Saturday, August 29, 2015


The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark, the 7th Chapter
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

When I got to my first church they were celebrating their 125th anniversary and two old traditions in the history caught my eye.  The first was The Lord’s Acre.  Back then, every family would dedicate an acre of their crops to mission work.  When I got there only a couple families still farmed and the tradition had faded with the family farms.  The other had been spittin’ your chewin’ tabbacky juice on the floor of the church!  Bringing that tradition to an end, according to the history, almost split the church!  Ah, tradition!

The Pharisees had traditions too.  Ancient Jerusalem was diverse.  Lots of people mixed together from all over the known world, so keeping the Jewish people together was a challenge.  One of the ways the Pharisees tried to help their people stick together was to create traditions around eating.  Washing yourself and your food in a ritual manner before eating created a barrier between the outside world, where work and play bumped you up against people of other faiths, and the inside, Jewish world.  

Well, that system made good sense in the city but out in the country... not so much.  In the country, the whole community was Jewish.  There just wasn’t a need to break from some, outside non-Jewish world, to an inside Jewish-only world... because well, the only people you ever bumped into anywhere were all Jews!  The city traditions just didn’t make any sense out in the country.  

But, out to the country the Pharisees came, looking to show how unfaithful Jesus was for not doing things the way they’d always been done.  Needless to say, making Jesus look unfaithful didn’t work.  But there was a bigger problem than the tradition no longer making any sense... the traditions had, for the Pharisees, become more important to them than God.  “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition,” Jesus told them.  They had become more worried about following the practices THEY had put in place than living the life God called them to live.  In their obsession with staying faithful, they had blindly walked right over the very FIRST of the Ten Commandments and turned their traditions into idols.

Now, it’s always tempting to give the Pharisees grief.  They make good fall-guys, but before we get too enthusiastic about piling on, it’s good to remember who the Pharisees were.  They were the regular attenders, the tithers, the ones who served on all the committees... they were the folks who took their faith the most seriously.  So, for me, just when I feel most tempted to give the Pharisees the hardest of times, I remember that the Pharisees not only show up in Scripture, but sometimes they show up in my mirror too.   

Think about the last time you found your favorite tradition was threatened by the chopping block.  Were you upset because that tradition helped you remember that one in five kids are hungry in our city or because it helped you forget it?  Do we get more worked up about hunger or hymnals?  Human rights or the right church rite?  Are we concerned for justice, or are we worried more about just us?  At what point does the tradition created to point us to God, tip over and become a god itself?  Those Pharisees aren’t just found in the pages of scripture.  They’re right there, all too annoyingly often in the mirror too.  

Jesus, when he was asked to sum up the faith, said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.”  In every time and place, wonderful, faithful people have started beautiful, powerful traditions.  Traditions which help transport us closer to God and deeper into the love of our neighbor.  But even the most amazing, powerful, beautiful and long held traditions... THEY AIN’T GOD!  So we always need to ask... Does this thing we do still point us toward God?  Does it still call us to a deeper love of God and neighbor?  Or has something happened and what used to help us connect with God, somehow now distract us from God and somehow now perversely keeps us from living lives of kindness, doing justice and walking humbly with God?  

Many, many of our traditions still do a wonderful, powerful, beautiful job of helping us connect with God and care for the world.  Sometimes a tradition that’s gotten off track might just need a new twist.  In my first church, the Lord’s Acre became the name of the church’s produce stand, the money still going to missions.  Other traditions, like spittin’ yer tabbacky on the sanctuary floor, probably need to stay comfortably retired!  

As we continue to welcome other churches and guests into what the Holy Spirit is stirring up in this place, there will be more and more traditions converging here.  We’ll need to take each one out, honor it for the work it has done, but also honestly examine it to make sure it still points us to God and caring for our neighbor.  Some will need to be tweaked and some retired and some will need to be created new.  We don’t often think about the start of a tradition but really, any tradition can be traced back to a couple of people who said, “Well, I don’t know, let’s try it this way.”
We Christians are people, who at our core, believe that Easter, transformation, new life, resurrection... those things only happen by way of Good Friday, letting go, commending of the spirit and the death of what came before.  Jesus didn’t just TELL us that truth, he lived, died and was raised to SHOW us that truth.  

May God continue to be with us in the exciting and ever changing days ahead, giving us courage each day to accept and even embrace the death of what was, so that we might all rise to the new life God has in store for us and for those who are on their way.  Amen. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Have You Decided?

The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 6th Chapter
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

“Have you been saved?”  When I’m asked that I say “YES”... because I am... and, well... because I like to mess with people who ask that question... I too fall short of the Glory of God it turns out!  Have you been asked WHEN you were saved?  When I’m asked that, I say “On the first Easter, about 2000 years ago!”  I know that’s not the answer they’re looking for, but that’s the truth... and I like to mess with people... like I said, I fall short of God's Glory!     

God’s done all the saving in Christ’s life, death and resurrection.  Like the hymn says, “The strife is O’er, the Battle Won!”  We baptize infants in part because it’s clear they can’t even make decisions about the potty, let alone salvation, which makes it really clear that salvation is God's doing and not theirs.  On that first Easter, God made the salvation decision for all of us and God’s decision was “YES!”  Christ’s resurrection included everyone and all of creation long before any of us were even gleams in anyone’s eyes.  Our traditions are pretty good at remembering that, but sometimes we forget that there actually are SOME decisions that ARE for us to make... NOT decisions that make or break salvation... but decisions about how we will choose to RESPOND to the gifts God has given us.  

It’s like the decision Joshua asked the people of Israel to make.  The people were IN the Promised Land.  They were there, so their decision would not determine if they got there or not 'cause...they were there!  Their decision was how would they RESPOND to the gift they had already been given.  The crowds that Jesus addressed faced a similar decision.  How would they RESPOND to the gift which God had given them in Jesus?  Jesus was there.  The gift was given.  A decision to not continue to follow Jesus wouldn’t cause God to vacuum Jesus back up to heaven and take salvation away!  But the crowds and the disciples DID have a decision to make.  Would they drink in the Jesus life... a life where they would not be in complete control... a life that included mystery and an uncertain future... a life that led them to do what was in the other’s best interest instead of focusing first on what’s in it for me and what makes ME feel good, OR... would they go a different way?    

In today’s story, a huge number of people chose to go a different way.  They simply couldn’t live in the mystery.  They couldn’t stand for their future to be out of their control so they decided... to step away.  To stop following the Jesus Way of living.  After they left, Jesus turned to the disciples and asked them to decide as well.  Would they continue to follow or not?  You see, neither Joshua nor Jesus wanted the people to “PLAY” at their faith any longer.  Both challenged the people... to EITHER go ALL IN and BE God’s people ALL THE WAY or don’t.  Wishy washy fence sitting was not an option. 

These days people lament declining church membership and it does make things interesting... no doubt.  Many also mourn the loss of a culture that pressured people to be members of churches in order to fit in, but I actually see those things as a gift!  It’s a gift because you are here because you have genuinely decided to respond to God’s gifts, not because it makes you look like a good American to your neighbors and not because it makes grandma happy and not because you need a church membership to advance in your career.  You’re here... at least I hope you’re here... because you have come to the decision that Jesus REALLY DOES have the words of eternal life.  You’re here because you’ve decided that drinking in the Jesus life... a life filled with generosity, compassion, radical inclusion, love and grace... brings this world a tiny bit closer to becoming the Kingdom of God each day and leads you toward a life overflowing with meaning, purpose, direction and joy!  You’re here, doing the hard and difficult and frightening work we’re doing, because you’d rather be part of a smaller group of dedicated, passionate, authentic, self declared saints and sinners, than a huge group of fake, plastic, superficial people trying to fill the hole in their souls with wealth and fame and popularity which, God knows, will never come close to filling that hole.  

The people answered Joshua, saying “We have decided to follow the LORD, for he is our God.”  Simon Peter answered for the group, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  You and I have the same decision to make... but it’s really not just one decision either.  Instead, it's about a million little decisions in every moment of every day.  Our decision is whether in this moment or that, will we choose to live in this world the Jesus Way, OR to follow the gods of this world that tell us to keep the OTHERS the DIFFERENT the STRANGER out; that there isn’t enough for everyone, so you better grab all you can no matter who it hurts; that cut-throat beats compassion and that power is stronger than love.   

We all have a million decisions just like that to make every day, in every interaction with every person we meet.  Will we follow the Jesus Way of living and draw the stranger in and put the other before ourselves?  Will we say the hurtful thing trying to make ourselves feel bigger by making someone else feel smaller or will we say the kind thing that lifts someone up?  Will we step on and demonize the poor, saying, “At least I’m not like that!” or will we care for the least, the last and the lost remembering that what we do to the least of these we do to Christ?  The Good News is that no matter if we choose the Jesus Way, OR in that particular moment fall short of the Glory of God and choose our own more fearful way, God’s decision FOR US remains unshakable and true.  

May God give each of us the power and the courage in each moment of our lives to choose to live our faith “ALL IN”... to fully drink in the life which God has given us freely in Christ.  May we drink in the Holy, the Eternal, the Transformational Life we have been given and may we courageously choose in each of those moments to live the Jesus Way.  Amen.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Padre Pollo's Holy Smoke Barbecue

The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 6th Chapter
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 
So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
It’s time for me to tell you about Padre Pollo’s Holy Smoke Barbecue.  It was a my brief venture into the barbecue business.  I sold my Q every Friday night at Crabtree Brewing out of a modified hot dog cart.  I did pulled pork all the time, ribs and brisket as specials.  I had Brunswick stew and a Tipsy Chicken sandwich.  All my own recipes and sauces.  It was good. 
Barbecue isn’t something to be taken lightly.  Barbecue is serious.  You can’t get it from a box or whip it up in an hour.  Barbecue requires a serious investment of time and effort.  Rubs need to be made, fires started and tended, sauce cooked... I cooked my pork shoulders at least nine hours over low heat made with only hickory wood.  
In a similar way, eating barbecue also requires an investment of time and takes effort.  You can’t eat real barbecue in the car, on the go.  Real barbecue requires a table, a roll of paper towels and both hands to make sure every piece gets gnawed off the bone.  
But the thing about real barbecue is that even though it demands a significant investment of time to create, and even though real barbecue insists upon a real effort to free every last bit of wonderful meat from the bone… IT’S SO WORTH IT!  The commitment, the investment of time and the effort... it’s all worth it for the wonderful, succulent, juicy, sweet and spicy richness that is barbecue.
Jesus said to the people, “Very truly I tell you, unless you gnaw on my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life, you’re lifeless!”  The translators toned down the language a bunch in this one.  Jesus really didn’t say eat here.  Jesus didn’t say take nice, polite, little bites, using the correct fork and sitting up straight with elbows off the table, linen napkin in your lap.  NO!  Jesus said GNAW.  He said roll up your sleeves, put your elbows on the table, grab that bone with both hands and chomp down!  Jesus said, “Get into it, get obsessed with it.  Get messy!  Get it stuck in your teeth and sauce on your face and don’t expect to keep your shirt clean!  None of that matters.  Just GNAW!  Which sounds great when you’re talking ribs at a picnic table with rolls of paper towels for napkins, but here we are talking about Jesus’s flesh... not baby back ribs and no amount of good table manners makes that alright!  And we haven’t even gotten to the drinking blood part yet!
Many of us have heard this flesh and blood talk for so long in church we don’t think of how shocking it really is anymore, but this isn’t just a symbol... this isn’t just a remembrance... Jesus really said, “Those who gnaw on my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.”  That was a challenge for the people back then... and if we’re paying attention now it should be a challenge for us as well!  “Those who gnaw on my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.”  Eeek!  
It’s frankly, shocking!  The crowd Jesus was telling this to couldn’t wrap their minds around what he was saying, and you know what, I’ve not yet met anyone who completely can.  How this Communion meal is fully Christ’s Body and Blood is beyond us all.  How in this meal we are given eternal life... it is a mystery without a solution and not even a group of meddling kids are going to solve it!  But in spite of the repulsive imagery... in spite of the unfathomable mystery, THAT is what Jesus was, and is, saying.  Gnawing on Jesus is the only thing that matters.  Gnawing on Jesus is the only thing that will feed us forever.  Nothing else gives life.
What this graphic image of gnawing on Jesus does, is call us, not just to a fast food meal wolfed down on the way to the next meeting.  That shocking image calls us to completely and totally make Jesus a part of every molecule of our being because he is the source of all goodness and life.  He is our true food and we are being called to invest EVERYTHING... all our time and all our being into making Jesus a part of every part of us.  Jesus is calling us to give every ounce of our entire effort to get in there and taste and see the goodness of the Lord.  
Like an amazing feast of real honest to goodness holy smoke barbecue, Jesus is asking each one of us to set aside REAL time... make the investment to mix the spices and put on the rub and then patiently, slowly, passionately smoke our faith over genuine hard wood... serving others, caring for those on the margins, studying, praying and living each day with patience and passion.  Jesus is calling us to become completely involved and completely internalize the gift of God’s infinite love and acceptance so that the Jesus-life becomes a core part of every aspect of our lives.  Our calling is to put into our faith life, the same kind of effort it takes to eat the meat off every bone of a whole rack of ribs to the very last miniscule morsel... to live lives of love, compassion, generosity, justice, kindness and humility until every last miniscule morsel of humanity knows down to their bones, how much they are loved by God and how much each of us has a place in God’s Kingdom. 
Being a Christian just isn’t like hitting the drive thru at McDonald’s for a McRib sandwich on a Sunday afternoon.  Being a Christian is more like spending the whole day mixing the spices, creating the sauce, tending the fire and slowly allowing a tough, low grade cut of meat to be lovingly, miraculously, beautifully transformed into the amazing gift from God that is barbecue.
Being a Christian is a serious thing that needs to be entered into with deep commitment, patience and passion.  But just like the rewards of preparing and cooking real barbecue are SO worth it, so too is the sweetness, the fullness and the abundant life that comes from taking the time to gnaw on Jesus.  Amen

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Tale of Two Trees

A Reading from 1st Kings, the 19th Chapter
Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. 
He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.
I want to tell you about two trees.  The first is the Broom Tree.  Elijah was a prophet and he had been through the wringer.  He was on the run from Jezebel, the queen of Israel, who wanted to kill him and so he ran... right out into the wilderness, sat down under a Broom Tree and asked to DIE.  He was DONE!  Before I went on vacation the K6 met.  
(The K6 is a group of five Episcopal Churches and one Lutheran Church in the Augusta, Maine area searching for ways to join together to do ministry in a changing environment.  Out of that group, St. Mark's and Prince of Peace joined together in January in the Prince of Peace facility sharing worship and clergy leadership.  Also out of the K6, a joint children's ministry called Mustard Seeds developed.  Now two additional churches are looking into joining the experiment sharing worship, one facility and clergy.)  
Before that meeting, St. Matthews and St. Barnabas were in “Broom Tree” mode.  They were DONE!  They were ready to just die.  We all know what sitting under the “Broom Tree” feels like... we’ve all been there.  But something changed.  Like Elijah, they had seen a new path and were ready to stand up and get on with God’s calling for them.  The thing is, what God was calling them to involves US!
Do you remember middle school?  The first person you wanted to ask out, or the first person you wanted to ask you out?  That pimply, voice cracking, note passing completely awkward time in your life?  That meeting... before I went on vacation... felt like that.  Them wanting US to ask THEM to a dance, but not knowing how and us wondering if it was OK to ask and wondering if they would really say yes.  So I emailed our vestry and council and told them we needed to meet as soon as I got back from vacation.  
This Monday we met and it became clear that we needed to first clarify where Prince of Peace and St. Mark’s were in THEIR relationship, before we began to think about inviting anyone new to this dance, SO the Prince of Peace council stood up... literally... and told St. Mark’s Vestry they wanted St. Mark’s to stay past the end of the year... to stay indefinitely into a shared, crazy, unknown, future and then St. Mark’s Vestry stood up... literally and said they wanted to stay indefinitely into a shared, crazy, unknown, future as well.  So, how about it?  What about you?  Your leadership says they want to go into the future together!  Are you ready to keep going indefinitely into a shared, crazy, unknown, future? STAND UP!  
That’s what I thought (what I hoped), but it’s good to see.  It’s good to see Jesus’s prayer that we might be ONE being answered in our midst and that brings me to the OTHER tree I want to tell you about today... the Mustard Tree.  The parable of the Mustard Seed is that the Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed that grows into the greatest of trees, it’s branches providing shade... a place... a home for EVERY bird.  I asked my mom to make this banner for us on my vacation because I believe this is who we’ve become together.  We aren’t Broom Tree people anymore... two separate congregations tired and broken and OVER IT.  Together, in the past seven months we’ve grown into Mustard Tree people! 
That Mustard Tree has room for ALL the birds and on Tuesday the K6 met and then St. Matt’s and St. Barnabas’s leadership met with me and Father David on Wednesday and it looks like they REALLY DO want to go to the dance with us.  It sounds like they really want to come sit in the Mustard Tree with us!  Which is WONDERFUL... and overwhelming.  AMAZING and frightening.  I think we’ve become Mustard Tree people open, welcoming and ALIVE... but I didn’t know there would be a test so soon!  Are we really ready to share our branches with more birds?  
On Monday the council and vestry said together, “how could we NOT make space.”  Their thought (and I think it’s a good one) was that we should invite them to come over informally for the rest of the year and then together, in the next few months, work out a livable structure for the coming year that we’d build together and all vote on at our annual meetings.
Two more birds in the tree means we can’t just do things like we’ve done this year so far.  Trying to run four churches under one roof would be an unwieldy mess and it wouldn’t help my hair situation either!  We’ll need to find equitable ways to share expenses for this shared facility and staff.  We’d need to find ways to share governance and make day to day decisions.  We’ll need to care for a new group of people mourning the loss of what was and we’ll need to care for ourselves as the new “normal” we've been building over the past seven months gets stirred up again.     
Elijah sat under the Broom Tree asking God to leave him alone... telling God, “NO MORE,” but like Mick Jagger says, “you can’t always get what you want!” and God didn’t leave him alone.  God told him, "If you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need."  God gave him what he needed, and then he got on with what God was asking him to do.  God knows we’ve already done a lot.  We’ve already seen and weathered lots of change and facing more might tempt us to find another Broom Tree.  But God's promise is that angels will feed us, GOD WILL BE WITH US, and we’ll get what we need to make room in the Mustard Tree.  Amen.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chase or Follow?

The Holy Gospel According to St. John, the 6th Chapter
The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered 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, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said 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.

Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand people.  Now, all those people, who had apparently fallen asleep under the influence of a heavenly, fish sandwich, food coma, woke up the next morning to find Jesus and his disciples had gone.  So, they set off to CHASE Jesus in hopes of another one of those AMAZING fish sandwiches! 
They LOVED those fish sandwiches!  They LOVED that full belly feeling of that giant fish-sandwich food-baby resting in their tummies.  They LOVED it, and now they wanted it again... and frankly, I can’t blame them!  It was a FREE fish sandwich!  I have a motto.  “Free food?  I’ll be there!”  But this was more than just a “FREE” sandwich... it was a DIVINE sandwich!  The people had tasted it the day before and now they chased Jesus down to get another!  They would do whatever they needed to do, say whatever needed to be said, just to be fed one more of those miraculous, heavenly, happy-tummy meals from Jesus... I’d be there too!  Free Food!  I’d be there!  
And that’s just it, really.  It SEEMS like the right thing to do.  It seems right to chase after Jesus for another sandwich... for contentment... for peace.  It seems even faithful to chase after Jesus and the logic of the world says that if we catch him he would fill us... and not just with food, but with security and safety and success and prosperity.  It sounds right Jesus fill us up!  Give us what we NEED!  BLESS us so we feel that divine abundance... whatever I hunger and thirst for... forever.   
So the people CHASED Jesus and asked him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”  They wanted to know what to DO... where to chase... so they could always be FULL.  Jesus told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom God has sent.”  And that’s where it got hard.  Those people KNEW Jesus wasn’t inviting them to chase down some kind of intellectual check list, to sign a statement of faith or join the “right” denomination.  When Jesus invited them to “BELIEVE” Jesus was inviting them to stop CHASING and begin instead to FOLLOW!  Jesus was inviting them to stop living their lives always chasing... always worrying, bullying, scheming, plotting, manipulating, controlling and bargaining to be sure THEY would be filled, THEY would find peace, THEY could be prosperous, THEY could be successful, so THEY could FEEL BLESSED.  
Instead, Jesus was inviting them to FOLLOW him by living their lives emptying themselves for the sake of the world... In the other Gospels, Jesus puts it this way... “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”  He was telling them that CHASING another sandwich... even another DIVINE sandwich... EVEN chasing after Jesus himself to get what you think you want, need or deserve... will always, ALWAYS leave you hungry again the next day... in fact, CHASING anything... sandwiches, power, wealth, security, control, success, being “good” enough, being right... CHASING ANYTHING... will only leave you hungry later today and back to the chase to try to get filled tomorrow.  The only way to never again be hungry or thirsty... the only way to give up the chase is to follow the Jesus way of life which means giving everything and all of yourself away.  
The trouble, of course with FOLLOWING Jesus on that particular path is that CHASING makes way more sense!  Chasing is the way we experience the world actually working!  If you want it, you go and get it!  Right?  FOLLOWING the Jesus way of living and giving it all away makes NO sense!  If you GIVE it all away you don’t have it anymore!  It’s math!  And so we continue the CHASE and people continue to preach chasing Jesus as a path that will fill us up.  The first guy who stood up the morning after the feeding of the five thousand and proclaimed to the crowd that they should all get in boats and go get Jesus to give them another sandwich must have felt pretty great having 5000 people stand up and all shout “AMEN BROTHER!” and then run down to the shore to get in their boats.  Maybe they even bought him a private boat so he could preach chasing Jesus to more and more people!  Private boats then... private jets today vehicles change, but the chase continues.   The chase continues... and that’s the problem, isn’t it?  That is our failing, our brokeness... our sin.  We don't trust Jesus's math, that giving it all away is actually the path to it all.  Same then as it is now and so we’re still chasing... still worried about money, finances and property... still scrounging, bullying and bargaining for security, peace, contentment and always CHASING after that thing, that place, that life, that time, that whatever it was... that just yesterday seemed to fill us up and tasted so... DIVINE.   
Jesus wanted more for those people (and for us) than to always be hungry, always thirsty... always CHASING.   The path Jesus calls us to FOLLOW has been called lots of things over the years... the way of the Cross... Discipleship Costly, rather than Cheap Grace... but no matter what you call it, it’s you and me putting one foot in front of the other day after day living a bit more like Jesus lived and chasing after life a little bit less.  People who have the title “Saint” in front of their names might make that transformation all at once, but those of us without that title typically do it one step at a time, in fits and starts, with backpedaling and small glimpses of what it might look like one day and always seem to need a hand along the way.
So, I’ll invite you today like Jesus did back then, to give up the chase and begin again to follow the Jesus Way of living... Living life not bound to the math of this world, but to the kind of math that turned the ‘never gonna be enough’ of five loaves and two fish into the WAY MORE than enough for everyone that fed five thousand!  To live life confident in God’s infinite and unconditional love for you and all people and all of creation.  To live life loving and caring for the world from the bottom up and from the margins in.  To live for the other before yourself.  To live generously, giving a little more and a little more and a little more each day until one day you look up and find that you have given EVERYTHING up to and including your very last breath.  To live graciously, live inclusively, live lovingly, live honestly, live for justice, live for kindness, live humbly and live like FOLLOWING that WAY the Jesus way is the path of truth the path of life.  I invite you again to follow Jesus and give up chasing... not because following the Jesus way of living makes sense to the world, but because following the Jesus way of living allows the world to make sense.   Amen.