Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Christian Armor?

Christian armor? 
Ephesians 6:10-20
August 26, 2012
Small pieces of clay for distribution

The author of this letter has written several pages on what it means to live in Christ (remember Chris’s first sermon?!)—he describes a transformed life that runs counter to the culture of the day, especially as regards the new community’s make up of very different people who’d otherwise be kept apart—in this case Jews and non-Jews.

This comes towards the end of the letter, as a kind of summary and encouragement.  A couple of things about the wording and the cultural setting so we don’t get distracted by certain phrases: 

first, ‘in the heavenly places’ and ‘powers of darkness’ reflect the cosmology of the day.  In that place and time, angels and demons and spirits participate in what happens on earth - there’s a free movement of good and evil forces in all dimensions of life.  Chris might say its mystical language, and that may be so.  Certainly, to the ordinary person, these forces are real, and evident in human structures and systems and powers that be. Our cosmology may be different, but is it not true that there are forces at work that stand in direct opposition to that good news of peace that comes through Jesus?...forces based on the opposites of God’s armor:
lies and dishonesty instead of truth
violent or hurtful behavior instead of  lives of integrity
wishy washy values instead of clear Jesus values
creation of barriers of discrimination based on fear
vested interests and own own agendas taking
     precedence over seeking God’s call.

Ephesians says we are to live a transformed life.

Secondly, each piece of armor he mentions corresponds to something he’s already said in the letter about that – truth, right living, the gospel of peace and so on.  So we must be careful not to take this little passage out of context and read into it our personal definitions of those attributes.  Note that this is about GOD’S armor.   This was a common enough image for God’s strength as far back at least as Isaiah; in fact it’s Isaiah’s language he’s using.

But for Christians today it’s a dangerous image when applied to human believers, and can lead, and has led, to zealous militarism and warfare in the name of God throughout the centuries, and still is today.  One author I read this week said “killing is bad enough, but if people can kill in the name of their God, somehow the whole achievement can be seen as good and worthwhile” (wm Loader)

But Ephesians isn’t about conquest; it’s about resistance to powers that work against God’s way that is described through the letter: transformation of the world through love and reconciliation, unity in difference, and overcoming of barriers, religious and otherwise.  The same author says that “the Christ agenda controls the [armor] imagery, rather than the imagery controlling the Christian agenda”   We might do well to remember that in the midst of the current political rhetoric littered with faith words and concepts used to further our own agendas.

Ephesians in fact reworks the image from a common militaristic one to a very non-militaristic  one.

Usually armor is a sign of self-protection and self-reliance, individually and nationally.  Ephesians turns that around to a sign of radical reliance on God.

Instead of a passage inciting us to violence and justification of war, as it has been used, it reminds us our protection from evil and our pro-activity for good come not from metal and weapons but from God-stuff: truth, salvation or security, peace, faithfulness, etc.

Rather than arming, it’s about dis-arming, about resistance.  I mean, think about our last hymn, does this sound like warfare:  heal the sick, preach the word, baptizes teach bring about  a just society?

Of course not.

But make no mistake, if we live a transformed life, live with different priorities and values from our surrounding culture,  we do in many ways live embattled.  The forces against us are strong….ask any parent whose youth is in Sunday sports that competes with church.   We need armor.

So let’s take a moment of meditative reflection on this armor, imagining for ourselves, individually and as a congregation, what it means to live a transformed, alternative life depending on God-stuff instead of cultural stuff….

The ushers are bringing baskets with pieces of clay for you to hold and mold as you reflect….hold it until you begin to mold it into some symbol of what God is saying to you in this quiet time…

Close your eyes if it helps, or focus your sight on some item – your hands, the cross, a candle, the pattern on the back of the pew in front of you…

Put on the belt of truth….what is God’s core truth that you claim for your own, that is what holds everything else up, like a belt on a Roman toga?…is it fastened well? …does it free you for movement, unrestrained by what might trip you up?
The breastplate of goodness and right-living protects heart and life, and is upfront and visible to all……
Put on shoes of peace-making….shoes are for readiness to stand and move….no one-size fits all, but ‘whatever makes for proclaiming peace’…some might be soft-soled/souled slippers, others steel toed workboots….where do your feet take you that makes peace?  Buechner once wrote “if you want to know who you really are, as distinct from who you like to think you are, keep an eye on where your feet take you.”  Our feet, not just our words, take us towards where peace needs to be proclaimed…..don’t they?   As someone said to me yesterday, if you want to leave footprints, first you have to get up and walk…..
Take up the shield of faith against the flaming arrows….. what are some of the forces that compete with, distract from or even betray our Christian faith and living?.....  But the shield isn’t just about a set of beliefs that we use to protect ourselves.  It is also about faithfulness to, and trust in, God’s way, so we stand strong against the assaults of those who do not know the gospel is about peace, not competition, about love, not division……
The helmet of salvation….remember your baptism, when the touch of God’s unconditional love and grace was marked on your forehead forever?  Our salvation, our security, our purpose in what we’re saved for, lies in that gift, not in our own brain power, great as it may be…..it is a gift given to us, nothing we produce ourselves….
….and the sword of God’s word, like the shoes, is the active element of the image….not just passively armed against the culture’s assault, but proactively engaging in challenging the structures and systems that divide the world….  Grounded in God’s word, and the Spirit’s power to make it alive, we may disagree on meaning of specific content, but the uniting overpowering message of scripture is that God is involved, active and expectant of our participation in the vision…
All these pieces of armor we have at our disposal…how well do I wear each one?  But more importantly, we must remember it’s the community Ephesians addresses…we wear this armor together so we can stand together. Together on the journey, says our congregation’s logo.

All this leads the author into a place beyond image, beyond bits and pieces of armor, the place of prayer…
He ends the section with a call to a prayer life that is serious, and persistent.  To live out God’s agenda instead of  any personal, or political, or school sports or media agenda, we need to stay focused….grounded in our ongoing relationship with God through prayer, so that when trouble comes, and it does, we are prepared, pre-prayered!

As you come back from your focus point, your reflective listening for God, you may have a form for your clay, already molded or still to be worked on….if you don’t want to keep this piece of clay, leave it in the baskets in the narthex.  But if you want a reminder of God’s call, challenge, or comfort to you today, take it home and bake it for about 10 minutes in a 275 degree oven…

Let me close with a story about South Africa during apartheid…..

Let's put on our armor, and dance.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

quote that hits home

Any spirituality that makes our hearts narrower than the globe is a bogus spirituality for sure. The world is filled with churchgoers and the world is filled with the obscenely poor. Go figure. (Joan Chittister)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Songs of faith or God's song?

Songs of faith 081912
Margaret Scott
(Psalm 111) Ephesians 5:15-20
Worship today was full of music, favourite hymns chosen by congregation sprinkled throughout the liturgy.

Children’s Message
Remember movie “Happy Feet”?  Mumble wasn’t like other penguins, he couldn’t sing like them. They all had a song in their hearts that came out of their mouths, but he didn’t, he just croaked.  But what did he find out, do you remember?
He found out his song came out in his feet…he was a great dancer!
All of us are different, we have different songs in us that God gives us to sing…you might sing with your voice, you might sing God’s song when you dance, you might sing God’s song when you draw….
God’s song is love.  God’s love for you which is this big it’s bigger than all of us….God’s love for everyone else, that God wants us to sing by acting loving, with our voices and our feet and our hands.
…be filled with the Spirit, singing and making melody to God….
When we are filled with the Spirit, music is one way we let that Spirit out, a way to express God’s song in our hearts: singing, making melody, giving thanks.
today’s selections come from your deep places where there is a Spirit to be let out
We began worship with songs of praise, as Ephesians calls us to do, but one glance at our hymnal will tell us there’s more to Spirit songs than praise….at different times in our lives the songs in our hearts come out in different ways—the Spirit of thanksgiving of course, but also a Spirit of comfort in times of sorrow,
or strength at weak times, or
hope in days of despair.

For some, the song in our heart has become a kind of theme song for all of life that we turn to at all the different times, like this one, Trust and Obey
It is wonderfully true that God’s Spirit can fill us, if we let it, in all of life’s journey, its ups and downs, twists and turns.

One of your choices I had only come across once before.  It’s called Life’s Railway  to Heaven.   Many of you won’t know it either but it uses the metaphor of a mountain railway for all of life’s journey
The last verse leads to the end of life and it goes,
As you roll across the trestle,
spanning Jordan’s swelling tide,
you behold the union depot
into which your train will glide. 
There you’ll meet the superintendent,
 God the Father, God the Son
with the hearty joyous plaudit,
“weary pilgrim, welcome home”

This shows another way we use music to cope with life: we let the Spirit of future hope bubble up in bad times as well as good, looking forward to heaven after death, as in our next song,
When the roll is called up yonder

So far we have heard all pretty old hymns, some from ancient texts and tunes, others from the 19th and early 20th century.

Apart from our praise hymns that are God centered, all somewhat individualistic and personal, lots of “I” and me words.  Even when they use “we” language its all about US …what we get for ourselves from our relationship with God: presence, comfort, strength, a home in heaven and so on.…and it’s wonderful, but very human centered.

Isn’t there something more to faith than praising God and celebrating what God does for us? It IS profound to be able to witness to what God has done for us, but there’s a lot more to the Christian life of faith than that.

Surely the music we love in church, which sustains us beyond church, isn’t the primary point….surely faith is something more than praising God and feeling good and getting through difficult times?

If that’s what it’s all about, no wonder the mainline church is dying from lack of relevance.

Another favourite is both a little more recent, (1986 the year I came to Fairport) and takes us a little deeper into the mystery of God.  Written between diagnosis and death, this song offers no answers, but rest deeply in the unknown:
Hymn of Promise

This “unknown”, this mystery, affirms that God can bring good out of bad, creation out of chaos, hope out of hurt.   THIS is the point of music, the deep heart song of the cosmos that listens not to the music or words themselves, but to the conductor, the music director, the composer of the heart song, the “I am” Chris has been talking about.

And who better to express that cosmic heart song than Jesus, the Lord of the Dance….another song from the last ½ of the 20th century…who points away from US to  the eternal “I am” who danced  on earth to invite us into something eternal, the Jesus who felt the song of God deep in his soul, and danced to that rhythm even through death
Lord of the dance

So our minds are lifted away from ourselves, full circle back to God, whom we praised at the beginning of worship.

But  we’re still missing something, something I believe is utterly central to living the Jesus way, dancing with the Lord of the Dance, hearing the harmony of the universe…..
And that missing something in all these chosen hymns  so far is one reason the many people today don’t find the church relevant—one reason beyond the obvious age of the songs!—and that’s purpose.

In all of these all time favourites, we’re missing a vision for the transformation of the world back into what God created it to be: by good stewardship of resources and earth, by working for justice and alleviating poverty, by making a difference: in other words bringing about the kin-dom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

If what we’ve sung is all the world hears, then as my father used to say, we’re too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use.

It is truly marvelous to consider ourselves “saved”, or know we are in relationship with God, or call ourselves Christians and go to church: all good.  It IS awesome to know that the Spirit sustains us in all of life’s circumstances.

But the repentance Jesus calls us to is real.  If we’re ‘saved’ it’s not just FROM something, it’s FOR something.  Conversion means change. 

Not just individual and inward change so we can get into heaven and be strengthened on the way there, but corporate and outward change that produces disciples for nothing less than the transformation of the world.

Seek first the kin-dom of God, we’ll pray in a moment. THAT’S our first call—to bring forth the kingdom of justice, bring forth the kingdom of peace, bring forth the kingdom of mercy, bring forth the kingdom of God.   Nobody chose that much more modern song.

But that’s our primary calling—it was for Jesus, and it is for us if we follow him.

When we sing our final hymn today, Here I am, Lord, let us really hear the call of God in its words, 
let us deeply pray it as we sing it  
and let us mean it as we pray it

what we say with our lips may we mean in our hearts and what we mean in our hearts may we practice in our lives.

How do YOU sing God’s song?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

beyond the images (Chris Jewell)

I AM the bread of life.  ANOCHI, THE BREAD OF LIFE---Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. We hear the words---but do we hear, experience, the reality those words point to? Or is something in the way?
Last week I discussed the fact that John has historically been described as a mystical gospel. I mentioned that the word mystical points to the art of establishing conscious relation with the absolute or God. If I wish to establish a conscious relation with anything—including God, I must first direct my attention to it. This week at the Salvation Army a man in recovery said, and I am paraphrasing here, “Chris, my sponsor tells me to put my sobriety first and that everything else will work out.—that sounds like AA BS” The man, a person with a strict conservative church background, went on, “If Jesus tells me to do it I will—but not just because some white kid in AA tells me to.” I suggested that his sponsor was just emphasizing the importance of paying attention to the right stuff—to that which will nourish, sustain—help him stay sober. I explained that contemporary brain scientists say that attention is the driving force of development and change.   And I said, by the way, Jesus does have a saying that means the same thing as your sponsor’s advice to “put your recovery first.” I grabbed a bible and pointed to John 27, a verse we read last week. “Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life”, in other words, what are you paying attention to? What are you putting your energy into?  I went on, “that is what your sponsor is suggesting: pay attention to what will nourish you—put your energy into that which will sustain you---don’t let anything distract you from your ultimate concern—sobriety—right now you’re stuck on what and who you think your sponsor is—you don’t believe somebody that looks like him can teach you anything—you have an image of this guy that is preventing you from seeing what he wants to teach you” all of us—those in the church and those outside of the church can benefit from his sponsor’s advice to pay attention to what will ultimately sustain and nourish.  As we saw last week, John, all throughout his gospel, teaches us what he believes we should be paying attention to. He does this by consistently drawing our attention away from externals, back to the divine or spiritual represented by Jesus.  In our gospel reading today Jesus makes an outrageous claim to people that know him---or at least think they know him—in 6:35 he says, I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE WHOEVER COMES TO ME WILL NEVER BE HUNGRY AND WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER BE THIRSTY. And in verse 41 we hear how the people respond by murmuring or grumbling at him—in the Greek the word is gogguzo---our pew bibles may have it translated as complain—for the Greeks this was a word used to describe the sound of cooing doves, a murmuring in a low tone, a grumbling--- a kind of indistinct noise—how often do we miss ANOCHI, I AM, THE BREAD OF LIFE, because of murmuring, grumbling, verbal, and just as importantly, mental chatter or NOISE? How easily we are distracted. The people are gossiping about Jesus. How often have I participated in a noisy session of gossip that brings all the preoccupation and escape I desire? Too many times! Gossip is, it seems to me, the opposite of the state of faith,--for “Talking about others is an escape from oneself. And escape is the cause of restlessness—escape is by its very nature restless.” In our celebrity culture we are so obsessed with the affairs of other people and our technology seems to be making this worse. As we stare at these incredibly multiplying screens we become more and more externalized---AND INWARDLY EMPTY AS WE INTERACT WITH IMAGES. Throughout the gospel John consistently redirects our attention away from externals—why? The more externalized we are the more sensations and distractions we must have, and this gives rise to minds that are never quiet and that are incapable of deep search and discovery. If gossip and mental noise is an escape from self—then estrangement from I AM OR ANOCHI IS THE RESULT, for ancient Jewish mystics like Jesus engaged in a practice whereby they discovered the divine within. In fact this is a hallmark of 1st century Jewish mystical thought—that God was to be found within the temple of the body—in the 2cd chapter of the gospel of John Jesus refers to his body as a temple. It was by looking within that mystics in that culture were said to ascend to God. AND IF WE ARE TO BELIEVE THE REPORTS OF PEOPLE LIKE PAUL, AND THE GOSPEL WRITERS, THAT JOURNEY WITHIN MYSTERIOUSLY TRANSFORMED RELATIONSHIPS—SO THAT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WAS SPREAD OUT UPON THE EARTH. No wonder John’s Jesus is always redirecting our attention away from externals and back to himself—for he represents the nourishing, TRANSFORMING, sustaining experience of I AM or the Bread of life we can all have. In verse 42 we hear what the people are grumbling about, what they are saying—“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” Jesus has earlier talked about his heavenly father—and the people are once again stuck in the external or literal meaning of the word. If one is a literalist then one misses the deeper symbolic meaning behind the word. They miss it—no wonder Jesus so often sounds frustrated. Here is where I can certainly relate to the grumbling, murmuring crowd---they think they know Jesus—it is their ideas, their conclusions about Jesus that are preventing them from really experiencing the deeper level of truth he represents. Isn’t this Much like the contemporary Church?—hasn’t two thousand years of Christian tradition made many of us think we know Jesus?, hasn’t tradition constructed images of Jesus that prevent us from really seeing, hearing, and experiencing the Bread of Life? The Church has always been a battleground for people who think they know Jesus—history is littered with DUALING IMAGES OF JESUS. Currently There is the homophobic Jesus vs the Jesus who endorses gay marriage, the feminist Jesus vs the good old boy Jesus. The list could go on.  And the church stands like a murmuring crowd—full of all the mental noise this creates---and so they miss the nourishing, sustaining bread of life he is offering us. I suspect this Washington-like division is one of the major reasons many people stay away from church---they are hungry for the bread of life—not the murmuring crowd.  Unfortunately People like my-self can be the loudest mouths in the grumbling crowd—seminary education and research can—if one is not careful—construct a golden image of Jesus that then prevents the deeper experience of the mystery. Images and conclusions can be so dangerous in any kind of relationship—whether the relationship be with ONE’S SELF, ANOTHER PERSON, OR LIFE ITSELF. In the gospel story the grumbling, murmuring crowd, has an image of Jesus—and this prevents them from really experiencing him as he is in that present moment. That image is based on the past—this is little Jesus of Nazareth we know his parents—WE KNOW HIM—images are dangerous because they prevent us from REALLY PAYING ATTENTION—I KNOW YOU JESUS. I DON’T HAVE TO REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO YOU AS YOU ARE RIGHT NOW. Images allow us to transfer our experience of someone in the past to the present—and so the past covers up the present reality. reality is actually dynamic--my girlfriend cannot possibly be the same today as she was yesterday—for change is constant—but I have that image—so I don’t SEE that CHANGE, in other words, I don’t actually see my girlfriend, I see the image of my girlfriend—that is, like all images,  constructed in the past—like the crowd in our text I say I know you—I know where you come from---and thanks to the images I construct, I don’t have to pay attention to who YOU OR ANYBODY ELSE actually is in the present moment.  Images allow me to proceed without really paying attention. IMAGES DIVIDE. IMAGES SEGREGATE. IMAGES PREVENT RELATIONSHIP. BUT IF I GO DEEPER, BEYOND THE IMAGE, BEYOND THE EXTERNALS, I CAN EXPERIENCE I AM, THE BREAD OF LIFE, ANOCHI WITHIN NOT JUST MYSELF BUT WITHIN YOU AS WELL
In verses 43 and 44 we see Jesus does not approve of this grumbling, noisy crowd. HE basically says, don’t do that—stop it. And then Jesus, as he always does, points beyond himself toward THE ULTIMATE REALITY HE REPRESENTS, saying “no one comes to me unless drawn by the father who sent me” the Greek word for drawn carries the connotation of being pulled or compelled by an INWARD POWER—what we might call today a psychological shift or development. I cannot REALLY come to I AM, THE BREAD OF LIFE, unless I am pulled, drawn by God. Am I being pulled? Do I feel this inward power grasping me? Am I being grasped by a power greater than myself? Am I being pulled beyond externals, BEYOND THE SURFACE, beyond my conclusions, beyond the images I have built up so that I can PAY ATTENTION TO, SEE, AND EXPERIENCE that NOURISHING, SUSTAINING dimension of reality called I AM OR THE BREAD OF LIFE. LET IT BE SO.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Am (8.5.12 Chris Jewell)

I am a big fan of the gospel of John. Much of this has to do with its highly symbolic writing—meaning the words point far beyond them-selves and open up another dimension of reality. In divinity school I discovered that approaching and going inside this text was an odd experience. You feel you are walking up on a structure like any other—let’s say your average house—but then you enter and discover that somehow the architect and the builders have managed to put the entire universe inside this little house. The infinite within the finite.
Last week Margaret explored John 6:16-21. In that text Jesus walks on the water and tells the disciples not to be afraid even though the sea is rough and they are watching a man walking on water. As Margaret told us, Jesus says something deeply fascinating to them in verse 21—as he approaches the disciple’s boat he says, “do not be afraid it is I”,  but in the original Greek it actually says, “do not be afraid—it is I AM”. This is precisely the reason I became fascinated by the gospel of John in divinity school—these mysterious “I AM” SAYINGS. These sayings alone tell us that John is a “mystical gospel”. In fact as early as the 3rd century CE, the gospel of John was being referred to as “the spiritual gospel”. Its author soon came to be called John the Theologos, (in English this word means “divine” or “theologian”)—a term that, in antiquity, suggested the mystic rather than the professional or academic theologian of today. The earliest commentaries on the book, written in the 2cd and 3rd centuries, both suggest the book is mystical.  I want to say what I mean by “mystical”—the word points to “the art of establishing conscious relation with the absolute—or in other words, THE ART OF ESTABLISHING CONSCIOUS RELATION WITH GOD.  If one wishes to establish a conscious relation to anything, including the Absolute or God, one begins by directing his or her attention to it. Attention is a key concept here, for as many of us know, what captures and holds our attention often seems to have a funny way of becoming our God—money, drugs, food, sex, the list is endless.   What I want to suggest right now is this: the goal of the author of the gospel of John is, for the audience, like the people who encounter Jesus in the gospel, to consciously focus their attention upon Jesus, the supreme revelation of God—the ultimate reality—that which brings all things into existence—and that which, ultimately, sustains all life. Throughout the gospel John is consistently redirecting the attention of his audience away from the external or material and back to the divine in Jesus—we will see an example of this as we explore today’s text.
The reading for today picks up at verse 24 of john’s sixth chapter. In this verse the crowd that was fed in the feeding of the five thousand is getting into a boat to go off and look for Jesus, for he has gone off by himself, realizing the crowd has misunderstood his mission—they want to make him a political leader—a Gandhi, a Jack Kennedy, a Martin Luther King, a Susan B.  Anthony—but Jesus is not a political leader—he is not a republican or a democrat---this is clear in John. Political leaders reform within the structure of society—as we all know they might shuffle the deck, modify the old creation—in the gospel of John Jesus does not represent reform within the structure of society—for Jesus is the man from heaven  and—his kingdom is not of this world—in John Jesus clearly represents a revolution from outside the structure—HE IS a very strange being—one that, as we saw in Margaret’s sermon, can do things like walk on water, terrifying even his closest followers. Having Jesus go off by himself is another example of John redirecting the reader’s attention away from the external and back to the divine. John is telling us—to begin understanding this being don’t look toward political reality—look beyond that—toward the spiritual level of reality.
Again, in verse 24 we hear that the crowd has gone looking for Jesus. And then in verse 25, they find him on the other side of the sea. They ask him, “Rabbi, when did you come here? And Jesus answers them in a way that reveals his deep dissatisfaction with his audience—in fact all through the gospel of John Jesus is quite critical of the people listening to him. Here, in what is for me, the most important piece of teaching in this text, Jesus says to them, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. DO NOT WORK FOR THE FOOD THAT PERISHES, BUT FOR THE FOOD THAT ENDURES FOR ETERNAL LIFE”. AGAIN John is redirecting attention from the material back to the divine or spiritual in Jesus. The bread here symbolizes the material level of reality—the crowd here REPRESENT CONSUMERS--THEY LOOK FOR JESUS BECAUSE HE SATISFIED THEIR MATERIALISTIC HUNGER--THAT IS WHY JESUS IS CRITICAL OF THEM. In our culture we often pick political leaders based on what they’ll do for the economy—our appetites, our lifestyles—our whole society is geared toward materialism—consumerism—our attention, our work is drawn into this level of reality from the time we are born. In 1999 I was thirty years old and I was looking at my life and my culture and I did not like what I saw—consumerism—an obsession with acquiring things—you were often a winner or a loser based on how much money you earned—what you did for a living.  That year a film called FIGHT CLUB was released. This is a quote from its lead character, “ADVERTISING HAS US CHASING CARS AND CLOTHES, WORKING JOBS WE HATE SO WE CAN BUY THINGS WE DON’T NEED”. Advertising grabs our attention, pulls us into, and holds us in the material level of reality.  Jesus is clearly against this—here he, this mysterious being that walks on water and calls himself I AM,  tells us not to work for that—but to work for food that endures for eternal life—in verse 29 we find out how we work for this spiritual food---through faith in Jesus---the one God has sent. That is where our attention should be—on Jesus, the human being from heaven. In Jesus’ first century apocalyptic Judaism faith meant BEING IN A STATE OF FAITH—brought about by DIRECTING ONE’S ATTENTION TO THE DIVINE in meditative practices. THIS WAS THE WORK THAT ONE DID FOR THE FOOD THAT ENDURES TO ETERNAL LIFE—and here in verse 29 John is doing for us, his readers, what Jesus is doing for the crowd—directing our attention toward this Being who represents the spiritual or divine level of reality.  In verse 30 the crowd sees Jesus is making himself a key figure and they respond skeptically, they say he must prove himself—and it would appropriate for him to do that  by providing more food. We are so often like the crowd—we respond skeptically to the divine and remain fixated on the material. Even when we feel called to help we remain fixated on externals. Often when I think of charity I think of money.  I don’t think of how I can transform myself through spiritual practices so I might actually be capable of loving them the way someone like Jesus might.
In verses 31 through 34 there is another exchange in which the crowd misunderstands Jesus and remains focused on the material, and they essentially ask Jesus to give them an endless supply of free food. By having Jesus redirect the crowd’s attention back to himself, John once again does the same to us—and here Jesus says something truly startling: he says IAM THE BREAD OF LIFE. WHOEVER COMES TO ME WILL NEVER BE HUNGRY AND WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER BE THIRSTY.  Talk about an attention grabber. Now we’re back to the beginning—what does this mysterious I AM mean anyway? I AM IS THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF ANOCHI, a name of God in the Jewish tradition.  ANOCHI literally translated means “I”. BUT ITS DEEPER, RELIGIOUS meaning is most interesting. A contemporary Rabbi SAYS THIS---Anochi is a NAME OF God FOUND in Exodus and elsewhere, it is a special name of God that carries the meaning of God within. So John, by having Jesus speak I AM sayings or Anochi, is redirecting his readers to God within---remember,  IN JOHN JESUS consistently tells people they are looking in the wrong direction when they focus on externals. That is because they should be directing their attention inward---toward I AM OR GOD WITHIN REPRESENTED BY JESUS IN THE GOSPEL. HERE IS THE REAL GOSPEL OR GOOD NEWS OF JOHN—IF WE DIRECT OUR ATTENTION TO THE BREAD OF LIFE THAT EXISTS WITHIN ALL OF US---WE WILL NEVER BE HUNGRY AND WE WILL NEVER BE THIRSTY! THANKS BE TO GOD!