A spiritual master has lost his key to his house. So he goes outside to the grass to look for it. He gets down on his hands and knees and starts running his fingers through every blade of grass. There come eight or ten of his disciples. They ask, “Master, what’s wrong?” He says, “I’ve lost the key to my house.” They say, “Can we help you find it?” He says, “That would be great.” So they all get down on their hands and knees and search for the lost key. As the sun grows hotter, a smart disciple asks, “Master, do you have any idea where you might have lost the key?” The Master replies, “Of course. I lost it in the house.” To which they all exclaimed, “Then why are we looking for it out here in the grass?” The master says with a smile, “Isn’t it obvious? Here is more light.”
What a strange story…isn’t it? I felt the same when I first read it. But I’m telling you, this story has something to think about. It’s because the story tells us some truth about our human condition. Look at the way that the story describes us, humans: we have all lost the key to our house. Here, the house may represent the place we can live with God—the true source of our full and eternal life. The Bible teaches us that our life can be whole and abundant when we abide in God, when we experience God’s presence every day. The house is where we can be at home with God. But we’ve lost the key to this house; we don’t stay there anymore. Because of our sin, we are separated from the house and alienated from God’s indwelling. This is one human condition: we live without the source of full and eternal life.
But even worse, we not only have lost the key to the house but also are searching for it in a wrong place. We are looking for the key outside the house like the master and the disciples. And we say like the master, “Isn’t it obvious to find the key outside? Look, out there in the world, there’s more light, more things that fill us, more pleasure, more wealth, more fun, and more recognition. Isn’t it obvious?” But the truth to be told, the key is not there. It was not lost outside of ourselves; it was lost inside of ourselves. And that’s where we need to look for it. Because of our sin, our eyes are blind, and we are seeking the key to be whole in a wrong place. This is another human condition: everybody is looking for the key to the fullness of life but nobody knows where to find it.
Then, how can we get the key again? How can we find our way back into the house? The key’s inside and we are outside the house. In this situation, we can get in the house only when somebody comes and unlocks the door for us. We can joyfully dwell with God again only when somebody opens up the door of our hearts. Who is this special person? All of us know this person…who sacrificed himself on the cross to remove the latch of sin and death from the door that separates us from God. This person, Jesus Christ our Savior, is the only one who can open the door of the house and give us the key.
Today’s Gospel reading delivers the same message in a different story. In this story, Jesus calls himself “the bread of life,” and tells us that this bread is the key to fulfill our lives. Jesus also points out our human condition that we live without the true source of full and eternal life. In this world, we don’t have the life-giving bread that nourishes us unto genuine life in God. And we cannot make such bread by ourselves. So, everybody is looking for the ways to the fullness of life by feeding them different kind of mundane bread, such as power, fame, and money. But nobody knows where to find the ultimate nourishment for their souls and for their life. Here, Jesus says to all of us, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (John 6:35; 51). The bread of life is the true key to full and eternal life. Only with this bread, we will never go hungry and thirsty again and will reside in God’s house again.
This is the work of God’s grace that we know who Jesus is for us. Yes, Jesus comes and opens the door for us, so that we can enter the house where we can be at home with God always. Jesus also comes as the bread of life for us, so that we can feed upon him, receive his Spirit in our lives, ingest his love into ourselves, and let him nourish us unto life. Jesus truly is the way, the truth, and the life. Thorough our faith in Jesus, we don’t have to stay outside keeping on our meaningless search for the key in a wrong place. And we don’t have to feed ourselves the food that perishes.
Having faith may sound easy, but it’s not always simple. Why? It’s because we still want to stay outside. Our eyes are still looking for something outside. To our eyes, the house of God seems shabby and the bread of life seems tasteless. The abundant life in the presence of God looks unattractive in this world full of other attractions, other stuff to fill in our lives. Some people find it tedious to go to church on a Sunday morning. Some people find it boring and like a waste of time to volunteer for the missions of the church. Out there in the world, it seems like there’s more light, more tasty food. And especially for you, students, when you go to college, I do know, there will be more glittering things than going to church or keeping your faith in Jesus. Yes, even we, Christians, sometimes hesitate to get in the house and nourish us with the bread of life. Standing on the doorstep of the house, our eyes are still looking outside.
In that moment of temptation, I hope we all may remember Jesus one more time, who is the way, the truth, and the life. And we may also remember the simple truth we have from today’s opening story and the Gospel story. “The key to the fullness of life is inside—not out there.” And “the bread of life is the only true bread for our hunger for genuine life in God—not any other bread in the world.” What we do as a church may seem like nothing dramatic or spectacular. Every time we gather, we do the same—read the scriptures, praying of prayers, sing hymns—sometimes quite old—listen to the sermon. But I firmly believe that all these simple acts of worship, all other ministries, and just small things we do in the name of Jesus our Lord, bring us back into the house, into the presence of our God, and let us live our life fully in God’s grace. So sisters and brothers in Christ, let us keep the faith. Let us entrust our lives to our Lord Jesus Christ. May our faith in Jesus always lead our ways to the ultimate source of full and eternal life. And may our faith in Jesus always open our eyes to get the key to the intimacy with God and to nourish us with the bread of life. Amen.
Thomas Keating, The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation(Wit Lectures-Harvard Divinity School, Kindle Edition), 44-48.