• Steven Marsh

Serving–Faith Encounters a Person: a Reflection on Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 and John 6:24-35

There is a saying among the Ngambaye people of Chad: “one day of hunger can make a wife leave her husband’s house.”[1]We, like this wife and the people of God in the Exodus 16 reading, want what we want when we want it. We want God to solve “stuff” for us. In the Exodus text, Moses is the advocate on the people’s behalf for the loving nature of God. As your pastor, I am the advocate on behalf of you for the loving nature of God. As followers of Jesus, you are the advocate for the loving nature of God on behalf of others. Jesus is our advocate. God’s benevolence never ends, my friends. But, when we cry out to God are we claiming an idea that God is loving or clinging to God? If clinging, we know all about God’s love, by experience. And, our experience of God’s love validates that all things work together for good. Dean McDonald writes, “God in Christ has passed the test of faith, but the church is being examined every day.”[2]

Let’s be honest. Miracles do not necessarily, bring about faith. Often, miracles cause confusion, division, and hostility. Why might that be the case? If we do not have a relationship with the miracle worker, we are left dumfounded. The high is short-lived. In John 6, Jesus admonishes the listener to stop seeking “food that perishes.” People then and now seek food that perishes because “we long for a religion of convenience, faith that satisfies our wants, rather than working for the food that endures.”[3]We are addicted to the “high” of temporary fixes. Jesus came to complete a relationship, between God and humanity. That’s a permanent fix we are to experience.

The story in John 6 suggests that the focus of ministry is not what good people decide is a good idea and said idea is reasonable to undertake. But instead, trusting God to probe and ascertain our true question and authentic need. What is accomplished, then, is not what’s reasonable, but a miracle. Ministry should leave people exclaiming the transforming power of God. People talk about Jesus when they experience his incredible love. And they are changed. Rebecca Manley Pippert inOut of the Salt Shaker & into the World writes, “…if seekers do not see the love of Christ in us, then they most likely won’t be interested in investigating any further.”[4]

Each of us has questions about God and our experience of God’s love. The Table is a very present reminder that God has accomplished something incredible for each one of us. Some have begun to experience it and others wonder what “it” is. Let’s not be attracted to Jesus for a miracle, the idea that God can do some amazing “quick fixes,” but an engaging, life changing relationship with the One who knows us the best and loves us the most. John Calvin writes, “Christ does not reply to the question put to him,” when we seek “in Christ something other than Christ himself.”[5]Like the people in Jesus day, we have questions. Jesus didn’t answer directly then or now. Instead, he probed to figure out what the people were really seeking. And he continues to do the same.[6]

[1]Abel Ndjerareau, Africa Bible Commentary (Nairobi, Kenya: Word Alive Publishers, 2006), 106.

[2]Dean McDonald in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 295.

[3]Wayne A. Meeks in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, 311.

[4]Rebecca Manley Pippert, Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 150.

[5]John Calvin, The Gospel according to St. John, Part One 1-10, in Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, translated by T.H.L. Parker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961), 152.

[6]Thank you, Christopher Morse, for this insight. For more of Christopher Morse’s thinking on this subject, see David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 3, 308, 310, 312.

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