Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/05/12 Sermon

John 6:24-35

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy Sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen


How many of you have ever heard of the name Rice Christians?


          A Rice Christian is a term used in a derogatory way to describe someone who has declared themselves a Christian for material or physical benefits instead of for spiritual reasons.


          The term Rice Christians originated in 19th century China as missionaries would provide food to the many in poverty that were hungry.


People were baptized, joined the church and kept coming to church as long as there was some food around.


          But once the food was gone or they were no longer in need they were no where to be found.


          The result of course was that people were calling themselves Christians outwardly but inwardly there was no change, no real following, no commitment.


          They were missing out on the real fulfillment of what following Christ was all about.


          And that’s what Jesus was speaking to in our scripture today.


          In our scripture Jesus is being followed by the crowds.


He had just preformed the miracle of feeding the 5000 with the 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread; he got in the boat, walked on the water to teach his disciples about faith and when they get to the other side of the lake the crowds of people are waiting on him.


          And as they come to shore we see that the crowds say, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

          I can only imagine the laughter when they said Rabbi, when did you get here?----It was like when we want to run into someone on purpose and we say “Fancy seeing you here”.


They were very transparent with what they were doing. These were poor people who were looking for their next meal. And you can’t blame them. Times were tough.


Jesus must have been smiling, shaking his head.

 And he says, “I know what you Rice Christians are up to; don’t try to butter me up-- you’re not concerned about the signs or miracles---you’re looking for your next belly fill”.


Jesus then goes on to teach the crowds about a living bread that is even more important than just the physical bread that will fill your belly.-------It’s an eternal food, that comes from a committed life of believing and following him.


          And that’s what Jesus was persistently trying to teach people. He was trying to get the crowds who were following him to go deeper in their relationship with him.


          He wanted to move them from being Rice Christians to Living Bread Christians.----And he’s still doing the same thing today.


You know many who claim to follow Christ today are in reality no different than those crowds who were waiting for Jesus to come and fill their belly again.

Our churches are filled with Rice Christians; people who are on the perimeter, at a safe distance from truly following Jesus.


When we look at the crowds responses to Jesus as he speaks to them about the Living Bread we can see the comparisons.


Rev. Joe Gratzel, an American Baptist pastor in New Jersey pointed out 3 kinds of Rice Christians we see in our churches in the responses of the crowd following Jesus that day.

He described the first kind of Rice Christian as the “Gimme’s”.


The Gimme’s of course are those who expect something from nothing.


We see this in verse 26 when Jesus says you’re not looking for me because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.


You simply want some more bread.

Now the gimme’s in our churches today can be seen in the different ways where people come to church simply to satisfy their wants and desires.


Some may come only to simply sing or perform in the choir.


Some simply come because they want a social life.


Others come simply because at church they have a captive audience to hear their problems.

Of course all are welcome.

But the problem with Gimme’s in our churches today occurs because these folks bicker or boycott when you change a tradition or cease having a lifeless program.


You see, because Gimme Rice Christians are on the perimeter of a relationship with Jesus, there is no change in them, no humility, no unity, no selflessness.


Because there is no living bread within them, they struggle with their selfish, self-serving gimmes’ and it affects others around them.


Their witness has a bad impact on the rest of the church as well as its witness to those outside the church.


Now another kind of Rice Christian along with the Gimme’s are those known as the “Tell Me’s.


In verse 28, when Jesus says to the crowd that they need to work for the food that endures and doesn’t spoil they say “tell us what we need to do”.


This would have been a reasonable response because of who they were following before Jesus.


These people had been used to receiving help from the Pharisees. The Pharisees would say you need to follow the rules and do this or that in order to receive bread.

Their understanding of faith was a works righteousness based on what you DO. And by doing, you get something in return.


Of course this is what happened in China with the Rice Christians with false conversions and baptisms. 


Now the Tell Me mentality is still present in our churches----For Tell ME Rice Christians, something like prayer or worship can be a thing to do instead of a relationship with a God who loves us.

For Tell ME Rice Christians, doing work around the church makes them feel as if they are in favor with God.


But Jesus told the Tell Me’s it’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are.


You see you can do all kinds of wonderful things, be in charge of a committee, but if you are unchanged---unkind, selfish, non-giving, unbending, self-righteous then you are missing out on the transformation that happens when we receive the Living Bread that Jesus is offering.

          Jesus calls us to simply believe. And when we believe, Jesus comes in our hearts and goes to work at changing us.


Now the last kind of Rice Christian is seen in verse 30. These are known as the “Show Me” Rice Christians.


Show Me’s remain on the perimeter of truly following Jesus because they are always waiting on Jesus to show them a sign. And if they get the sign they would surely follow Jesus more than what they’re doing.

They say well “If God would come to me in a burning bush I would certainly be more committed”.


Show me’s also put stipulations on God saying if God would just solve my financial crisis or my health situation I would give more or trust him more.---I would fear less.


But the truth of the matter is that God has been working in your life showing you miracles all the time.


The crowd saw Jesus take 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread and feed 5000 people. And yet that wasn’t enough.


The point is that to receive the Living Bread you are going to have to take a leap of faith.


God is constantly showing you and me how much he loves us and wants to be closer to us if we will only trust and have faith in him…………


Now in looking at all 3 of these Rice Christian responses, the reality is that all of us, at some time or another or some degree can be Gimme’s, and Tell Me’s and Show Me’s.


 But Jesus is always coming to us to offering us the Living Bread of his self so that we might find true joy and fulfillment


But in order to receive it we must respond by receiving his free offer of Living Bread. You have to surrender your self and ask him to fill you up.

I find it interesting that the story just before and after our scripture today is Jesus calling people to take leaps of faith.


The first was Jesus calling the disciples and Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water. It was a radical call to trust and give your whole self to Jesus.


Then after our scripture today when the crowds started turning away Jesus looked to his disciples and said you don’t want to leave too do you?

And of course Peter responded by saying “to whom shall we go; you have the words of eternal life”.


 To receive the Living Bread that Jesus offers is a radical call to take him into ourselves completely.


The symbolism of the Lord’s Supper is that as we take Jesus into our bodies, we are taking him into our souls that he might have our lives and continually change us from being Rice Christians to Living Bread Christians.

You see, the Lord’s Supper doesn’t mean we have coffee hour after the service.


To take in the bread of Christ and the cup, means we are in union with Christ and with each other no matter when, and no matter what.


Jesus calls us to receive His Living Bread because we as the Church are his witnesses to pass on Living Bread to others.


We the Church are the custodians of the Living Bread to others.


So that means we can’t be Rice Christians if we want others to receive the Living Bread.


For far too long, people have been skeptical of God’s Church because they haven’t been seeing the Living Bread within us. They have been seeing Rice Christians playing church on the perimeters.


But Christ is calling us to witness to the Living Bread by receiving the Living Bread in our own hearts.


For as we do we become like Christ who not only provided for people’s physical needs, he also cared for their spiritual needs.


That means that we are involved outwardly to those in need while not ignoring their spiritual needs.


Some churches today can do a good job of providing for people’s physical needs but they ignore their spiritual needs. And by doing so they are no different than a government social agency.


This past Wednesday I was blessed to be at the Ecumenical Community Dinner. It began with prayer.


(Not a prerequisite for getting food. But it was an intentional reminder that God is the One who provides and we give thanks to Him).

You see, as Living Bread Christians we’re called to point people to God. Jesus said in verse 32 that when the manna fell from the sky that it was God that provided it not Moses.


 Living Bread People care for people’s eternal needs not simply their physical needs.


And while some might be offended, we can take comfort in knowing that in Jesus’ love and care for others he offended many people too.


In closing this morning, Jesus is asking us whether we’re following him for our selfish wants and desires or are we looking for the Living Bread that will give us true joy and fulfillment.  


He wants so much more for us than us just hanging around on the perimeters, putting our toes in the water, living a superficial Rice Christian life.


Jesus wants us to take the plunge of giving our whole selves to him, to believe in him and trust in him and put him above all other things.

Are you on the radical journey of an ever deepening life with Christ? Are you truly living in joy and excitement and peace?


If not, Jesus is coming to you, offering the free gift of Himself.


Receive the Living Bread and receive the gift of an eternal life that will sustain and satisfy your every desire.


In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen