BELLY AND SOUL
August 2, 2015 by Ken Dale
Fifteen years ago I was able to take a dream trip ? with my sons Matt and Jeff ? fly fishing in Montana.? I saved for years to make it happen and it created many life-long memories for the three of us.? Montana is a beautiful state and much bigger than I thought.? We flew into Bozeman and had reservations at fishing camp on the Madison River – half way between Ennis and Yellowstone.? Our plan was to get settled and then run back to Ennis to do some grocery shopping.? Little did we know that the grocery store was 35 miles away!? We were much relieved to learn that about a mile down the road was the Crazy Lady Outpost and that ?she has a few things.?? Having traveled from Bangor to Bozeman that day and then down to our destination we weren?t crazy about driving 35 miles to get groceries ? so off to the Outpost.? Convenience comes at a high cost.? We just got enough for supper that evening ? two packages of hamburger, a package of rolls to go with it and coffee and breakfast food? all for a little over $36!
Upon return to the cabin Jeff said, ?Dad, did you notice the date of these hamburger rolls??? The bag was marked ?best if sold by June 20? ? and this was the 24th ? of July!? But much to our amazement they looked ok ? a bit firm, but nothing growing on them.? For some reason the bread endured ? maybe some time in someone?s freezer before landing in Crazy Lady?s refrigerator.? We ate four of the rolls that night and three days later threw the rest in the trash.
Our gospel this morning follows Jesus feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.? They follow him after that and on the other side of the sea he addresses them saying, Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.? Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life?
In Montana we sort of experienced food that endures ? in two ways.? There was the bread of those rolls (bread for the belly) but there was also the high quality time that we shared together ? time for renewal, time to just be ? in another part of God?s wondrous creation ? and in the presence of God.? It was bread for the soul!
The crowds described in John 6 had been fed by Jesus on the mountainside and they followed eagerly all the way to across to Capernaum.? Are we impressed with their quest for the spiritual?? Do they long for a deeper relationship with God and are they seeking to be blessed?? Jesus discerns their true motive is based not on the signs of God but because they were fed so well on the mountainside.? I don?t think the people are just following him for the sake of something to eat.
Surely ? being fed spiritually on the mountainside was at least part of it.? Remember how they said of him, This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.? Perhaps what Jesus understands is that the crowd is following him because he can make their lives better ? better on their terms.? Yes, Jesus can give them life ? but they seek an improved lifestyle.
What Jesus offers is the bread of life ? and that is Jesus himself.? It is not perishable bread that feeds a passing whim but the nourishment God feeds our souls.? We cannot buy it or bake it.? It is bread from God that is gift of God.? In verse 28 the crowd questions Jesus, What must we do to perform the works of God?? In a nutshell Jesus tells them to believe.? That?s it.? You cannot perform it; you cannot knead and bake this bread ? it is from God.? You cannot do the works of God ? God does those works.? You can only believe and receive and live
There is bread for the belly and bread for the soul.? There is bread that perishes and bread that endures.? Bread that perishes fees our whims and desires.? It is something that we consume.? But the bread that endures is different.? It actually consumes us and draws us into the life of God and we are transformed.? It takes us to real life, and connects us with who we really are ? children of God.
Donna Schaper makes the point thinking about the restoration of old chairs.? The chair is stripped down to the bare wood.? She writes:? They do this to see what the original might have looked like and to determine if the thing is worth doing over.? They strip away all the years of grime, the garish coats of paint piled one on top of the other.? They get rid of the junk that?s been tacked on through the years and try to find the solid, simple thing that?s underneath.
Schaper continues, I?m like an old chair needing that stripping process.? Every now and then I have to take a really hard look at the illusions I?ve built up on myself and my society? all that keeps me living off center too long.? It?s hard work to let God forgive me.? I have to discover the original under all those coats I?ve added, strip away all the cynicism and anger I?ve built up, get rid of the junk I?ve taken on, defy my disappointments, and find what is real again.
Or as Buechner captures it:? No matter how much the world shatters us to pieces, we carry inside us a vision of wholeness that we sense is our true home and that beckons us.? I believe that by the life of faith ? by the grace of God, we can respond to the beckoning of which Buechner speaks.? But it depends much on what bread we spend the most time seeking ? whether we want to fill our bellies or our souls.? If we seek the filling of our souls we need only open ourselves to the reality of God?s presence in our lives ? a presence which we know in the person of Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life.