Here’s Your Sign
The Church of the Good Shepherd
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 19, 2018
Text: I Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6: 22-58
I sometimes think that if only I could have been present to witness just one of Jesus’ miracles, all my doubts would evaporate. It would be so obvious. Wouldn’t it? So evident that Jesus is the Son of God and should be followed without question.
Apparently, this is not necessarily the case. Certainly it was not for those Jews who chose to follow Jesus across the Sea of Galilee after the feeding of the 5,000. They remained unconvinced. They continued to question the miracle worker.
When I first read the passage that we just heard from John’s gospel, my twisted mind led me to think of a down home, country comedian by the name of Bill Engvall. You may have seen Engvall on television or on the stage. He commonly appears with another comedian, Jeff Foxworthy.
Foxworthy is famous for jokes that begin with the words: “You Might Be A Redneck If So and So is the Case.”
For instance, Foxworthy claims that you might be a redneck if you have ever been involved in a custody battle over a hunting dog;
OR you might be a redneck if you have ever given rat traps as gifts;
BUT you are definitely a redneck if you discover that your mother has “ammo” at the top of her wishlist for Christmas.
Well, Bill Engvall also has a signature joke. Engvall has no patience with stupid questions, and he is constantly amazed by the number of stupid questions that people ask. This has led Engvall to imagine a sign that he can give to anyone who asks him yet another thoughtless question. The sign identifies its carrier as a simpleton, to put it politely.
In one version of this joke, Engvall recalls that “before he and his wife moved to a new home, their house was full of boxes waiting to be loaded on a U-Haul truck in his driveway. But when one of Engvall’s neighbors came over and saw Engvall loading boxes into the truck, the neighbor asked, “Hey, are you moving?” To this, Engvall replied: “Nope. We just pack our stuff up once or twice a week to see how many boxes it takes, and Oh, by the way, here’s your sign.”
On another occasion, Engvall relates how he went fishing with a buddy. When they pulled their boat into the dock at the end of the day, Engvall lifted up a string of bass to show off their catch to a fellow standing on the dock. This prompted the fellow to ask, “Hey, did y’all catch all them fish?” Engvall admitted that he could not resist himself so he replied, “Nope. We just talked ‘em into giving up, and here’s your sign.”
My friends, the devil sometimes gets the better of me much as he clearly does with Engvall, and so on occasions when I read about Jesus encountering some thick-headed questioners like his disciples or those in the sixth chapter of John, I imagine Jesus with a look of chagrin on his face offering those dim-wits one of Engvall’s signs.
It is clear in John’s gospel that the individuals who questioned Jesus were both misinformed about their tradition andbaffled by this man Jesus. They spoke of the manna that had fed their ancestors in the wilderness. And yet they believed that it was Moses who had fed the Hebrews with manna rather than their God who had parted the Red Sea and led them through the wilderness with a cloud by day and a fire by night.
It is also clear in John’s gospel that these same questioners had only the previous day witnessed the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. And yet they were still asking Jesus for a sign that would help them believe.
They were like the man who once asked Ray Charles what was the worst part of being blind? To which Ray Charles responded, “Not being able to see.”
Those Jewish questioners were guilty of overlooking the obvious. But then, don’t we all?
Not many of us are as wise as Solomon. We know that all people are like grass, as the prophet Isaiah once said. The grass withers and the flower fades, and when our heart stops beating, we know that we can’t take with us any of the riches that we have acquired in this world.
And yet if you or I were offered the same opportunity that God presented to Solomon, that is to tell God what the Almighty should give him, how many of us would still ask for earthly riches rather than an understanding mind and the ability to discern the difference between good and evil that Solomon requested?
Paul counsels us in Ephesians, “Be careful how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the times. … Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
This is what Solomon was wise enough to ask for – an understanding mind and the ability to discern the difference between what is good and, therefore, God’s will as opposed to that which is evil and, therefore, contrary to what God wills.
My Friends, even though Jesus’s questioners in John’s gospel did not see it, Jesus Christ wasandis the bread of life. Those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will indeed have eternal life but not justat the last day as the hymn we just sang suggests.
Jesus speaks of us eating his flesh and drinking his blood because in the eucharist – the Lord’s own supper – we become one with him. By this act, we are granted exactly what Solomon requested – the ability to discern good from evil – only in our case it comes through union with the one trustworthy guide on the path to righteous living. Through this holy communion Christ unites with his bride, the Church of which all of us are a part, as surely as a man and a woman leave their parents and become one in marriage. The intimacy of that marriage bond between holy husband and earthly wife leads us to understand where lie the true treasures of life – treasures that neither moth nor rust can consume and death cannot rob.
It is for this reason that, as Paul says in Ephesians, we “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among ourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The good news that John’s gospel brings to us today is this: In Jesus Christ, God offers us a banquet prepared by the sacrifice of His only Son. It is a banquet that nourishes the body. It is meal that revives the soul. But perhaps most important of all, it is an occasion where our eyes are opened to the path to a new heaven and a new earth where there shall be no more sorrow, nor crying, nor pain – indeed, not even death – for the former things are passed away.
None of us are worthy of an invitation to this meal. But all are invited to become one with God’s only begotten for it is through the eating of his flesh and the drinking of his blood that we become the adopted daughters and sons of God.
If that ain’t enough to make your heart sing and make melody to the Lord, I don’t know what is!