+ Day of Thanksgiving, November 28th, 2013 +
St. Michael’s Lutheran - Portland, OR
Psalm 100; Deut. 26:1-11; Philippians 4:4-9; John 6:25-35
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Give us this day our daily bread,” we pray. And of course daily bread is more than that baked lump of dough loafing around on your table. Daily Bread includes all that is needed for this body and life. Bread is sustenance and life.
But there’s a bit of irony in Jesus’ words “I AM the Bread of Life.”
Because whether or not you top it with melted butter or home-made raspberry jam; whether you call it artisan, organic, or fresh-baked; as good as it tastes, bread is the food of the fall:
"...cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
As Grandpa Schuldheisz used to say: “The whiter the bread the quicker you’re dead.” Bread is the food of death. East of Eden, bread equals labor. When you plop that dinner roll on the heap of your thanksgiving plate today think about how much work it took to get there.
Seeds are sown. The farmer harvests. The miller grinds. The baker bakes. The truck delivers. The shelves are stocked. The grocer sells. Then you buy, with money earned from your labor, unless it’s homemade. Either way, God uses the fruit of his creation to feed, sustain, and bless our bodies.
It was true in the Old Testament: manna in the wilderness; bread in the sacrifices of the tabernacle and temple; bread in the Passover. It’s true in the New Testament: Jesus is born in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread.” Jesus fed thousands. Jesus ate and drank with sinners. Jesus is the Bread of Life. God gives through means.
For God’s people thanksgiving is remembering. Remembering what Christ gives us and how he gives it to us. Remembering the Giver and the gift.
So it’s good to thank farmers, butchers, and bakers – all those people doing dirty jobs serving others. We give thanks knowing that God works through others to provide and protect His creation. God is hidden behind these extraordinarily ordinary “masks.” Certainly God could zap food on our table like a wizard, but He gives through means.
Thanksgiving is remembering. O bless the Lord, my soul and forget not all his benefits (Psalm 103).
But we do. We forget. We overlook God’s hidden work through earthly means. We idolize the gift and ignore the Giver. We treat Jesus like a divine bread machine. We’re no different than the crowds following Jesus, so anxious, worried, and grumbling about what we don’t have, that we forget what we do have. “Do not labor for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
Thanksgiving is remembering. But remembering works two ways. Thanksgiving begins, not in the poverty of our heart, but in the richness of a Giving God. Before God we’re all beggars. Thanksgiving isn’t about what you do for God, but about what God does for you. Jesus doesn’t benefit from our thanking Him. It’s the other way around. Christ gives into empty hands. The more we thank God the Father through Jesus Christ His dear Son, the more we recognize how generously and bountifully He deals with us.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Eucharist. That’s Greek for “thanksgiving.” It’s another name for the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. And true Thanksgiving is to receive the Lord’s Supper. All other thanksgiving feasts are but a shadow. There is no higher worship of Christ than to receive his gifts. We Christians are a Eucharistic people.
For man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. “I AM the Bread of Life...Eat of this bread, and you will live forever.” Ordinary bread we eat to our death. Even the manna in the wilderness didn’t save Israel. But the Bread of Life is different.
In the Eucharist, Jesus takes ordinary, earthly bread and turns it into an extraordinary, heavenly meal. Jesus takes the bread of the fall and redeems it in his death. The food of the curse is now the food of blessing. It’s not metaphorical, symbolic, or figurative language. Jesus means what he says. Jesus’ is your Bread of Life. The Eucharist is your Bread of Life.
Here’s the one feast that won't run out, or leave you full and feeling sick afterwards. This meal endures - unlike the mashed potatoes, gravy, drumsticks, and the Lions winning record.
I AM the Bread of Life. And how is bread made? Seeds of grain are cast into the earth, harvested, ground into flour, mixed with yeast and other ingredients, kneaded, baked, and finally consumed. So it is with Jesus, the Bread of Life. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.” Jesus’ body and blood, given and shed for you, true living fruit from the cross. Give us this day our daily Bread of Life.
Now there’s a reason for thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is remembering. Remembering that Jesus’ death is your life. And Jesus remembering your sins no more – all our grumbling, doubt, worry, and ungrateful sinfulness - forgiven.
“I AM the Living Bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread he will live forever. And the bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Come to the Altar, eat, drink, and live. Jesus, the Bread of Life, is your host, waiter, and food.
A blessed Eucharist to you all.