Who Gives You This Bread?

It wasn’t. But it could have been me. Or you. It might be yet, what with the holiday shopping season just ahead. A shopper at the mall, pooped, plops down in one of those little alcoves near the Cinnabon, or that favorite cookie counter. ‘Time for a coffee break. She buys herself a little bag of cookies and puts them in her shopping bag. She lines up for coffee, finds a place to sit. The table’s got some other folks there too. She settles. She takes the lid off her cup and takes out a magazine, sips her coffee. Across the table a man reads his newspaper. After a minute, she reaches out and takes a cookie. The man seated across the table takes one, too. This totally surprises her, but she just smiles. A few moments later she takes another cookie. He does, too. Now she’s a tad irritated. He should get his own cookies! A few sips later, she takes another cookie. So does the gentleman. Now she’s upset — especially since only one cookie’s left. The man also sees this. Before she can say a thing, he breaks it, offers half to her, and downs the rest. He smiles at her, picks up his paper and leaves…. Is she steamed! Her coffee break’s ruined. Already thinking of how she’ll tell her family of this, she folds her magazine, opens her shopping bag… and discovers her own bag of cookies… unopened! Oops! ‘Coulda been me. ‘Coulda been you. What we think we provide for ourselves, has come from Another. Thank God. No wonder Jesus has this question for us: who gives you this bread?

Who gives you this bread? How’d you get what you’ve got? That’s really the question Jesus wants us to confront. If you love Jesus, you gotta love John for his stories of Christ-along-the-way. Oh, first he tells the big story… like the feeding of the 5000. But then he follows up… with the little story… that often tells the most telling tale. It’s true in John 6, as Linda has read. Following the feeding, Jesus boats off across the Galilee. When the coming crowds catch wind of it, they too set sail, just to come to Jesus. … When they catch up to him, Christ challenges them, “You’re not after me for sure signs of heaven, you just want me for a meal ticket. Don’t settle for food with a short shelf life; hold out for eternal bread. That’s my brand… and God himself has set his seal on it!” (Good Housekeeping, eat your heart out.) “Lord, Moses gave Israel manna in the wilderness. What’ve you got for us?” they ask. Jesus says, “It’s not about what Moses gives or I give, it’s about what God gives! It turns out I am the bread. Believe that, believe me, and you’ll never be hungry and always be full!” Jesus offers himself to folks who don’t quite get it, folks like…us. Near-sighted, we might say. They’ll follow Moses, follow Jesus, follow here, follow there, anyone and anywhere. Dinner’s the deal. And they’ll go after anyone who delivers. Jesus says look sharper, feel deeper, ask yourself before you offer yourself as a follower, from where does my bread, all that sustains me, really come?

Except for Thanksgiving time, we’re prone to answer that our bread’s on the table by the sweat of our own brow. We become our own Moses, providing our own manna! Our culture celebrates self-reliance. Our founding creed declares independence. We teach our kids to stand on their own two feet. We go farther. We move beyond the bread of our needs to the desserts of our never-get-our-fill desires. The latest electronics. Those houses in the magazines, McMansions on the hillside or rehabs reborn like This Old House. And schedules, oh, our schedules, designed to do and have it all… and leave nothing out. Friday, Bev & I even splurged. Dinner at that famous French eatery, Chez SubWAY. Behold: a dad, fresh from work, tie still on, with a date: his 5 yr. old daughter, enchanting to see them. He treated her so lovingly. Then he reviewed their Saturday plans. The gym, ballet lessons, the mall, a lunch, a movie, a party at a friends…and MORE! Whew! I wondered if they’d be in church on Sunday. Will either of them hear of the One who feeds the 1000’s? Will either hear that it’s not the meal he serves, but he himself, who can make them feel full, body and soul, from now ‘til eternity rolls? Will they hear, do we, that Jesus is our bread, and God, Godself, is our real provider? Thank God! Not just with a day of thanksgiving, but with a life of thanks living!

What kind of bread are you really after in this life? Jesus wants to know. What, and how much are enough? What are you prepared to feed on (in your heart by faith, with thanksgiving, as the old Communion ritual used to say)? Maybe you just want white bread or rye, hearty Italian or whole grain, just a wrap, or some of that fancier stuff. ‘Bread with names that take longer to pronounce than their substance keeps us full in our tummies. Have you considered spiritual bread? Jesus says, I’m your bread! Listen how he nourishes:

• “I AM the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” (John 6:51)
• “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Here’s someone inside us to help us when we feel we’re “in the dark.”

• Jesus says, “You are from below; I AM from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” (John 8:23) Wouldn’t you like to make your way, knowing there’s a little heaven-on-earth inside you every day?
• “I AM the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). Just imagine such direction for your life that when you start your day, it’s like there’s a sign that says, “Enter here”! And when you do, you’re confident that at the end of the day you won’t feel spirit or heart hungry. O, what pastures are these!
• “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) We often say here, we are called to be witnesses for Jesus. Well, here Jesus says to us, “ I offer witness protection like none other! I’ll rest you when life hassles you, lead you beside waters I’ve calmed. I’ll restore your soul. I’ll aid you in your relationship with others, even with me… and I’ll be with you when you walk through every valley of the shadow…. No fear!

• Jesus says, “I AM the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, they will live (John 11:25).

• Jesus says, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Thanksgiving is the heaviest travel time of the year, but here’s the one (and only) journey that can take us all the way home!

• “I AM the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower” (John 15:1). Like a stem on a vine, tap into this truckline, and you can eat and drink from the taproot of Heaven!
Today, Christ wants us to know where we get our bread. And he desires us to choose the very best bread. He is that bread! And he hopes, he prays, we will come to the Table of Life he sets, with hearts filled with thanks and praise. Jesus would say “Amen” to Scripture’s advice, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Let everyone know your patience in waiting will soon be rewarded. The Lord is at hand. Don’t be up tight. In everything, pray. Openly ask God for what you want, always giving thanks for what you’ve received. And you know what will happen? The peace of God that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4: 4-7) Jesus… Bread of life.

We began at a mall. Let’s end at Dunkin’ Doughnut, Thanksgiving morning. This homeless, kinda bummy guy, wanders in, ambles to the counter. He asks for coffee and a doughnut. The counter-kid’s unsure, calls the manager, who, in kindness, pours a coffee, gives a doughnut. ‘Not enough. The fella asks the clerk for a cream-fill and says he can pay with a rare coin he found on the street. By the boss’s example, a treat is produced. Ahhh… the delight… the joy of powdered sugar around the lips, and a little cream at the corner of the mouth, wiped with a sleeve. The guy disappears. The clerk feels stiffed. When cleaning up, a single dime lies on the unused napkin. There’s note left in crayon. “Here. To a bum, any coin is rare. God left it by your door for me. Thank God and Jesus. You, too.” Sometimes, even the down out know better than the up-and-coming or the have-it-mades… where bread really comes from. And they pick the right kind… the kind that lasts. The Jesus kind. And they give good thanks. And they live it in their own way.

May we know how to answer, when Jesus turns and asks,

“Who gives you this bread?”

And may we give thanks to the Giver, every single day.

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