18 Sunday B Homiles--Jesus, the Bread of Life


Michel DeVerteuil
Textual Comments
With this gospel we begin the series of teachings of Jesus which draw lessons from the miraculous feeding, all under the general theme of Jesus as Bread of Life.
The language in these passages comes across as vague and abstract, and we must make a special effort to let the passages speak to our experience as all gospel passages are meant to do.
We can refer back to the story of the miraculous feeding and see the teaching fulfilled there in practice; but it is also important to understand the biblical language as being true to our life experience.  For example, the expression “seeing the signs” (verse 26) is the process by which we go beyond some event and discover that it tells us about life, a person, the movements of sin and grace, and so on. It is the same process that Pope John XXIII called “interpreting the signs of the times,” when he urged us to understand the significance of modern social and political movements for the gospel message.  So too God “sets his seal” on a person (verse 27) means that he is acting within that person, using the person as his instrument.
The expression “eternal life“, which occurs in verse 27 and several times in later passages, tends to remain especially abstract. People often take it to mean merely “the next life,” and it does include that, but it means more. The best approach is not to try and understand it all at once, but to enter gradually into what it means.
Think, for example, of deeply spiritual people, the kind of people that neither sickness nor failure nor death itself can stop from living creatively: they are living “eternal life.
walk with jesusOr you might remember a time when you felt so close to God that you felt you could face anything – that too is an experience of “eternal life.” By referring back to experiences like these you will be touched by the teaching of Jesus.
Today’s teaching takes the form of spiritual journeys that Jesus leads the people to take. We can identify three:
– verses 24 to 27: Jesus leads them to move from looking to him for material food to looking for something more spiritual; you can interpret that at many different levels – our relationship with God, for example, or with one another, or with some movement that we have joined;
– verses 28 to 33: Jesus invites the people to give up all forms of human security and put their trust in God alone: in verses 28 and 29 they are looking for the security that comes from knowing that they are doing “the right thing”; in verses 30 and 31 it is the security of pointing to favours received or of having great leaders like Moses;
– verses 34 and 35: the people express good desires, but they are looking for the miraculous bread in some vague place; Jesus brings them back to reality: this bread is present in his own person.
Prayer Reflection
Lord, true friendship is a journey into a deeper kind of living,
like the journey Jesus invited the people to make with him.
When we first love someone, we are all excited about it;
we want to be with our newly found friend all the time.
“When did you come here?” we are always asking.
We are still at the stage of satisfying some need of ours,
working for food that cannot last.
Gradually we realise that there is something sacred about this relationship,
that you have set your seal on it
and it is offering us an opportunity to live at a deeper level than we have done.
We still have a way trust Jesus2to go: we want to do many things to please our friend,
when it isn’t a matter of doing anything, but of trusting.
So, too, we must stop looking for signs that we are loved,
the kind of signs that others have got,
and just keep on being grateful for this person whom you have sent to us.
Truly, such a relationship calms our restlessness and gives life.
Lord, when people come to us asking what they must do
if they are to do the work you want,
it is tempting to give them easy answers,
“Do this and do that, and you will be doing what God wants.”
But you want us to be honest, like Jesus,
saying clearly that there is no such security for us,
that the “work” we have to do is to give ourselves to the present moment,
as your gift coming down from heaven,
and this is the only thing that will set us free
from the hungers and thirsts which keep us in bondage.
This is the meaning of incarnation.
Lord, forgive us that we become complacent when people flock around us.
Give us the wisdom of Jesus to see that
• children come to our schools, but it is to be successful in their examinations;
• people vote for us at elections because we have got them favours;
• we are often praised by some who are afraid to hurt us.
Help us to be like Jesus and to offer those whom you have given to our care
the kind of food that endures to eternal life;
for it is for this that you have set your seal on us.
jesus alone Lord, we often feel deeply hurt when we realize that people are coming to us
because we have given them something;
they haven’t got the message that we need to be loved for our own sake.
We thank you that Jesus can understand, because he had the same experience.
Lord, we thank you for moments of deep prayer
when we know that we have eaten bread from heaven and feel a great calm,
as if we will never be hungry or thirsty again.
Lord, great leaders are like Jesus – they do not give in
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
We have gathered to offer thanks to the Father for his care and love in our lives. God's gift
And we make this thanksgiving in union with Jesus who is the wisdom of God and our brother.
But today our reflection on the Father’s goodness holds, as it were, a mirror up to this relationship that  the Father has established with us in Jesus, and we are reminded that the Father’s greatest act of love was sending Jesus to us. Our fathers in the desert long ago thanked the Father for the gift of heaven-sent bread, but we thank the Father that heavenly life and wisdom have come down to encounter us in Jesus.
In Jesus we see our God made visible and so are caught up in the love of the God we cannot see.

Homily Notes
1. One can write the story of humanity as the story of our searches for our needs: for food, for water, for security,  for pleasure, for comfort, for power; but also for happiness, for understanding, for love, for friendship,  for wisdom, and for a reality beyond all these: the reality to which we give the label ‘God’.
2. These searches are also the basis of our joys, our hopes, our disappointments, our frustrations, and our fears.
3. To be a disciple of Jesus is to believe that many of these desires, these searches, find their fulfilment in him and his teaching because he is the supreme gift of the Father to humanity. He is the Wisdom of God made fully accessible to us.
4. As food satisfies our human hunger, as water satisfied our human thirst, so Jesus satisfies our desire for wisdom and of access to life in its fullness. To assert that he is ‘the true bread’ is to assert that in him the needs that are greater than the immediate and the physical find fulfilment: he gives us true life, he gives us true joy, he gives us happiness that exceeds human happiness.
5. He who believes in him will never thirst. So how do we express our faith in him? We express this faith in him as the Father’s gift when we gather as his community, the community founded upon him, the community inspired by his Wisdom, the community that shares his bread and his cup.
Tabgha, Israel MosaicLoavesFish.jpg
Tabgha, Israel, Mosaic Loaves and Fish.jpg

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Sean Goan
We return here to the fallout from Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes.
The crowd is depicted as searching enthusiastically for Jesus but when they find him
he confronts them on their motivation, saying they must look beyond their full stomachs to see what God is saying to them through what has taken place. What God is asking of them is that they believe in the one he has sent.
I,  Jesus Christ, am the Bread of Life -
I, Jesus Christ, am the Bread of Life -Do you understand?
In the fourth gospel faith is not a concept, it is an activity. Believing in Jesus is the equivalent of doing the work that God wants because it involves a personal relationship, an abiding in him. However, the crowd don’t understand and look for a sign such as their ancestors received. The irony is that they have just such a sign in front of them but they fail to see it. Jesus tells them he is the true bread, not like the manna, but the bread of God’s word that satisfies the deepest human hunger. They are invited to nourish themselves on the bread of life, in other words to come to know and believe in Jesus. At this point in the narrative the evangelist is not yet speaking about the Eucharist — that will come later.  Here he is making use of the Old Testament symbolism of wisdom as nourishment to speak of Jesus as the only one who can satisfy our hunger for God.

Reflection
We only have to consider the number of cookery programmes on television to realise that food is big business and that it has little to do with feeding the hungry. In the developed world it is about novelty, the exotic, what is really healthy. We don’t want the same old thing over and over because we get bored easily. In a certain sense, this type of hunger is a potent symbol for what is being spoken about in the readings. To quote from Deuteronomy, ‘Human beings do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

We hunger for meaning, a sense of purpose and if that is addressed then we can be truly content. This is what Jesus, as the bread of life, is speaking about. In him we can come to understand ourselves and be amazed at our own dignity and worth in the sight of God. We are, at heart, spiritual beings and if we don’t address that, then we might easily spend our time satisfying our appetites and never our deepest need.
crucifix
 
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From the Connections:
 
THE WORD:
Several scholars have suggested that Chapter 6 of John's Gospel may have originally been the text of a homily by an early Christian teacher on the Eucharistic action of Jesus.
Jesus is apparently speaking to two groups: those who witnessed the miracle of the loaves (last Sunday's Gospel) and those who did not see the miracle but have heard about it and want to see a similar sign.  To the former, Jesus tells them that there is something much deeper in this event than “perishable food” being multiplied; the real “food” is the word of God proclaimed, its power and authority manifested in the miracles of the loaves.
To the latter group who seek a sign as the Israelites sought a sign from Moses, Jesus reminds them that it was not Moses himself but God working through Moses that provided their “grumbling” Exodus ancestors with bread in the desert (recalled in today’s first reading from Exodus).  God has given his people new bread for the new covenant -- the Risen Christ.
 
HOMILY POINTS:
A life of true joy and meaning is driven not by “perishable” material things and fleeting experiences but by the “nonperishable” values of God. 
The crowds in today’s first reading from Exodus and Gospel reading from John are typical: the starving Israelites turn on Moses and demand that God do something and the crowds want to make Jesus the Miracle-worker their king but will later have nothing to do with Jesus the Crucified.  Discipleship requires constancy and courage to stand with the suffering Jesus so that, one day, we might stand with the Risen Jesus.
The Eucharist demands more than the opening of our hands to take and our mouths to consume; the Eucharist demands that we open our hearts and spirits, as well, so that we may become what we receive.
Jesus calls us to get beyond our desire for instant gratification and quick fixes and discover the Word of God creating and animating our lives and our world.

Signs and wonders
We pour over the financial pages; we’re constantly checking CNBC and the cable business channels.  We look for that edge that can raise our portfolios out of the recession muck to profitable security.  But as we make a financial score on an investment, we remain blissfully unaware of the harm the company has done to consumers or its work force or the environment to turn a profit.  In pursuing what we want, we fail to see what we already have, to appreciate and enjoy the blessings of our lives.  So what have you made?
In trying to lose that flat tire around your middle or the saddlebags on your hips you look for that “new” diet that “works” for you: five-cheese lasagna that melts away fat, chocolate cake the clears the skin, and (why not?) beer that combats baldness.  But we ignore the hard reality that the only effective program to permanent weigh loss is the hard work of healthy eating, portion control and daily exercise.  So we wash down our fifth slice of pepperoni pizza with Diet Coke and wonder why the diet isn’t working.
Your teacher has assigned your class a novel or Shakespearean play.  The number of pages and the archaic text overwhelms you, so you “Google” the quick-note versions.  Within minutes you’ve got the story down: Ahab is obsessed by a white whale, Hamlet is really bummed about his mother’s remarriage and his new stepfather, and the Japanese pull a surprise at Pearl Harbor but the Americans eventually win the war.  You know the facts — but what is the truth revealed in those facts?  How can the past help us determine our future?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ hearers want more “signs” — more of the “bread” that will fill their day-to-day hunger.  But Jesus challenges them to go deeper than the loaves themselves: to realize the compassion of God in the miracle and the possibilities each one of them has to be that same “bread” of hope and generosity for one another.  Jesus calls us to get beyond our desire for instant gratification and quick fixes and discover the Word of God creating and animating our lives and our world.  A life of true joy and meaning is driven not by “perishable” material things and fleeting experiences but by the “nonperishable” values of God.  May God give us the wisdom to live lives grounded in the “food that endures” beyond the fleeting and the perishable, the “bread of God” that feeds and nurtures us on our journey to his dwelling place.
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From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from the Book of Exodus describes the journey of the Israelites through the desert. They had suffered terribly under the Egyptians, who treated them as slaves. Moses had led them out with the assurance that the Lord would provide for them. But as they journeyed across the desert the Israelites grumbled against Moses. "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to die of hunger and thirst in this inhospitable land?" The reactions of the Israelites are often our own when we are faced with new challenges and unknown situations as we journey through life. We prefer to retreat, we prefer our past addictions and habits even though they may have kept us in bondage. Instead of surrendering to God, we let our desires and the past control our lives.

Led by the Horse
One of the truly great masterpieces of fiction was the satirical story of Don Quixote, by the Spanish writer Cervantes. In it we read how the absurdly chivalrous hero, followed by his squire Sancho Panza, set out to find adventure, to perform deeds of bravery and win the admiration of all. He had such an open mind on his quest that he decided to go wherever his horse Rosinante would lead him. But the horse, having found itself given free reign, naturally returned to the place it knew best, its own stable. Too often perhaps we humans find ourselves going the same way, doing the same thing, returning to the same sinful habits again and again, sometimes also drifting aimlessly, sometimes lured on by the novelty of sensationalism, sometimes a prey to the enticements of others, or carried away by the latest fashion in religion.
John Walsh in 'A time to Speak'

Today's gospel reminds us that the following day the people came to the place where Jesus multiplied bread but Jesus was not there and they went in search of him. When they found him they said, "We were looking for you?" But Jesus confronts them, "I know why you were looking for me! You were not really interested in me, you wanted bread, and you wanted to fill yourselves!" Like the crowds, there are many times when we too are searching for Jesus. But are we really searching for Jesus or for the things that he can give us? The test is whether we keep searching when we do not get what we want from God. When Jesus tells them that he can give them food that never perishes they question his credentials. They remind Him that their leader Moses fed the people in the desert. Can he feed them as he fed them the previous day? Jesus wants to give them something even better than what Moses gave his people. He is ready to give himself. But they have to believe and let God into their lives. He wants God to be their food; they prefer food to be their God. Jesus desired to raise them to the level of God but they prefer to bring God down to their level. They said to Jesus: "Give us bread to fill our stomachs, always!" But Jesus says: "I want to give you something even better, the bread that will fill your heart forever." Instead of telling God how he should act in our lives, can we let him be the God of our lives?

Praise the Lord!
A man in the Bible Belt owned a remarkable horse which he had trained to go only if the rider said, "Praise the Lord", and stop only if he said, "Amen". The man decided to sell the horse, but when he explained the horse's peculiarities to the prospective buyer, the buyer said, "That's ridiculous. I have been raising horses all my life. I'll make him go my way." So he jumped on the horse and kicked him until he started to run. The horse ran faster and faster. Worried the rider reined back and yelled, "Whoa!" But the horse would not stop. Suddenly the man realized they were galloping towards the edge of a cliff. Desperately he yelled, "Oh, all right, Amen!" The horse screeched to a halt just in time. Peering down over the edge of the cliff, the man wiped the perspiration from his brow. "Whew", he said, "Praise the Lord!" And... -As we think of God do we, like the buyer of the horse, try to make Him in the image of ourselves or do we truly understand that we are made in the image of God? If we are not 'God-men', then we are 'men-God'; what word comes first is important.
Harold Buetow in 'God Still Speaks: Listen!'

The obstacle in our path
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition, and discover God's gift in that obstacle.
Anonymous

Father they just don't believe...
Grief is the price you pay for love. If you never want to cry at a funeral, then don't ever love anyone. If you have a capacity for love, then you should have the tissues for convenience. Jesus cried when he overlooked Jerusalem. 'Salvation was within your grasp, and you would not accept it.' He spent many a long night alone on the mountain, being in touch with his Father. I never say anything unless my Father tells me.' I often imagine him crying there, because his heart was aching. 'Father, I told them everything you told me, but they just won't believe. I told them about the Prodigal Son, but they still doubt your love and forgiveness. I told them about the birds of the air, and the lilies of the fields, but they still worry, and are anxious. I told them all about eternal life, but they are terrified of dying. I told them about the eternal bread that will remove all their hungers and thirsts, but they seem to have some compulsion to horde and accumulate, and they are never satisfied. Father, they just don't believe me.' When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on this earth? The sin of this world is unbelief in me.
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth'

The secret of happiness
A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world. The lad wandered through the desert for 40 days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived. Rather than finding a saintly man, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity. The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man's attention. The wise man listened attentively to the boy's explanation of why he had come, and suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours. "Meanwhile, I want to ask you to do something", said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. "As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill". The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was. "Well", asked the wise man, "Did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?" The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him. "Then go back and observe the marvels of my world", said the wise man. "You cannot trust a man if you don't know his house". Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the taste with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen. "But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?" asked the wise man. Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone. "Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you", said the wisest of wise men. "The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon."
Paul Coelho in 'The Alchemist'

Our many hungers
In 1885 Vincent van Gogh visited a museum in Amsterdam in order to see Rembrandt's famous painting, 'The Jewish Bride'. Having seen it he said, 'I would give ten years of my life if I could sit before this picture for a fortnight, with nothing but a crust of dry bread for food. My first hunger is not for food, though I have fasted for ever so long. The desire for painting is so much stronger, that when I receive some money I start at once hunting for models until all the money is gone.'
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'
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From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1. A modern Good Samaritan:
A few years ago the news media carried the story of a modern-day Good Samaritan who packed his car each day with dozens of homemade sandwiches and traveled to the inner city to distribute them to homeless and otherwise needy people. Eventually, those who benefited from his generosity became familiar with the Samaritan’s customary route and began to congregate on certain corners at a specific time each day to wait for their daily gift of food. Today’s gospel describes such a scene where people who had been sumptuously fed onthe previous day by Jesus came searching for him for another free meal.

2. The Great Depression Bread-lines.
Int he depression years of 1930’s millions of Americans were out of work and many thousands were hungry. In a number of cities religious groups set up bread-lines to feed the hungry. One of these was the Franciscan monastery at Cincinnati, Ohio. Everyevening, the Friars, Brothers and lay volunteers prepared and gave a nourishing sandwich of bread and meat to hundreds of hungry men and women. It was interesting to note the reactions of the recipients. Many accepted the well-prepared and well- wrapped food with a smile and a thank you. Others, with head hanging, snatched the food package and shuffled off. Some tore the bag at once and started eating as they hurried away. Most of them ate every last crumb after a silent prayer and put the wrapping into a nearby container, though some would eat only the meat and discard the bread on the roadside. Afew discontented ones just opened the package and then threw the entire contents away in protest. The way those hungry unfortunates reacted to that little lunch is a lot like the way his listeners received the words of Jesus in today’s gospel.

3. Cat to kill mice:
Once there was a young hermit who lived as an ascetic in a forest. He owned nothing except a pair of loincloths. One morning, to his great disappointment, he found that mice had destroyed one of the loincloths. He brought a cat to kill the mice and then a cow to give milk to the cat. Later, as the cows multiplied, he hired a girl from the nearby village to look after the cows and to sell the extra milk in the village. Finally, his ever-growing material needs prompted him to end his religious life, marry the girl and settle down as a farmer in the village. This little story illustrates how easily the never-ceasing hunger for material things can take over our spiritual life. In today’s gospel, Jesus promises to satisfy our spiritual hunger by offering his body as our food.

4. Once upon a time there was a young woman who had become very scrupulous about the Eucharist. She was afraid that the priest was careless about distributing Communion and permitted tiny bits of the host to fall on the floor around the altar rail. After Mass was over and the priest had gone back to the Rectory, she would sneak up to the altar and collect what she thought might be parts of the hosts in which Jesus was still present. She would pick them up with a little spoon she always carried in her purse and then place them in a little plastic bag. However, after she had collected many of these little bits of Jesus, she did not know what to do with them. So she brought them home and created a little altar in her room where she could pray to Jesus. Her parents thought it was nice that she had the little altar with a votive light burning in front of Jesus.
Finally, one morning the priest caught her collecting bits of the Eucharist from the floor. Greatly embarrassed, she tried to explain what she was doing. The priest who understood how young people can become obsessive, took the plastic bag from her and promised that he would wash it out in the special sacristy think. But, Martha, he said, Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist to be with us because he loves us, not to drive us crazy with fears. If he was worried about such things he would have consecrated jelly beans at the last super.
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From Sermons.com

5. Are You Hungry?

There's a story found in the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the fifth volume of that series, Mary, Edmund, their cousin Eustice, and some of the colorful creatures of Narnia, come upon a crystal clear pool of water with what appears to be a golden statue of a man at the bottom. Only, they discover that it is a magical pool that turns everything into gold that touches the water. It appears that the statue at the bottom of the pool is a man who either didn't know about the pool's magic powers, or he was so consumed with accumulating gold that he ignored its dangers. Even though the characters of the story are awed at the magic of the pool, they recognize that such a place is far more dangerous than it is beneficial, and so they swear themselves to secrecy and wipe their memories clean of that place.

You see, when you waste your energies seeking to fulfill the hunger for things that perish, what you'll find all too often is that you'll still be dissatisfied, and your dissatisfaction will usually put you deeper into the hole you're digging for yourself. Whatever piece of the pie that you're hungering for - whether it's a bigger slice of acceptance or riches or gratification of your urges - you're going to find yourself hungry for more and more and more, until you're so out of control that you can't back-peddle fast enough. In our consumer-driven world, in which many people literally work themselves to death accumulating a never-fully-satisfying abundance of things, Jesus' words challenge our society's misguided substitutes for "life."

Steve Wilkins, Are You Hungry?
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6. Sometime this week you will make a trip to the grocery store to get a loaf of bread. It will be readily available on the shelf. There will be quite a variety to choose from. You will pay little attention to the price, not realizing that the packaging that the bread is wrapped in actually costs more than the wheat that is in the bread. All in all, you will think it a very uneventful trip, but you will be wrong.

It is quite difficult for many of us to understand the importance of bread unless we turn on the TV and watch what is going on in so many parts of the world today. When there is no staff of life there is suffering and famine. A simple loaf of bread: Something, which we do not give a second thought, but in certain parts of the world it means life itself.

It is only as we comprehend that situation that we can really begin to understand the importance of bread not only now but also in the time of Jesus. Just think for a moment how so many significant theological events in the Bible revolve around the subject of bread. The most important event in the Old Testament of course, was the Exodus event--the trip from Egypt to the Promised Land. But what caused the Hebrews to be in Egypt in the first place? It was for want of bread you will recall. The wheat crop had failed due to draught, and the Hebrews had migrated to the land of the Pharaoh because there was a surplus in storage there. It was bread, or the lack of it, that initiated this whole chain of events...
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 7. Southeast Asia is hot.
The economies of its countries are sizzling, especially Viet Nam and Indonesia, with the highest growth rates of almost anywhere on the planet. Investors and tourists from all over the world are flooding both countries. Of course, Bali, Indonesia, is where everyone wants to go. But if I could go anywhere in Southeast Asia, it would be the island of Sumatra.

Why Sumatra? Because this island is the archipelago of 17,000 islands known as "Indonesia" is where the "manna" of that country is grown. The best coffee in the world comes from Sumatra. It is called Kopi Luwak coffee. Kopi Luwak is one of the most unique coffees in the world, and very hard to find. Only a couple of thousand pounds of this coffee comes up on the world market each year. And almost all of it comes from the island of Sumatra.

This coffee bean has an interesting story and one that echoes with our Psalm today...
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 8. Thinking Metaphorically

In a sermon on the "I Am" sayings of Jesus, I once mentioned the Simon and Garfunkel song which had the line, "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin' Joe has left and gone away." Originally part of the soundtrack for the film The Graduate, the song "Mrs. Robinson" has become one of the 1960s' best-known, iconic ballads.

But in a 60 Minutes interview a few years back Paul Simon mentioned that some time after the song was released, he received a letter from Joe DiMaggio in which DiMaggio expressed his befuddlement at what in the world that song could mean. DiMaggio wrote, "What do you mean 'Where have I gone?' I haven't gone anywhere! I'm still around--I'm selling Mr. Coffee." Then Mr. Simon smiled wryly at Mike Wallace and remarked, "Obviously Mr. DiMaggio is not accustomed to thinking of himself as a metaphor!"

But then, who is? Most, if not all, of us see ourselves as real people with literal, descriptive identities. For instance, I am a pastor, a husband, a father, a committee member, a volunteer, a son--these are all straightforward descriptions of who I am in relation to the people around me in life. Like most people, I cannot readily conceive of myself as a symbol for something, as a kind of metaphor that represents something beyond myself.

Indeed, if someone came up to you at a party and said, "You are my shelter from the storms of life," well, you'd be taken aback. Then again, if you met someone who constantly spouted self-referential metaphors, you'd have to wonder about him or her. We expect people to denote themselves by saying things like, "I am a plumber" or "I'm a stay-at-home Dad." But our eyes would widen if someone said, "I am the oil that lubes my company's machine" or "I am the antibody that shields my family from the virus of secularism."

This is not a terribly typical mode of discourse. Yet Jesus, with some frequency, did refer to himself in a metaphorical mode, starting with John 6:35 when Jesus said, "I am the Bread of life."

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations

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9. Our Help Comes from Above

Looking out at my backyard during the fall, I noticed the leaves falling while the tree branches remained stretching heavenward--not only did they remain that way after the leaves were gone, but when the snows came and the often brutal winds of Chicago seemed to bend them into submission. But in the spring the trees seemed to speak to me saying, "Notice that we kept our branches lifted towards where our help comes from." To me it seemed that they praised God with or without leaves, as if they knew that keeping their branches up was a means of patient waiting faith, and it was in the spring when the buds appeared on their branches that those trees seemed to say to me, "We told you. We told you that our help comes from above."

So not only does this text tell us that God provides through Jesus not what we want but what we need and that God's promise can sustain us through all times, but, finally, the text tells us God's presence through Jesus allows us room to grow in grace.’

Ozzie E. Smith, Jr., What Do You Want?
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10. Spiritual Awareness

 In a broadcast address in London, T. S. Eliot talked about "spiritual awareness." He observed that many persons aspire to become Christians and believe, presumably, in the efficacy of the Christian faith, but never reach the stage of actually experiencing it. Aspiring towards real belief, i.e., becoming truly Christian, is one thing, whereas complete awareness of it is another. Aspiring can easily become an end in itself. And, as Charles H. Duthie of Edinburgh remarked: "It is a matter of living forever in the preface and never becoming involved in the story."

This condition of spiritual awareness is clearly defined by Jesus in the words of our text. It is a state of soul devoutly and eagerly to be aspired to, in contrast to what Lord Cecil of Britain once referred to as "believing in God in a commonplace sort of way." And, it becomes the gift and possession of any persons who are utterly dissatisfied with themselves, and who decide to fulfill those important requisites that make them completely satisfied in Christ.

Donald MacLeod, Know The Way, Keep The Truth, Win The Life, CSS Publishing Co.
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