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“Damn Yankees”

 (Proper 13B )

John 6 verses 24-35

After Jesus fed the multitudes, these five thousand men wanted a repeat miracle.

But Jesus quite bluntly said to them, as we heard today, that they should be thinking more about God’s wonderful grace, rather than their stomachs.

How true that can be – when we think more of own comfort rather than our souls.

No wonder so many people today are discontented, lacking the vision to see beyond their immediate and personal physical needs.

In the 1950s, there was a popular musical called ‘Damn Yankees’

 

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The leading character is a middle-aged man named Joe Boyd, who from childhood has dreamed of becoming a famous baseball player.

Then it happens – one night a mysterious character, a Mr Applegate, walks into Joe’s life, and tells him that he has the power to make Joe’s dream a reality.

Mr Applegate can turn middle-aged Joe Boyd into ‘Joe Hardy’ a young, athletic and gifted baseball player who will transform the team, and take them to dizzy new heights.

At this point, we had better note that the mysterious Mr Applegate is none other than the devil in human form.

Joe, of course, soon learns that there’s a catch to all this.

In exchange for stardom, he must sell his soul to the devil.  (c.f. Dr Faustus)

Joe finds the offer impossible to refuse.  He agrees to it, but on one condition: that he can back out of the agreement, if he wishes, just before the team has secured the championship.

The devil, believing that once Joe has tasted success, he’ll never want to give it all up, agrees to his request,

So Joe writes a short note, kisses his sleeping wife goodbye, and leaves home to begin his new life.

And what a life!  He becomes an overnight success.  Fans cheer him wildly, youngsters idolise him, and older people think of him as the son or grandson they’ve always wanted to have.

Joe relishes every moment of it.

Gradually, however, something unexpected happens to Joe.  All the fame and fortune begin to grow stale.  Deep down inside him there is an emptiness that he cannot quite explain.

Finally, the deadline date with the devil arrives.  The prospect of major success for the team is there.  But, after much soul searching, Joe invokes the get-out clause in his deal with the devil, and gives it all up.

Perhaps, at the back of his mind, he hears the echo of Christ’s words: ‘what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself’

Whatever the reason, Joe disappears from the baseball world as mysteriously as he arrived.

A few days later, he turns up at his home again, kisses his wife, and goes back to being Joe Boyd again, the middle-aged man who once dreamed of being a baseball star.

 

 

The fictional Joe Boyd would surely agree wholeheartedly with what Jesus says to the crowd in today’s Gospel:

‘Do not work for the food that goes bad, instead, work for the food that lasts for eternal life…

 I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never be thirsty’

What Christ is saying, what Joe Boyd experienced, can be summed up in a single sentence: ‘the human heart has a hunger and a thirst that nothing on earth can satisfy’

Only Jesus Christ brings true satisfaction.  For he is truly the bread of life.

 

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Banquet of Life

Just over a hundred years ago, a poor family from middle Europe decided to seek a better life abroad.

A couple, with their teenage son and four little daughters decided to emigrate from their poverty-stricken little village to America and all its promise.

A week before their ship sailed, the family’s relatives and friends threw a ‘going away’ party for them, at which gifts were presented – practical things: several loaves of bread and some blocks of cheese.

A week later, the family boarded an Italian ship, sailing to New York.  Since they had never been out of their village, and since few on board spoke their language, they didn’t mix with the other passengers or crew, preferring their own company.

They had been assigned a third-class cabin below deck, and that’s where they decided to remain for the duration of the voyage, especially since the weather was so wintry.

And it was there that they ate their bread and cheese – sparingly – to make it last the entire journey.

On the last day of their voyage, the weather cleared up a bit, and the teenage son asked his father for permission to go above and explore the ship.

When the lad didn’t return within the hour, his father went to look for him, and eventually found him in a big dining room, sitting at a table, eating from a plate overflowing with meat and vegetables.

The father’s heart skipped several beats.  How were they going to pay for all this food that his son had ordered and was now devouring?

He had visions of spending his first months in America in prison, or even being refused entry into the country altogether.

When the boy saw how frightened his father looked, he said, ‘Don’t worry, Papa, it’s free!’

And he went on to explain that while the family had been eking out their meagre rations of bread and cheese below decks, all the other passengers had been feasting on meals like the one he was now enjoying.

Such feasts were included in the price of the ticket.

The world is full of people like that family, insofar as they are journeying through life, totally unaware of the incredible ‘Banquet of Life’ that God spreads out for them.  And it’s included in the ticket of life.

Jesus says:

      I am the living bread that came down from heaven.    If anyone eats this bread, he  

    will live forever.  The bread that I will give him is my flesh, which I give so that the

   world may live.           (John 6, v.51)

Existence – no, Life! 

Not just everyday existence which depends on plain ordinary bread – but more, much more – life in all its abundance: a veritable feast of life with companionship, care and love, hopes and dreams, memories, and the sustenance that only Christ, who is the Bread of Life, can offer.

It’s all included in the believer’s ticket of life!

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