“Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
Have you ever had a truly incredible experience? Something that shifted how you feel? Changed the very way that you see everything:
like an intense camp experience as a teen, or
tree planting as a 20-something, or
an encounter with a truly wise elder, or
an evening at church
Something that shifted your paradigm completely.
And have you ever tried to go back and repeat it? And if you have done this – what did you find? Did you find that it was simply not the same as it had been before? Maybe you couldn’t gather all of the very same people together again, or maybe just some time had passed and you were just not that exact person anymore – there was just something about the timing and the people and the energy of that very first moment that was incredibly precious – and that is a moment that you will carry with you forever.
Those people or that person will be held by you in an important way, maybe for the rest of your life – because of the impact that they had or that you had together at that time.
And I wonder if this is one of those moments for this ‘crowd’ or are they just still hungry?
I think those moments, those encounters that we have – they change something for us. They point us towards something else. The crowd might be hungry for bread to eat or they might be hungry for more of Jesus – more of the encounter that they had with one another and with him on that mountain.
Sometimes it is hard to see what the ‘food that endures for eternal life’, is. But maybe those encounters give us an inkling; a sense of the possibility that is held in our moments with each other, when we notice that Jesus has shown up.
Because as Jesus is talking to this crowd – they don’t just sound hungry for food to me; Jesus is telling them about the food from heaven and that gives life to the world and they respond with, give us THAT bread. We want THAT.
And then Jesus makes the connection for them: I’m it, he says, you got me.
But having Jesus doesn’t mean that we will never be actually hungry or that we will only ever have those incredible experiences in community. And that’s something about this faith thing that makes it tricky. And it would be exhausting to constantly be having those intense experiences though sometimes it would be nice if they showed up just a little bit more often.
I think about Pentecost here in this community. In fact I think about that Pentecost night here a lot, because it was incredible and beautiful and the air felt electric to me. And it felt like I had a sense of what we might become – what we are becoming together in this community.
But not every Sunday feels like Pentecost.
And every Sunday night here is beautiful and I always leave feeling better than when I arrived. And I know that Jesus is here. That as we gather we still have the bread and the wine together, we are building this community together.
It is what those experiences point us to. It is the feeling of eating that bread that we carry with us, it is those full-blown moments that I think can help us to recognize the tinier moments because they hold a little bit of the possibility of that other, larger experience.
We do follow Jesus because we are hungry: for bread, for community, for love, for God.
I wonder if Jesus is just tired here in John’s gospel (he did have kind of a big day the day before with feeding a huge crowd and then a whole lot of getting into and out of boats).
You know that kind of tired in which you are just irritated because of all of the things you’ve just done and everyone just seems irritating, because he admonishes them for wanting to be near saying that they are only hungry for bread – but they stick around to hear the rest and are converted. So maybe they are interested in the whole picture after all.
They want what Jesus offers and so do we.
So we keep coming back, even after those big experiences, to listen and to learn – more and more converted to the way of life that Jesus brings.
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”