Summary: A sermon about seeking Christ in order to be transformed.
I have read that in 19th Century China, and perhaps all over Asia, there was a name given for people who came to church for one reason and one reason only—because they were hungry for material food.
They converted to Christianity, were baptized, joined the Church, and were active members as long as their physical needs were met through the generosity of the congregation.
But once their socio-economic situations improved and they and their families no longer needed rice, they drifted away from the Church.
Hence the reason they were called “rice Christians.”
That’s also kind of similar to what happened in East Germany and Romania just before the liberation of eastern Europe—when the pastors were speaking out against Communist regimes.
The people came to cheer the church on, and to join the congregation.
But after the liberation from the heel of the Soviet boot and local dictators, the crowds went home and the churches started to look as bedraggled and abandoned as they had before.
The crowd on our Gospel Lesson for this morning are, evidently, the same group who had been fed the day before when Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 people from five loaves of bread and two fish.
Apparently, they had eaten their fill and then took a good old snooze.
The next morning, when they woke up, they realized that Jesus and His disciples had quietly left town.
So, “they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.”
When they finally found Jesus, He said to them, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted.”
It seems that the crowd was hungry for breakfast.
They were chasing after Jesus, not because they were interested in having a relationship with Jesus; they merely wanted another free meal.
They are after Jesus because they want to fill their tummies, not so they can have the fulfillment of their lives.
And so, we see that what happened in 19th Century China, in East Germany and Romania is nothing new.
It’s as old as the Gospel itself.
Are we any different?
Do we follow Jesus because of something material that we get in return?
Are we simply running after food that perishes?
If so, Jesus invites us to seek “food that endures for eternal life” which is offered by the Son of God in order to satisfy our deepest hungers.
And those hungers are hungers for meaning…
…hungers for relationships…
…hungers for love—to be loved and to love…
…to give our lives for something other than ourselves…
…to help to feed the world, heal the sick, care for the broken hearted...
…to be changed and transformed from the inside out.
I’d rather have that than a Big Mac any day; how about you?
Jesus tells the crowds, “Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last…”
It’s fascinating to watch children as they make new discoveries and uncover new truths about life.