has not by the condition of his soul.

Finally, Jesus tells them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." The bread that endures is the bread we don't have to work for. And it is also the bread that will satisfy all our hunger and thirst.

Jesus is that bread. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He tells us, "I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly." And he tells us, "Come unto me all you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls."

Thanks be to God.


Blogger HeyJules said...


8/06/2006 9:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home