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Worship Theme: What do we gain by relying on Jesus?

Sermon Theme: Feast on Jesus

 One of the most enjoyable things about travel is trying new food in new places. Of course, the further you are away from home, the more unique the food that you come across. For some, aside from new people and places, this is the best part about traveling. But for others with a more picky palette, this is a problem. I’ve seen this first hand many times, but perhaps no time was this clearer than when we visited Africa.

After flying 16 hours from Chicago to Dubai and then seven more hours to Zambia, there were all kinds of unique and delicious foods put before us from chicken curry on Emirates airline to other middle eastern faire in our Dubai hotel. But for some of the American teens with us, this was not so impressive. Finally, when we arrived at our Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka Zambia, we were so excited to find out there was a home cooked meal waiting for us. We slopped fresh chicken and vegetables on our plate, along with a pile of mashed potatoes.

One forkful into the meal though and we realized it wasn’t mashed potatoes. It was a staple of the Zambian diet call nshima. Nshima is made from ground up cornmeal and is slowly stirred into boiling water. The product looks like mashed potatoes, smells like a corn tortilla, and feels like Play-Doh. That’s ironic because we were instructed that the proper way to eat nshima is to grab it with your fingers and roll it up in a cup shape and scoop up your food and soak up the broth with it.

Well one young lady wasn’t having it. She had a no-thank-you bite and dumped the rest. She went to her suitcase where we found out she had brought along individual bags of Doritos and fruit snacks. Her plan was to live on that for the rest of 10 days. That didn’t go so well. Eventually the junk food ran out and she lost nearly 10 pounds.

Eight days later we visited Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the group saw the most beautiful thing—not Victoria Falls one of the wonders of the world. They saw a KFC. It was the first place they wanted to go. We of course ate there, but there was another problem. They don’t necessarily cook their KFC the same way or with the same health standards, and we had been eating clean, healthy, and fresh foods for the previous week. Needless to say, nearly everyone was sick the next day. We had perfectly good and healthy food in front of us, like nshima, but some either refused to eat it or thought junk food would be better.

I suppose you could say this was a very human experience, wasn’t it? Plenty of good, quality blessings from God sit before us, yet we find a way to complain and be dissatisfied, or we want something different and better. We have been reminded of this last week and this week as we heard about the Israelites wandering with Moses in the wilderness.

God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and was leading them on to the Promised Land, and what was the first thing they did? Complain! “We don’t have any water!” Then it was, “We don’t have any food! We would rather be slaves in Egypt than die in this desert!” So, God provided water for them and he dropped food out of the heavens for them. Imagine that! You don’t even have to drive to Pick N Save or pick up your phone to order from Dominos. They just woke up six days a week and found perfectly good, clean, and healthy bread called manna sitting there and waiting for them! Incredible!

But it didn’t take long for sinful hearts to be dissatisfied. They got tired of manna. They wanted something more, something better. The bread that came from heaven wasn’t good enough which really meant that God’s grace and blessings weren’t good enough.

Fast forward over a thousand years, and the Jews had bread from heaven once again. A whole feast was before them. Not manna, it was the Bread—Jesus. Over and over again in this Bread of Life sermon, Jesus talks about how he is the bread from heaven and the bread that gives life. Pastor Hackmann reminded us last week that’s why Jesus is the best bread.

But like an American teen with nshima in Africa, it wasn’t good enough and not what they wanted. Jesus had just fed over 5,000 people; they wanted more of those miracles. When Moses was around God gave them manna; they wanted more signs and wonders like that. What good was Jesus to them if he didn’t make their lives better? What did Jesus matter if they woke up the next day and they still had leprosy or malaria, or if the Romans were still squashing them under their power, or if the chariot in their garage still had a bad transmission and no air conditioning? Rather than feasting on Jesus, these Jews starved themselves. Rather than feasting on Jesus, they were searching for worldly junk food that would only make them sick.

Again, a very relatable human experience. Fast forward another 2,000 years to today. Jesus, the living bread who came down from heaven still comes to us today. A feast is set before us in the Scriptures. Any day and every day, in our Bibles (and now even conveniently in our digital Bibles) we can dine on the Word made flesh who comes to us in his Word. Each week in worship we come here not to put in our time or get a motivational speech and listen to a few catchy tunes, but rather each week the living Bread comes to us in worship. He comes and puts his name on us (in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). He comes to forgive us. He comes to encourage us in his Word. He comes with his real flesh and blood in Communion to strengthen and sustain us. He comes to give us his blessing so we can grow in faith and go with our faith into the world. What a feast we have in Jesus in his Word, in his Sacraments, in worship!

And yet my heart grumbles and complains. Like an Israelite with manna in the desert, I easily become dissatisfied, disappointed, and disinterested. “Oh, manna again? . . . Oh, Jesus again? Well, I guess. I guess I should go to church. I kind of have to, I suppose.” These are the times when we mentally check out of worship, or find reasons not to be in worship, or we let our Bibles collect dust on the shelf. “I’ve had enough of that bread,” my sinful nature says. The sad thing is that when I starve myself from the living Bread, then I also usually want to replace it with junk food. Doritos and fruit snacks and KFC are OK in small doses, but who can live on that? Yet with a spiritually picky palette, I go looking for junk that I think tastes better than Jesus. Work, money, “things,” fun, and really anything else in this world can be good blessings of God. But who can live on that? Who can find life or eternal life in that? What of the things in this life, will benefit me in the next life? It’s like Jesus said today, “Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, yet they died.” All the blessings that come from God are good, but they don’t last. They don’t give life, not like Jesus.

So once again today we come before our God with humble and repentant hearts for all our discontent, disinterest, and dissatisfaction. Hungry and starving we come to Jesus for a feast that only the Bread of life can offer.

Just listen to Jesus. Listen. Take it in. Feast on these words of grace. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never go thirsty.” Every single person in this world is hungry and thirsty, whether they realize it or not. We all are starving for meaning and purpose in this life and for some kind of hope for after this life. When we Feast on Jesus, we have just that. In the bread of life, we taste and see that the Lord is good—that he made us, that he saved us, that he gives us forgiveness and eternal life. Those who trust in Jesus will never hunger or thirst for meaning, purpose, or hope.

Jesus continues, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” The Lord knows those who are his. He knows you are his. When you Feast on Jesus the bread of life will never drive you away. Jesus won’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth or give you spiritual gut rot. Rather, he welcomes you, he treasures you, he values you, he protects and preserves you. This is the will of our heavenly Father. Our God wants you to be his own. He wants you to have eternal life. That’s why Jesus came here—to do the will of the Father. He came to live in the place of imperfect sinners. He came to die for those who deserve it. He came to rise in victory so that we too could be raised to life on the last day. Jesus says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” All this is ours when we Feast on Jesus, the bread of life.

At this, the Jews began to grumble. “Why should we believe Jesus?” they thought. “Isn’t this just the son of Joseph and Mary? What’s so special about him?” Satan would want nothing more than for us to stare at this feast set before us and to grumble and complain as well. “What’s so special about Jesus?” my heart is eager to say. But when we Feast on Jesus, we taste and see how good the bread of life is, and how special this bread is. Jesus explains, “‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ Jesus answered. ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.” No other food, no other bread has the quality of the Bread of life. Jesus is true God and one with the Father. Jesus came here from the Father. Jesus brings us to the Father as he saves us and makes us children of the Father. Jesus gives us life as a gift from the Father. All this is ours when we Feast on Jesus.

 When we taste this living bread and dine on his love and forgiveness, our souls are satisfied with this scrumptious meal. When you taste something so good, why would you ever want junk food again? Jesus reminds us that even those who ate heavenly manna in the wilderness died. Why not instead feast on something that gives life? So, Jesus concludes with this, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

 How many times in just these few verses of the gospel today does Jesus mention life or not dying or being raised to life? I’ll save you the time of counting—ten times! Jesus wants nothing more than for you to have life with him here and in eternity. This is something only the Bread of life offers.

Last year, just before the lockdown took place, our family had the chance to visit London for a few days. There were so many great things to see, and yes, so many great things to eat. I remember one particular day when we had already walked 8-10 miles sightseeing when it started to rain. We were tired, wet, exhausted, and oh so hungry. We found our way to the famous Harrods department store and there we stumbled upon Harrods Food Halls. I can still picture, and almost taste, what became a staple of our London trip—a big, huge, flaky, buttery, delicious croissant. Westminster and Buckingham Palace and the London Bridge are cool, but we would do almost anything to go back and have all the food and breads in London again.

When your soul is starving and you get a taste of Jesus’ love, when you know his forgiveness, when you understand the value you have as a child of God and purpose you have of sharing this Bread with others, and the hope you have in the life to come, what more could you want? You would do almost anything to have such a meal! But you don’t need to travel to Zambia or London. Simply travel to your coffee table, desk, book shelf, or mobile device and pick up his Word and feast. Or hop on the freeway and come to 1209 N. Broadway or log on and livestream at home and feast. You’ll never be disappointed. You’ll never hunger or thirst. You’ll always be satisfied. So come, friends, and Feast on Jesus and have life in his name.

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