Series B                                                     Pentecost X                August 5, 2012

John 6:24-35

“To Ignore The Signs”

We all know how important signs are.  They are meant to keep us from getting lost, to find our way, to protect our lives, or help us make decisions.  Although we certainly have to know how to interpret the sign before we make a decision based upon it.  Like this true story that occurred on a flight bound for Los Angeles from San Francisco on a bright sunny day.  Before the flight took off there was a 45 minute delay and the passengers were growing restless.  And then during the flight the plane landed unexpectedly in Sacramento and the passengers were told there would be another delay before they resumed their flight to Los Angeles and if they wanted to get off the plane, they should re-board in 30 minutes.

Everybody got off the plane except for one gentleman sitting alone.  He had flown this flight many times before and the Pilot of the aircraft knew him by name.  He was blind and was flying with his seeing-eye dog obediently laying under the seats in front of him.  When the Pilot came out of the cockpit to check on the passengers, he walked up to the man and said, “Keith we are going to be here in Sacramento for almost an hour.  Would you like to get off the plane and stretch your legs?

Keith replied. “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.

So the Pilot disembarked from the plane being led by a seeing eye dog.  Everyone grew as quiet as church mice as they recognized their pilot who was still wearing his sun-glasses.  Then they scattered into the terminal, not just trying to change planes, but even air-lines thinking they saw a sign.

And then there was the Gentleman who drove the same route to work every day.  He knew every traffic light and stop sign between his house and his office.  There was one just a half-mile from his house which he saw every time he drove through that intersection.  It had been there for years and every day he wondered whether that sign was even necessary because he never encountered any traffic coming from either the right or the left.  One day, in his haste, he drove through the sign without stopping.  That time a car did enter the intersection from the left, plowing into his vehicle at high speed, leaving it a total wreck and taking his life.

To ignore the right signs can have tragic consequences.  The Gospel before us speaks of signs.  Jesus said to the people who came looking for him on the other side of the sea, after his feeding the 5,000,

“Amen, Amen, I say to you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”

They wanted to seize him after the feeding.  He seemed to be the perfect fulfillment of their desires.  He could satisfy their hunger; he could free them from Roman control; he could put them on easy street.  Jesus was not flattered by their interest.  “Do not work,” he said “for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

There is another kind of bread, another kind of food.  We have a need greater than the need to sustain our earthly existence.  This is not to despise our life on earth.  It is the gift of God, and God generously provides “food and clothing, home and family, daily work and all I need from day to day.”  But God has something more in mind for us than this.  We are made for eternal life with God.  And that life is found in Jesus Christ, in dependence upon him, in feeding upon him.

Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 was a sign of his compassion and goodness and power.  But, further and more important, it was a sign that pointed to him as the very bread that gives life with God, as the one who can sustain us, not only for time but for eternity as well.  “I am the bread of life,” he said “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst”.

To ignore the signs that point to Jesus as the very source of life as many of the people of that day did, is unfortunate, if not tragic.  We continue then to seek something else that satisfies, and nothing can.  “Do not work for the food that perishes”, said Jesus.  Of course we work for daily bread, and God has ordained that.  But don’t work, Jesus would say, as if you could ever accumulate enough bread or make enough money or achieve enough power to satisfy the deep needs of the soul, to give you eternal life.  The things of this world are temporary at best.

Consider the manna God provided the Israelites in the wilderness.  When they tried to gather more than they needed and save it for the next day it “bred worms and became foul”.

There are countless examples of the uncertainty that comes with searching for the “food that perishes”.  In Texas a plane crashed into a car, killing the driver: an unemployed young husband and father who just found a job and was happily driving hope to share the security of this good news.  There would be no security for his family.  To seek satisfaction in anything material is to search fruitlessly.

This is true not only of money and goods, but of power.  The Japanese tell a fable about Tasuku, a poor stonecutter who made a living cutting blocks of stone from the foot of a mountain.  One day he saw a well-dressed prince and Tasuku wished that he could have that kind of wealth.  The Great Spirit heard him and made him a rich prince.  Tasuku was happy with his silk clothes and powerful armies until he saw the sun wilt the flowers in his royal garden.  He wished for such power, and his wish was granted.  He became the sun with power to parch fields and humble people with thirst.

Tasuku was happy until a cloud covered him and obscured his powerful heat.  With that he had another wish, and the Spirit made Tasuku a cloud with power to ravage lands with floods and storms.  He was happy until he saw the mountain remain in spite of his storm.  So Tasuku demanded to be the mountain.  The Spirit obeyed.  Tasuku became the mountain and was more powerful than the prince, the sun, or the cloud.  And he was happy until he felt a chisel at his feet.  It was a stonecutter working away.  The search for satisfaction in power is fruitless.

Nothing but Jesus can satisfy the innermost needs of mankind.  To feed on another bread and not on Christ, who is the living bread, is to search in vain for satisfaction. 

“Whoever comes to me,” said Jesus, “Will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Come to him in his sacraments, baptism and communion.  Here is the bread of eternal life.