St. Philips Episcopal Church, Marysville, WA
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Readings - Episcopal Church
First reading 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Second reading Ephesians 4:1-16
Gospel John 6:25-35
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “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 the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Sermon - by Rev. Karuna Duval
I don’t recall who said it, but a concept I learned in philosophy classes has stayed with me, and is illustrated in today’s gospel.
Our true satisfaction, true happiness, true fulfillment comes when we are seeking and following that which is eternal and infinite. Our dissatisfaction, emptiness, and even despair and suffering comes when we seek and follow that which is limited and finite.
It seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it. But think about it…
“When we can get that house, then it will be great for us.” Is it great? Does it stay great? No. While it may be wonderful, the sustained happiness and fulfillment we seek, in a house is often replaced with worry over the plumbing or repairs, or paying the mortgage, mowing the yard. There is no real satisfaction or fulfillment in the finite.
Take out the word house and replace it with anything finite: money, a job, car, children. Our dis-satisfaction with following the finite is that it never stays the same – the way we think it should. Even kids grow and change, “Oh it will be so much better when he sleeps through the night, or goes to school, or has a child so he can understand what we go through.” Is it better? Sometimes, but sometimes it’s not because it doesn’t stay that way; and there is something else to want for.
When we pin our happiness and fulfillment on that which is finite and ever changing, following the way of grasping and holding on, we suffer. Even grasping to our own lives – denying aging, illness and the inevitable conditions of being human, we suffer. In this way, pointing our lives towards the finite will bring more suffering than fulfillment. Buddha was right – life is suffering.
However, if we take to heart what Jesus says in today’s gospel “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life” we can find greater fulfillment and peace.
Have you experienced deep peace and connection in prayer, or meditation? Have you gotten goose bumps from the feelings of love or sadness or nostalgia? Have you touched the beauty when feeling the presence of God?
Pursuing that which is infinite brings us closer to inner fulfillment and peace; and to a deeper connection with God. The key in fulfillment is the pursuit, not the acquisition.
Have you ever gone on a trip, and couldn’t wait to get there, only to have the experience of the trip “being over too fast?” Conversely, have you ever focused on the journey to where-ever you were going, exploring, taking in the experience of each place, the people, the food; being really present for many of the moments? Which one feels more satisfying? Our capacity for curiosity and exploration is infinite. Wonder and awe is how God feeds us.
I love what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says about awe: Awe is a sense for transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple: to feel in the rush of the passing, the stillness of the eternal. What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.
In the gospel today, the people want finite answers, finite signs, a promise of something with set parameters. Jesus invites them and promises us that in our trust and faith we will experience the infinite fulfillment of his love.
Trust and faith open us up to the possibilities of awe and wonder. Trust and faith release us from them grip of the finite, giving us the chance to become more aware of awe and wonder.
As finite beings, living in a world of finite things, we can sometimes struggle with trust and faith. But God didn’t make us just finite, God gave us the ability to live in real peace and fullness with connection to God, in the infinite experiences of awe, wonder, curiosity, love, beauty, kindness, joy, compassion, gratitude and hope.
When we work on having faith and trust in the infinite, even when we experience hardships and challenges, we can carry those experiences with more grace and tenderness, deepening our trust and faith.
There was a time when I left a job that was emotionally and psychologically toxic. I didn’t have another job. I kept hearing my dad’s voice “don’t ever leave and job w/o another one.” For a time I worried and stressed about how to pay the bills, how was I going to find another job. I suffered every time I looked at job ads. I didn’t know what kind of job to pursue. With every resume submitted and not responded to, I became more worried and more upset. I was not pleasant to be around. At one point, a friend reminded me of my own skills and talents. She had no doubt I would find a job. She recommended that since I had time, I should take care of myself and heal from the past job. So I did. It wasn’t easy, but I trusted, I had faith, and I had to re-connect and re-commit to that trust and faith every single day. I reminded myself everyday, that in the past when I had faith, I WAS taken care of. So I let go, I took care of myself. I explored what it felt like to care for myself, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I hiked and explored the beauty of the Redwoods. I meditated and deepened compassion and kindness to myself. I opened up to the infinite curiosity about the experience, which allowed me to consider possibilities I couldn’t when I was grasping to the finite limited solutions in my own mind. I ultimately found a job that lead me to graduate school and to where I am today. By allowing curiosity, trusting and have faith, and experiencing the infinite, I was fed.
What can you be more curious about?
When have you experienced: breathless awe; profound wonder?
How can you cultivate deeper trust and faith, in being fed by joy, compassion and love?
AND finally, May we all seek the infinite wonder of our lives, to experience the eternal love and fulfillment that Jesus promises?