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A Spiritual Journey
 John 6:56 -69
by Robert Lott

The 6th chapter of John’s Gospel reading is quite unique ! Our reading this morning only covers the last 13 verses of 71 verses. At the beginning of the chapter, John tells, two miracle tales, the feeding of the five thousand (Vses. 1-15) and Jesus walking on the sea (vses. 16-21). In my preparation, the reading of the two miracle stories and this morning’s text may give us an even greater understanding ! "Jesus, the bread of life”, feeding all our needs... An assurance of not fearing the coming storms of our own life’s spiritual journeys! This morning, I am tempted to focus on “Spiritual Journeys" What are they ?

Karen Armstrong, one of the world’s most distinguished writers on religion, reminds us that we equate faith with believing certain things about God or the sacred and that a religious person is called a “believer”. She stresses that Belief is seen as the first and essential step of any spiritual journey. ( from Introduction to :“Every Eye Beholds You”)

Embarking on a spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean in search for some land. Along the way, comes inspiration. Yet, later, when one reaches the horizon, comes fear . Fear that one will drop off away from their spiritual world. But isn’t that true? Like all explorers, all of us are sometimes drawn to discover, without knowing it, that no matter what’s waiting out there, we’ll get the courage to face it ?

I would like to begin by sharing true stories of how others voyaged on their journey and what happened ! Nana Veary, a great and revered, Hawaiian kupuna, ,very vividly describes her spiritual journey in her book, entitled, “Change We Must”.. She tells how her family, surroundings, and the ways of spiritual Hawaiian people, shaped a lifetime search for the truth.

One of her interesting stories was about Waimanalo Gulch. A sacred area to the Hawaiian people, which was dedicated to the owl.. She was told by someone strange stories of incidents that were occurring there. It seems that, Honolulu City workers, had been sent to turn Waimanalo Gulch into a city dump. As the work progressed, the workers began suffering from unusual pains. Equipment kept breaking down without any apparent cause and frequent, freak accidents seemed to be happening.

One morning, before dawn, Nana visited the site with the city inspector.. She said, as they walked, in front of a large rock where they we excavating, she suddenly stopped.

She asked the inspector “What is this ?” “You people should not be here.” You have entered an area that is sacred.” She said that she started to cry and she began praying, knowing that the land was suffering. Some time passed, yet, the incidents seemed to continue.

Weeks later, Nana again went back to the gulch. She watched the workmen trying to remove that large rock. No-one could lift it, no matter how many men they had on it ! Finally, they set up planks and reversed the rock onto the truck. Nana asked them, that instead of disposing of the rock, if they would relocate the rock to the top of the hill overlooking the coast..... They agreed ! When it was in place, she blessed it, and made an offering. The strange events stopped and never occurred again ! (As reported by Gary Omori)

Much later, as Nana’s spiritual journey continued, she passed Mount Olomama in her car, one day. She stopped, and looked up at the rocky slope and then looked at the world around her. Inspired by her journey and the view of Olomana, she prayed to God : “If you have any power, give me an affirmation” God answered her prayer..Her affirmation ! “From the highest peak of my conscious I look down upon the nothingness of things and see instead the beauty of God in all, for God is all Strange isn’t it ? A Rock !..An inspiring view of Olomana ...and a prayer for help ? Or is it strange ? Does God want us all to go on the same spiritual journey ? Must we all experience God the same way ? Other spiritual journey’s may be different from ours !

The Bible tells us that the people of Israel had fled from a Pharaoh’s persecution across the Red Sea. They traveled through an arid, desert land, the Sinai peninsula. Finally, they ran out of water and cried to Moses to take them back to Egypt. They forgot that God had journeyed with them ! Moses cried to God for help! The Lord answered Moses: “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by a rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” (Exodus 17:^) Much later St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church: “They drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from a spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4 Within us.. ...within you, there is an assurance that when we turn to that perfection...a spiritual awareness of God, we will become aware of God’s presence. God begins to express Himself through each one of us.! For the beauty God is in all..For GOD IS ALL”

Many of you may have heard of Walter Payton the great Afro-American baseball player who played at Chicago’s Soldier Field ? Since his death, his wife, Connie, has been urging people to become organ donors. Connie has shared an article about Walter Payton's spiritual journey. Ann Landers has shared it with others in her “Advice Column” for the newspaper. It reads::

"The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment, a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped. When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my deathbed. Let it be called the “Bed of Life”, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman. Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain. Give my blood to the teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play. Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist. Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk. Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window. Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help flowers grow. If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all prejudice against my fellow man.

If by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.”

I would say “Amen and Amen” to Walter My own spiritual journey has been long, exciting, and exhilarating. I could possibly fill an entire hour with stories of my search for God. See, a young soldier, just out of his teens, sitting on the side of a hill, on a Christmas Eve, during WW2. alone, scared, homesick, and in tears, as he looks at the devastation of a war around him. He cries to God for help ! Looking up at the starry sky..he sees, for the first time, a starry cross...”The Southern Cross”..and remembers a hymn which his grandmother had taught him.. ”Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me; there the bright and morning star sheds its beams around me....In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever, till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.”

So as each of us come nearer to the horizon of our Journeys ..recognize that you have been on a journey with God. Take time to read the Gospel of John . Consider the miracle tales, the feeding of the five thousand.....Jesus walking on the sea.. Then apply John’s interpretation of what the stories say to you ! Jesus said “I AM the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever. (John 6:58) It is reported that because of this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away !” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom can we go ? You have the words of eternal life.”

St. Paul, after many trials and sufferings, often questioned himself. Paul's reply is: “I am now convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell and this world cannot keep God’s love away..even our fears today, and our worries about tomorrow, or where we are..high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean...nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ, who died for us. (Romans 8:38 & 39).