Thankful at IDMS

A message for my school today, given at our all-school Eucharist. Also, a new, current photo for the annals:

tim cropped

John 6:25-35

1.

What is Jesus talking about?

Today we hear a story about a crowd who search for Jesus and find him. But he then asks them, “Why are you looking for me? Do you want me to do more miracles for you? Are you hungry again? Is that it? Do you want me to feed you more bread?”

And a little later, he tells the people, “I am the bread from heaven, the bread that gives life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I remember being really hungry last Thanksgiving; and I plan to be really, really hungry this Thanksgiving.

Also, in the year in between, I can remember feeling really, really, really hungry at least a couple of times—like when I fasted on Good Friday.

But today Jesus says he’s the bread from heaven; and that if I come to him—which I do—then I will never be hungry again.

But I do become hungry again. Again and again, in fact—everyday!

Is this another one of Jesus’ irritating riddles? Just what is he talking about?

2.

So, let’s back up a bit; let’s see if the context, the bigger picture, helps us.

Just before today’s story—which is from the Gospel of John—we find another story, a well-known story, about Jesus feeding five thousand people. Do you remember?

Jesus saw a large crowd and realized they had no food with them. They were hungry, all five thousand of them. So, Jesus formulated a rather grand vision: to feed them all.

Good idea!

But then his disciple Philip came onto the scene. Philip heard Jesus’ vision and was immediately overwhelmed by the vastness of it. “How we gonna do that, Jesus?” Philip asked. “Six months’ wages wouldn’t buy enough food to feed everyone even a little!”

Jesus’ vision was big. The funding seemed impossible. Philip was paralyzed.

Fortunately, another disciple named Andrew was there too. And with Andrew a little hope, it seemed, shone through a cloud of doubt. “Here’s a boy,” Andrew told Jesus hopefully, “with five barley loaves and two small fish. But, oh,” (and the silver lining fades) “what are these among so many?”

Well, here, at least, was something Jesus could work with. In Andrew, in the boy, in both, there shone a little glimmer of faith.

So—we know the story—Jesus took that little glimmer and, through love, turned it into so much food that all five thousand people were fed; and twelve basketfuls were left over!

It was a bona fide miracle, one from which we could learn a lot about dreaming big!

3.

But that—dreaming big—is not the point of today’s story. Instead, that miracle merely sets the stage for today’s story.

Today, our theme is Thanksgiving; and today we see people from this same miracle-witnessing crowd seeking Jesus. But they’re not seeking him to thank him. Instead, today, they’re seeking him for all the wrong reasons.

For starters, they’re hungry. Jesus fed them quite satisfactorily yesterday; and so, they reason, maybe he will feed us again today.

Um, I want to say, you’re missing the point!

Next, some of these miracle-seeking people see Jesus and insert their own agenda. He just organized a big event; he showed no small amount of competence; and he said some really good things too. So, these agenda-inserters look at each other, perhaps facepalming themselves, and exclaim, “Imagine what a great political leader he would make!”

Again, I want to say, you’re missing the point!

And then there are some people who just want to witness more magic. These magic-seekers are the people who ask Jesus, “What sign are you going to give us, then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you going to perform?”

Really! “What sign are you going to give us?” Didn’t he just feed 5,000 people yesterday; and today you want another sign? Good grief!

And, once again, you’re missing the point!

Anyway, do you see where this is going? This miracle-witnessing crowd was seeking Jesus for all the wrong reasons! Their question was always, “What will Jesus do for me? How will Jesus meet my needs?”

And our take-home lesson from today? By seeking Jesus in a self-absorbed way, they were not thankful.

People who seek Jesus for the wonderful, the spectacular, or the miraculous end up missing out on opportunities to be thankful in the small, daily details of life.

That’s the point!

Five thousand people were fed yesterday, sure. But today, right in their midst, Jesus is the true bread from heaven, the bread that feeds our souls so that our spiritual hunger is satisfied—and our eyes are open to gratitude, thankfulness.

4.

Now, we’re in this chapel celebrating Thanksgiving. That’s what the word Eucharist means—did you know that? Thanksgiving!

So, let’s ask ourselves, what are we thankful for today, right now? How is God showing us God’s very self, right in our midst, right in the day-to-day lives we live?

I’m not asking us to recall something amazing, spectacular, or miraculous.

Rather, where do we find God in the midst of our households? Are we able to find something we’re thankful for, for instance, in a little sister, in a big brother, in a second cousin?

What about here at school? For what are you thankful about Imago Dei Middle School?

For some of you, maybe even most of you, this isn’t too difficult: you’re thankful for food, friends, teachers, education, Playformance, electives, camp, and so on.

Well and good!

But for others of you, it’s not so easy. School feels like a burdensome obligation to you, a chore. It’s just something you have to do. You go to school because your mom or dad or guardian makes you.

And when school’s a burden, I know, it’s not so easy to be thankful.

Well, either way—whether thankfulness comes easy for you or not—I want to conclude my chapel talk today with a challenge that comes from the story we heard about Jesus and that miracle-seeking crowd.

My challenge is this: Please, scholars, don’t expect Imago Dei to serve you.

Now, here’s why I issue this challenge. The people in today’s story expected Jesus to serve them, to meet their needs. They asked, “What can Jesus do for me?” And, in doing so, they missed out on an abundance of opportunities to be thankful.

It’s the same with school. If you and I and the other teachers and students only ask, “What can Imago Dei do for me?” we miss out on tremendous and numerous opportunities to be thankful in our day-to-day life together.

Instead, let’s ask, “What can I offer to Imago Dei? How can I make Imago Dei an even better place, an even stronger community? What gifts and talents do I have to offer?”

And then! That shift in perspective—guaranteed!—will leave us all even more thankful than we already are.

Come to the Eucharist—to Thanksgiving—bringing what you have to offer!

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