John 6: 24-35
In this day of religious branding for all sorts of things and reasons in the church, to use the word ‘seeker’ takes on Evangelical cadence. A lot of more fundamental churches have used this moniker; those who are ‘seeker friendly, purpose driven’ churches like Willow Creek in Chicago and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California. It speaks to a whole lot of people since these types of churches are some of the faster growing churches in America. What they know is, people seek and so they give answers and are pretty clear cut about it.
But it’s not that easy and we can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Because honestly, and in all actuality, we are all seekers. We seek spiritual fulfillment. We seek deep meaning for our lives. We seek the exotic in the mundane corridors that we’ve all walked and we all seek to be loved. Just like our forebears who came to the shores of these United States who sought out religious freedom, we are seekers too who stand in a long line of tradition.
The people in Jesus day followed him from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other. They sought him from Tiberius to Capernaum. They sought him up the mountain and down to the seashore. They followed him around until they cornered him and then showered him with their questions, doubts and fears. Probably their questions were not all that different than ours. We just have the advancements, complexities and advantages that 2,000 years will bring.
So let’s pull this piece of scripture apart and see what meaning it might have for our lives. The large crowd had dispersed, you remember from last week Jesus had just fed a crowd of about 5,000 people. The next day they went in search of Jesus. They had kept their eye on Jesus and watched him. They watched the activity down at the dock, who was getting into the boats and who was not on a boat. They were persistent in their seeking and finally found Jesus on the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
Then the questioning begins. ‘When did you get here?’ the people wanted to know. Seems like Jesus was a bit put off though rather than impressed with their sleuth work. He chides them, ‘You sought me out because I gave you something to eat not because you were able to glimpse God through me.’ Jesus, if you haven’t guessed it by now, always thinks much deeper than the crowds.
And he continues, ‘Don’t work for food that will eventually rot and die, work for something that will last’. He is still trying to help them understand that God is the only one who can bring them peace but then they get hung up on the word work that Jesus used. ‘What do we have to do? What God works do we have to perform? Give us a clue as to who you are’.
‘Believe in me,’ Jesus replied. ‘That’s your work!’ “Just believe in ME!”
They were still searching, still seeking. Jesus had to point out that Moses wasn’t the miracle-worker, God was the one who had supplied the sustenance for their living. So too, Jesus is the bread of life, through him God will be indelibly imprinted upon your hearts. God is the ultimate miracle worker, peace bringer, hunger satisfier.
Franseiska, a young German woman of 24 years, also a volunteer at Grandchamp like myself, was telling me about the previous year she had spent at Taize in France. Taize, a community very similar to Grandchamp, is a place that ministers primarily to young adults. The brothers live and work in the tradition of prayer, song, and silence, much like Grandchamp but have focused their ministry on young adults.
And because it is for young adults the older adults, those who are over 29, take a back seat or rather are given different attention. As Franseiska explained, ‘for elders’ as they are called, ‘questions about life are different, what they seek from the experience is different.’
When we are young we seek to find our place in the world because the world is large and time is endless. When we are elders we know our place, what we’ve accomplished and what will be left undone (and it’s ok) and we seek to find meaning for the time we have left. To seek is good. To seek spiritual refreshment in Christ is excellent.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant simply when he said, “I am the bread of life”. We know we need sustenance each day, that we can only live so long without food and drink, we need the living Christ within our hearts foremost each day because it is he who will lead us into the presence of God who will hear our questions and who will give thanks in our seeking. And in this broken world we need a place of shalom in which we can reside.
At Taize many questions are answered simply by giving oneself over and residing in the presence of God. 'Just believe', Jesus said, 'that's your work, just believe'.
Rainier Maria Rilke said in “Letters to a Young Poet”, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and…books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live….into the answer.”
Rilke, Taize, Jesus, they are all right! Peace and joy, comes from God and from living the questions in the very present. God gives meaning to life just because. In God’s presence we have meaning simply because we live and breath. So if you have to live the questions, live in God’s presence because you must, live in peace because you will.