Consumable God (The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost)

Sermon Reflections and More August 12, 2018

Sermon on YouTube and Children’s Message on YouTube

Pastor Steve’s Sermon Notes…

My latest shop project has been building a set of dining room chairs to go with the table I built last year. This has been a more challenging project than most, because I’ve had a to learn a number of new skills and techniques I rarely or never used before. And, it’s required me to buy a couple of new power tools in the process (which is one of the reasons woodworkers choose shop projects!)

I enjoy building some of my own furniture. I get to make things just the way I want them. I get a sense of accomplishment when a project is done. And lately, as I’ve been building some of these pieces, I realize that these furniture projects may well outlast me!

Furniture, after all, is what economists call a “durable good.” And a “durable good” is intended to be used over and over again without being used up. It can last for months or years and even decades. You may be able to pass it along to your kids and grandkids.

In contrast, “consumable goods” are usually used up in one shot. Food is the ultimate “consumable good.” You eat it, and it’s gone. You’ll need to find more food the next time you want to eat.

In some respects, it would seem like God is the most “durable good” ever. After all, God exists forever. God is never “used up” no matter how many people call on God. And God never wears out, no matter how hard people try to wear God out with whining and complaining!

And yet, as Jesus has been speaking of himself as the embodiment of God in these past few Gospel readings, he speaks of himself as “bread” – as a consumable good! Bread, after all, doesn’t seem to last very long. When it’s gone, people immediately go looking for more (as they did in the Gospel reading two weeks ago). And then they wish that “bread” was more like a “durable good” – that it would last forever, or at least that Jesus would give them that bread forever (as they did in last week’s Gospel reading.)

But bread isn’t a durable good. It’s a consumable. And maybe Jesus uses this “consumable” image on purpose. Maybe he uses a “consumable” image because too often people want God to be like a durable piece of furniture they can put in their house and it’ll just become part of the surroundings. Too often, people want God to be like a durable piece of furniture that can just be brought out and used whenever it’s convenient. Too often, people want God to be like a durable piece of furniture which, once you’ve got it, you never have to think about again.

But Jesus wants God to be a “consumable”, at least in the sense that God is supposed to be like the bread that gave Elijah strength for his journey in today’s first reading. Elijah, after all, had been having a tough time. He was running for his life and he was exhausted. He didn’t need a chair to sit down on as much as he needed strength to keep going.

And so after he lies down under a tree to sleep, an angel shows up and gives him fresh baked bread. The angel tells him to get up and eat. So he does. And you’d think that special “angel bread” even once would be enough. But it’s still a consumable, so the angel wakes him up again and tells him to eat some more.

What Elijah needed was a consumable! He needed actual bread. But he also needed other “consumable” experiences of God in his life that would give him strength for his journey. Elijah needed not just actual bread, but also:

  • The experience of God’s presence in his life … (the angel shows up even in the wilderness, to let him know that God hadn’t forgotten about him, and was still with him – and that was a “consumable” experience that Elijah would need over and over again to give him strength for his journey…)
  • Vision from God – Elijah is a at point in his life where he’s ready to pack it in; he figures he’s done all he can do, and as he says at the beginning “it is enough!” I’m done! But God tells him he still has a journey to go on. God still has plans for him. And even if he doesn’t know exactly what that looks like, God is giving him a vision forward – and that was a “consumable” experience that Elijah would need to have over and over again to give him strength for his journey…)
  • Community – Elijah couldn’t journey alone. He needed God, but he also needed God to give him other people to journey with him. So when he finally gets to Horeb after being fed by the angel, he complains to God that he’s all alone, and that no one else is left who’s faithful to God. And God tells him bluntly that there are thousands of others, and he needs to go talk to some of them! And that experience of community would be another “consumable” event that Elijah would experience over and over again to give him strength for his journey …

God really is the most durable reality in our lives. But as with Elijah, God is most powerful and helpful in our lives when God also is a “consumable” reality. And I think that’s why Jesus keeps speaking of himself as the “bread of life” over and over again.

“Bread” gives you strength for the journey of life and the journey of faith. And to experience that kind of “bread” in our lives, we need God to be a “consumable” part of our everyday existence, not just a durable thing in the background.

And so like Elijah, we also need the daily “consumable” of:

  • God’s presence in our everyday lives – that is, God isn’t supposed to be just part of the background, but someone we interact with through prayer and worship and even consuming the bread and wine of Jesus’ presence, so that we’re constantly nourished for our journey by the living experience of God each day…
  • Vision from God – which, as with Elijah, doesn’t usually mean that we have perfect clarity about what exactly the future holds; but it does mean we grow in confidence that God isn’t ever done with us, and that we have a reason to look forward to a new portion of the journey to which God calls us…
  • Community – in which none of us ever tries to go it alone. Instead, we also need the “consumable” experience of journeying together, so that through one another, God can give us strength to continue our journeys…

So even though God is the most durable reality of our lives, make sure God remains a consumable reality as well. Open yourself to God’s living presence in the daily reality of your life. Look for the guidance that God is giving you each day, even if it sounds as simple as “get some food or the journey will be too much for you!” And be part of the community that God has called together, so that you can both receive and share the bread of life.