by Rev. Doug Gray
I. Introduction — What the Crowd Has in Mind
So there are lots of different ways to shop. What are some of the ways that people shop?
[Take responses from the congregation.]
Sure. So how do you know what to buy?
[Take responses from the congregation.]
That’s really interesting. One of the interesting things about our passage for today is that the people are shopping for a Savior. What they are looking for and Jesus’ response may help us go deeper in our thinking about our life with God.
II. Shopping for a Savior
First, we often look for a savior who does nice things for us. I think of this as “The Santa Claus God” because many of us think of God keeping track of the naughty and nice things we do, and if we are nice, then God will show up and do nice things for us. I remember as a teen-ager praying a prayer like this: “O God, if you would only give me this beautiful bike, or the boyfriend I really want, or the job I think is the right one, then I will do (fill in the blank) for You. Oh, and I won’t ask for anything ever again.” We say we want a God Who does nice things for us, but once God does one nice thing, then like, the crowd with Jesus, we want another, and just one more. It will never be enough. Jesus says to us, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.”
Second, we often look for a savior who we can control. I think of this as “The Fair Parent God” because lots of us think of God as someone we can make do what we want. The people ask Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” We just want God to be really clear about what we should do, and then when we do it, and then God should reward us. When I was a teen-ager, my Dad traveled a lot, and one time he was home, and I wanted to go to the mall. I knew if asked him, he would ask me, “Have you done your chores?” so I did my chores really quickly, because I was sure I could get him to drive me to the mall if my chores were done. We do that with God sometimes, don’t we? We read the Bible, or listen on Sundays, and we make a list of the things God wants us to do. And then if something happens, and we don’t get what we want, or something bad happens, then we are mad at God. We may even say to ourselves, “This God thing is dumb! How could there be a God!” Jesus says to us, “The work of God is this: to trust in the one he has sent.”
Finally, we often look for a savior just like there used to be. I think of this as “Your Grandma’s God” because lots of us think that the way God used to work is over. The crowd says to Jesus, “Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” In this church, maybe we hear the story of wise Rev. Davison, who helped the people of Squantum get together and build a church. Or maybe you might hear about Ellen’s grandmother, whose kindness and hard-work were as legendary as the Bean Suppers. Or if you want to go further back, perhaps you had family who came over on the Mayflower—women and men who made incredible sacrifices in order to worship God as the Holy Spirit and their consciences told them to. So we think of Rev. Davison, Ellen’s grandmother and the people of the Mayflower as larger-than-life individuals, and they might have had faith, but it’s not like that anymore, or we could never be like them. Jesus says, “It is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.”
IV. Conclusion: Not Consumers, but Relationship
Are we still shopping for God? Are we looking for the God Who is the best deal? Or maybe we’re looking for the God Who will keep the good times coming? Or maybe we’re looking for the God Who will make things the way they used to be? Do we love God for what God does for us? Or do we love God for Who God is? At every turn of today’s passage, Jesus makes it clear: God is more than Santa Claus, handing out miracles to the nice people. God is more than a fair parent, who can be controlled by what we do. God is not just the one who worked for your Grandma. Jesus says, “…it is my Father who 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.” God is not Someone Who gave…God is Someone Who is giving. How often are we satisfied with a God who rescues us when we’re in trouble, but we won’t seek Jesus when times are easy! How often are we content with having a pleasant life, when God wants to give us a life filled with power and purpose! Jesus comes to each of us today with the same offer he gave to the people in that crowd so long ago: Jesus wants to offer us himself. Jesus wants to bypass our consumer instincts and give us his heart. That’s odd, isn’t it? Often we think of giving our hearts to God, but rarely do we think of Jesus giving us His heart. But that is the greatest treasure of all! Jesus wants us to have the same kind of abundant life He so clearly possessed. Jesus wants us to be whole and mature, giving and forgiving. Jesus wants us to have all our desires find a resting place in Him. Jesus wants us to lead others to the same table where they can be completely fed as well. The only way for us to grow and find peace is to quit shopping for a savior, and let the Savior in.