Sunday, October 10, 2010


“Do not work for the food that perishes, but work for the food that endures for eternal life...”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? It sounds like something we’d expect Jesus to say. Work for the food that endures for eternal has the aroma of holiness, sacred words we come to church to hear because we don’t find them anywhere else.

We know these words are true. They even sound correct. Like something to which we SHOULD aspire. Eternal food verses perishable food. Light verses dark. Sacred verse secular.

But one thing that makes me crazy about John’s Jesus is that he can be abstract to the point of being unhelpful. He speaks in lofty poetry when I need concrete prose. His elevated speech seems unreachable in my life.

John’s Jesus talks and talks and talks and talks - and talks. And when he’s finished I’m sure not sure I know what he wants me to do. I’m inspired by his message, but I don’t know how his words touch my life in a way that I feel.

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life...” is one of those passages that snuggle warmly in my ears yet doesn’t crawl down into my hands and feet. I don’t know exactly what response Jesus wants from me with these words. It’s hard to say what this means for US.

Does Jesus want us to stop eating actual food and simply spend our days “feasting” on God’s Word? Does he want us to quit our jobs and focus all our attention on getting to heaven, doing spiritual things, abandoning our earthly cares and human delights? Does he want all our energy devoted to proclaiming the gospel and making our church grow? What does he want?

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but work for the food that endures for eternal life...”

The word “work” also troubles me. It’s so “un-Lutheran.” This isn’t to say that Lutherans are lazy sofa spuds. But Lutherans are naturally suspicious of the word “work” when it’s connected to anything resembling “eternity.”

We say that our work doesn’t get us into a right relationship with God. As Lutherans we believe that our salvation is all GOD’S work in Jesus, dying and rising again, to which we are joined in Holy Baptism, where we become part of God’s family. It’s not what WE do. It’s what God does that connects us to eternity.

And then again, Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but work for the food that endures for eternal life...”

But, I’m guessing that, despite all my initial objections, Jesus knows exactly what he means by the “food that perishes” and the “food that endures for eternal life.” His disciples did too.

And probably, when you look deeply into the secluded safe haven within your souls, you know what Jesus means as well. You know how hard you work for the food that perishes. You have the cuts and the blisters to prove it. Because our appetites for the food that perishes can be insatiable.

I read recently that most North Americans will be grossly overweight in the coming years. Looking at my belt size I know that I stand convicted of over indulging, and putting my health in peril. And my oversized midsection - and those burgeoning North American bellies - are a symbol for a society who has abandoned the search for food that lasts for eternity and has gorged on the food that perishes.

It’s been noted that houses are getting bigger as families are getting smaller. We have fewer friends, and more loose personal connections, but more stuff. They say that we’re no longer defined by what we create or what we produce, but we’re defined by what we consume.

We find our identity less by our family and our faith, than by our jobs and what we put in our shopping cart. My generation is being told that we’re the first ones to have a less affluent lifestyle than that of our parents, which is deemed a tragedy, as if growing affluence is the mark of a good life.

We demand cheap goods without asking who really pays the cost for them. We close our ears to the cries of the hurting. We do what’s easy rather than what’s right. We’re quick to anger and slow to forgive. We let relationships die over the small details of life.

We’re work our fingers raw for the food that perishes.

But Jesus, who is the bread that endures forever, calls us out of that life, and opens our eyes to the broadness of God’s vision, and opens our mouths that so we can feast on eternity.

He puts on our tongue the bread of love, of compassion, of peace, and of forgiveness - he puts on our tongues his very self - so that Jesus, the bread that endures will grow within us, transforming our lives and our world into his likeness.

When your world is filled with love rather than indifference, you touch eternity. When you forgive rather than bear a grudge, that is bread that lasts forever. When your heart and mind is on other people rather than what’s in your garage, the bread of life is within you.

And today, in the waters of baptism, Sara is beginning her journey of transformation. Indeed, she has been transformed as God has taken hold of her life. If you want to see what the bread that endures looks like, just look at Sara today. And she begins her eternal life this morning as God places within her the bread of love, compassion, peace, and forgiveness. God has claimed her as a healing presence, shining divine light through her.

And today we celebrate Thanksgiving, which I think, is about remembering who we are. It’s remembering that we’ve been given gifts that can be used for the healing of the world. Thanksgiving is remembering that God is a God of abundance, who asks that we share the fruits of creation so that all people can participate in what God has done.

Thanksgiving is remembering that we’ve been given bread that endures for eternal life, that we are transformed and are being transformed into who God wants us to be.

So this passage from the gospel isn’t so much about what we are to do, but about who we are, and who we are becoming.

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but work for the food that endures for eternal life...”

Indeed, Jesus already has. Because of him, we have become the bread that endures for eternal life.

May this be so among us. Amen.


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