The Message, November 20, 2022: "Living Thanks," John 6:25-35

The Message, November 20, 2022: "Living Thanks," John 6:25-35

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
November 22, 2022


“Living Thanks”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
John 6:25-35

            I am sure that it will come as no surprise to you that putting on a show like ‘Into the Woods, Jr.’ is a major undertaking. We began planning last spring, auditioned the cast during the summer, then began rehearsals in August. We rounded up props and costumes, designed and built the set, dressed the set, designed the lights, the sound, the projections, and rehearsed some more.

            During the course of the preparations, we had conversations about those for whom theater is their life and their passion. We talked about how most actors, actresses and production crew work on multiple shows at the same time. In fact, my brother-in-law, Jorge, who designed our set, lights and projections was here for our tech rehearsals but was not here for the performances themselves. He was actually in Massachusetts this week working on another show.

            Now, I do not live and work in the world of theater, but I was involved with the planning of another production as we were preparing for our performances of ‘Into the Woods.’ It was only the planning and logistics stage, but there were numerous conversations and text messages regarding the location of the production, who was going to perform which task, and then assembling the ‘To Do’ lists.

            I was not working on the logistics for next year’s production. I was not working on the plans for the Christmas pageant. In fact, my guess is that many of you were planning the very same production. Thanksgiving Dinner.

            We plan and plan for our annual feast. Who is going to host, what is on the menu, who is going to prepare which dish. What are we having for dessert. Days and days of planning for one meal. We work and work, and then tuck into a sumptuous feast. We dig into a cornucopia of side-dishes, and then retire to the couch resting up for dessert.

            And then we are hungry the next day.

            We spend far more time planning the meal than we likely spend on the giving thanks part of the day. When I was a younger and more impatient man, I found myself grow irritated when my mother would say, “Now, BEFORE we eat, let us go around the table and share something that we are thankful for.” BEFORE we eat. Naturally, we all begrudgingly participated with the give thanks portion, then quickly moved on to the “give me the mashed potatoes” portion of the day.

            Do we spend as much time as we ought giving thanks to God? Do we bundle all of our thanks-giving into a singular event? Do we even do it at all?

            A colleague of mine, someone with whom I attended seminary, began the spiritual practice last year of listing three things for which she is thankful every day. And to keep herself faithful in that discipline, she posts her list on Facebook. Her decision to share publicly helps to keep her accountable.

            I am embarrassed to admit, that while I think that her practice is a wonderful and healthy thing to do, I have not yet adopted the practice. But I should. It is a good practice … a healthy practice … to do every day. Having a thankful heart is actually good for us. There are health benefits to living thankfully. Doing the practice of recording our daily thanks helps to build up our gratitude “muscles.” It trains our hearts and our minds in much the same way that physical training creates muscle memory. It enables us to repeat the act without even having to think about it.

            In our scripture passage this morning, we encounter some folks that could use a little gratitude practice. They seem to be of the “what have you done for me lately” mindset.

            Let me take a brief step back. Chapter Six in John’s Gospel is action packed. It begins with the account of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. That event took place the day before the story that we just read. Then after Jesus fed the multitude with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee and met the disciples on the other shore. Those to miraculous events immediately precede this encounter that Jesus had with the crowd.

            Now, in their defense, perhaps there were those in the crowd in Capernaum that had not been present at the miracle of multiplication. Perhaps they did not see Jesus walking on the water. And they do not have the benefit of hindsight as we do. They do not know how the story turns out. Jesus knows that he is the Bread of Life, but they have yet to learn that.

            Having given them some plausible deniability, we must also acknowledge that some of them had been present and had fed on the miraculous distribution of bread and fish. Jesus called them on it. Jesus called them on it. “I fed you yesterday and now you come to me wanting more bread?!” They were acting as if Jesus was some sort of First Century fast food drive-thru. Whenever you get hungry, just hit Jesus up for some grub!

            In this moment, we know what Jesus knows … the people missed the whole point. The miracle of the loaves and fishes was NOT the bread and fish themselves, it was not even the ACT of multiplication, rather it was the person that performed the act. As we saw, the bread and fish only filled their stomachs for a few hours. The miracle was really in the food for their souls.

            And then the people did what people still do today, they quoted scripture to make their point, but missed the real lesson of the story. They said, “Oh yeah, our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness. What sign will you give us? Prove your point to us, Jesus.”

            “Give us a sign. We need a parade or something with marching bands and a big float that says, ‘He is the One. He is God’s Son.’”

            Jesus helped them along the way. He said, “Yes, you are correct, Moses led the people through the wilderness, but it was GOD that provided the manna. Yes … Moses was the agent of the gift, but God was the giver of the gift.”

            Even with that explanation, the people missed the point. The true gift in the wilderness was not the manna itself. Yes, the manna fed the people, but the real gift was their faith. With the gift of manna, God fed the people’s faith. The manna filled their stomachs for a moment, but it was their faith that sustained them in the wilderness. It was their faith that held them during their difficult days. It was their faith that was the real bread.

            In the same way, the real bread in the miracle of multiplication was the faith of the people. When they asked Jesus ‘what work does God require?’, Jesus said simply, “Believe.” “Believe in the one that God sent.” Not ‘believe in the things that he does, believe in who he IS.’

            The bread of earth will grow stale. The Bread of Heaven will not.
            The bread of earth will crumble to dust. The Bread of Heaven is eternal.
            And the only thing that we need to do to attain it is believe. Believe.

            One does not earn favor with God by performing good works. The equation is backwards. One does good works because faith in God creates a loving heart. Faith in God creates a heart that lives to love and serve our neighbors. We do not have to work for the Bread of Heaven. That food, the Bread of Life, is freely given. The works come because we ate the Bread.

            Sharing in the Bread of Heaven will give us good health. Sharing the Bread of Heaven promotes the genuine existence of God, it makes God manifest in the world.

            God is love. The Bread of Heaven is love.
            God is holy. The Bread of Heaven is holy.
            In the practice of our faith, we live in God.
            In the practice of our faith we share in God’s holiness, we love as God loves.

            May our lives express our gratitude for all that God has done for us. Even more, let it express all the God IS for us. May our lives manifest who Jesus IS for us.

            Let us do more than name that for which we are grateful. Let us live out our thankfulness. Let us live thanks. Amen.


Congregational Church