Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

No Crust

August 5th:

No Crust
Call:           Psalm 51: 1-12 (785)
Text:           John 6: 24-35tree brank

                                No Crust

I have always been fascinated - and reminded - by the old story
        Of the three blind men and the elephant.

One of the blind men touches the trunk
The second touches the tusk
The third touches the body

Then they talk with each other

        "An elephant is like a snake without a head" the first one explains
        "No, an elephant is like a very hard, but smooth tree branch"
                Chimes in blind man number two
        The third corrects them
                "You are both wrong, an elephant is like a big, roughly carpeted wall

All three men are right.
But all three have given us inadequate descriptions of an elephant.
        Certainly, those of us with sight would not recognize one.

The story of the blind men and the elephant
        Is a caution to each of us that

when one limits his/her thoughts
to only one aspect of anything, anyone, or any place
                that person will come away with an inadequate understanding
                        of the thing    the person              or the place.

Even though those thoughts are accurate
Even though those thoughts provide useful information
        Information that is valuable and worthwhile
- so long as its inadequacy and limitations are recognized

This caution applies to how we view and understand God.

All we have to do is turn back to hymn 113
The hymn that we sang just about fifteen minutes ago

The words of the hymn are almost exclusively images of God
Source and sovereign            Rock and cloud
Fortress, fountain, shelter, light
Judge, defender                         Mercy, might
Life whose life all life endowed

God is the source of everything
And God is the sovereign or king over everything

God is the rock which supports us and prevents us from sinking
And God is the cloud
The cloud that that leads us like it led the Israelites out of Egypt
The cloud that symbolizes Christ's presence
        Like was promised at his ascension
God is our fortress of protection
God is the fountain of everything
including knowledge and wisdom and love
God is our shelter from the elements
God is our light that brightens the path so that we can see where to go
God is mercy and yet God is might

And God is the life     whose life              all life endowed
        In other words without God there would be no other life.

Thirteen images!   And this is just the first verse.    There are two more
        Two more verses made up of images of God
        Each valid - none complete.

And these verses are connected by a refrain
        That is a prayer that God's church will always
Recall, remember, and be aware
                That no single holy name
                But rather the truth behind them
                Is what we Christians proclaim.

When you and I limit ourselves to seeing God as only one
        "God is love"   "God is king"
We limit our ability to understand, appreciate, serve, and share God.

We then are the blind men - or women, this error is not gender specific-
        Thinking we understand the elephant.

That is why     Tom Troeger wrote this hymn
That is what    we are saying when we sing it.
Recognizing this should inspire us to look at each of the images
        But while looking at each, continuing to understand that that image
May describe the trunk, the tusk, or the big body
        But not the full elephant
                For that we need all three      - and we need more

Likewise, when trying to understand God,
        Even Troeger's three verses are incomplete

Today, we look at one of those images
an image we find in Troeger's second verse.

        Word and wisdom root and vine
        Shepherd, Savior        servant lamb
        Well and water          bread and wine
        Way who leads us to "I AM"

In the scripture John presents Christ as the "bread of life."
[John 6: 24-35]

John was a fine writer.

To impress this image on us, he introduces it
        Not at the last supper
        Not at Emmaus           (which only Luke describes)
Even though they are the scriptures
Which we most closely identify with the sacrament of communion

Instead John introduces the image shortly after telling of
the feeding of the multitude
        and of Jesus, after praying on the mountain,
                walking across the water to meet his disciples.

The crowd referred to in the beginning of the text
        Is the very same crowd that, on the day before, Christ had fed
                With the five loaves of bread and the two fish.

And Jesus tells them
        Not to be motivated and controlled by that bread
For that bread perishes
        But rather to be motivated and controlled by the food that endures for eternal life.

As they question him about this, he finally declares to them
        "I am the bread of life"
        "Whoever comes to me will never be hungry
        And whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

In other words, believing in and following Christ
are more important than our human needs
                Even the most essential of those needs:   Food and drink

If you really want to live, [Christ says]
then accept me as the most essential thing in your life.

This tells us that in our sacrament
        We are to accept the bread baked with human hands
as the bread that gives us life

As we physically take and eat the bread
        We see it as Christ putting his love and his life into us
        And our receiving the nourishment that we need to really live.

To the people of Christ's day and place
        There was nothing more essential than bread

And so in this image of Christ as the bread of life
        Christ tells us that as the bread of life
        There is nothing more essential than he.

And then he offers himself to us.

As you and I move to the sacrament we have a choice
        We can go through the motions
Or      We can be awed that we are receiving the bread of life,
                A bread that is wrapped not in crust
                        Which many children - and some adults - won't eat
                But wrapped in his love
which even the children embrace and seek

                a bread that he used to illustrate and foretell his death for us

A bread that we receive as a gift
                Not as an award or a payment for anything we have done

It's your choice.               And it's my choice
        We can choose the perishable bread baked by human hands or
        We can choose the nonperishable, eternally lasting bread of life.

The truth is that it shouldn't be a hard choice for either of us.