When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.”
Many of you know my family and I enjoy going to Disney World. We have been more times than I can count. While not true for most Disney World goers, my favorite of the theme parks is EPCOT. It is the less adventurous and the most educational. Or as lots of folks would say - boring.
Of the boring things to do there, I think my favorite is to go to a show called The American Adventure. Now it includes film, music, and automatronics (robots) and is all about our nation. To be honest if this attraction wasn’t air-conditioned, many in my family would not go with me to see it.
The show tells the story of America, though I must admit it leaves out most of our country’s darker pieces of history in favor of flag waving and patriotic sentimentality. And while normally I prefer a true account of history, we all need a feel-good Disney story occasionally.
One part of the show that I had seen but seemingly missed until a few years ago is a scene where President Theodore Roosevelt is talking with the noted conservationist John Muir.
I think it interested me because I noticed that John Muir had a distinct Scottish accent. So, I used Google to learn about him. The more I learned the more interested I became.
Muir had a strict, Scottish Presbyterian upbringing. In his autobiography he writes that during his childhood, his father made him read the Bible every day. Muir eventually memorized three-quarters of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament. Muir's father even read Josephus's War of the Jews to understand the culture of first-century Palestine and passed this knowledge on to his children.
Additionally, it is said Muir’s father also had his children memorize the Catechism …which once I tried to do without success.
The Presbyterian connection hooked me. I found out that in addition to founding the Sierra Club, he was instrumental in the creation of the US National Parks – starting with Yosemite. This is where the historically accurate account of the Disney story takes place. It seems Muir convinced Roosevelt to come out west and visit Yosemite. It was supposed to be a brief trip, but after entering the park and seeing the magnificent splendor of the valley, the president asked Muir to show him the real Yosemite. Muir and Roosevelt set off largely by themselves and camped in the back country. The duo talked late into the night, slept in the brisk open air of Glacier Point, and were dusted by a fresh snowfall in the morning. It was a night Roosevelt never forgot. He later told a crowd, "Lying out at night under those giant Sequoias was like lying in a temple built by no hand of man, a temple grander than any human architect could by any possibility build." Muir, too, cherished the camping trip. "Camping with the President was a remarkable experience," he wrote. "I fairly fell in love with him."
Before they left the park, Muir was able to convince Roosevelt that the best way to protect the Yosemite Valley was through federal control and management. It was an important moment for America. And the beginning of the modern National Park system so many of us continue to enjoy.
I also discovered Muir had a profound experience early in his life which he never forgot. The lesson stuck with him and I think it might speak to us as well.
It was 1869 and Muir was a young man ready to take on the world and experience nature. So he took a job as a shepherd. Muir recounts how he and the other shepherd he worked with led the sheep high into the mountains to escape the brutal heat of the Central Valley of California. In his memoirs he writes rapturously of the wonders he sees in those mountains. He draws pictures of the trees, flowers, animals and landscapes. He describes them in marvelously vivid detail. It is clear he is not only content but truly happy.
That is until the two men run out of flour to make bread.
Even though there is plenty of mutton to eat, Muir became blind to the beauty all around him. At one point he writes, “... the bread famine is sore.” He adds, “The stomach begins to assert itself as an independent creature with a will of its own.” And finally, “Rather weak and sickish this morning, and all about a piece of bread.”
The affliction was only cured when supplies finally made their way up the mountain, and flour for baking bread was restored!
In the texts above Jesus teaches us to pray by asking God for daily bread and then John shares that Jesus tells us of another bread which comes from him – the bread of life.
Of course, both are essential to a full life.
The first need is physical bread. As Mahatma Gandhi said so well, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Or as the book of James proclaims so powerfully, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
This is why I love the outreach our church does though The Birdbox, Friends Feeding Friends and other acts of compassion. And while those acts of compassion are needed every day, it is also true that the world’s soul is starving for the love found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
In fact, this is just as much our calling as the physical needs we can so readily see. Perhaps it is our greater and more difficult calling. The truth is that the Rotary and Service League and Kiwanis may be able to raise money to help with physical needs, but I believe that it is only the church that can truly meet folks’ deeper hungers.
Jesus knew that both of our hungers need to be met. We all need bread - both physical and spiritual to make for a full life.
Muir discovered that when physical pains hit, he missed the beauty around him. And Jesus knew the deep spiritual needs of those who sought him along the shore kept them from life and life abundant.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I pray we will all be filled with the bread we need for a full life and then in gratitude go out and share our abundance with everyone we meet.