Archive for August, 2015

Same Story Different Language 8-30-15

This morning’s sermon is based on Mark 7:1-8, 14-23. Within this text, Jesus’ audience changes a couple of times. Likewise, his method for address changes, but his message remains consistent. We can take a lesson from this.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/same-story-different-language-8-30-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

If you were previously unaware, you likely noticed on your way into the church this morning that the first phase of our landscaping project, both on the front side as well as the backside of the church, has now been completed.

The initial work happened about a week ago as the dirt was moved around and the concrete footings for the new bell stand were poured…and then the rest of the work happened through the middle of this past week. A crew of 5 or 6 individuals were here, putting the different types of brick in place to create the wall and the bell platform as well as the decorative portion of the sidewalk.

As per usual in a situation like this, they were outside doing their work, while life inside the building went on like usual. Interactions between me and the crew were minimal, limited to a casual hello or a nod as I walked past them headed towards the front door…but there was one that caught my attention. I’d been in the office and was heading out…and as per usual I push open the front door and immediately turn to the right, heading out towards the parking lot…

But this time around, the timing was pretty spot on…and I pushed open the door just as two of the members of the crew spouted off at one another…and as can be pretty typical in situations like this…the language was…well, let’s just say it was pretty colorful on the part of the individual who had his back to the door…the one who didn’t realize that I was in earshot. (pause)
Now the reaction of one of the other crew members was pretty priceless…and as I was walking towards the parking lot I heard “Oh nice man…cussing in front of the pastor.” (pause) I thought about turning around to assure them that it was okay and I didn’t mind…but in all honesty, I was way too busy laughing at the situation to even do that. (pause)

Now for many of you this is no great shock…but I myself have the tendency for colorful language in many different situations…a situation that has gotten me strange looks from individuals on more than one occasion…and if, for whatever reason you haven’t heard me before, yes I will admit it…I have moments when I cuss like a sailor…I hope you don’t hold it against me.

But I bring all this up, because I’ve been thinking a lot about how we talk to each other in our regular day to day lives…or more specifically, I’ve been thinking about how we address one another…and how we have the tendency to present ourselves a little differently in different situations…how the way we talk might change as our audience changes. (pause) I don’t think that this tendency is a bad thing…at least as long as the message remains consistent. (pause)

Now perhaps you’re wondering just what this all has to do with today’s gospel lesson…and as per usual, that’s a fair question…because today’s lesson…at least at face value…doesn’t really seem to have a whole lot to do with language…in fact, it really seems to be aimed at the notion of rules…and that Jesus is discounting the old rules…perhaps calling people out for following the rules a little too closely. (pause)

That was my first thought as I approached this lesson throughout the course of this week…that Jesus is assuring us that faith doesn’t fit in a rule book…and that his harsh words for the Pharisee’s and the scribes are telling that he has abolished the Old Testament Law…in fact it almost seems as if he’s condemning them for relying on it too heavily…That was my first thought. (pause)
But then I read through it a few more times…and not just the broken batch of verses listed in the bulletin, but I read through the entirety of the chapter…and I noticed something important. (pause) Throughout the course of this chapter…at least through the first 23 verses of it…the audience that Jesus is talking to changes…not just once, but twice.

He starts off talking to the Pharisees and the scribes…but then he directly addresses the crowd that is sitting there listening to them…before finally pulling his disciples aside to explain just what it is that he’s been talking about. (pause) Three different audiences…and three different methods of talking to them. (pause)

First off the Pharisees and scribes…members of the group that I tend to call the religious big-wigs…and not only that…but Mark flat out tells us that they have traveled out from Jerusalem…and so, we see that these guys are THE elite…the best of the best…these guys come from headquarters…if they were Catholic, they’d be from the Vatican…they’d be the professors…the experts…and as such…you can bet a pretty penny that they know the scriptures like the back of their hands…the law…the rules…yah…they know what they’re talking about. (pause)

And so, they bring up rules of cleanliness…and honestly, don’t they sound like every dotting parent out there? Why don’t your kids wash their hands before they eat? (pause) That’s literally their question…they take a rule that in all truth only pertains to the Priests in the temple…and they embellish just a touch saying that EVERYONE does it…and in the end, all they’re really doing is trying to discredit Jesus by association.

But the thing to pay attention to here…is how Jesus responds. Keep in mind these are the experts of the law and the scriptures…and Jesus treats them that way…by sitting down and having a debate over those very laws…over those very scriptures…honestly it reminds me of a scene I saw many times at Seminary when two or three professors would be sitting around debating theology in the campus coffee shop.

And yes, Jesus calls them on their error…pointing out the hypocritical nature of clinging to ritual for the sake of ritual…the thought that how well we follow the rules matters for how righteous or faithful we are…Jesus tells them, in somewhat heated, yet scholarly debate…that they’re wrong…that this has no bearing on matters of faith in their lives. (pause)

And then…Jesus changes, his audience…for having set them straight…or at least sent them packing…Jesus turns his attention back to the crowds who are still present…likely wondering about the outcome of this scholarly conversation…And as Jesus addresses a new group of people…people with different background and understanding…he quite simply takes on the role of teacher…something that he always does with the crowd…and he lays out the same argument…the same truth as before…he just does it a whole lot different. “Guys…trust me, its not what you eat that defiles…its what comes out…your actions, your words…they shine a light on the defilement that resides within the individual.” Short…and to the point.

And then…as he withdraws with the disciples…and they ask him just what it is that he’s talking about…he gets pretty blunt…as I think a lot of us tend to do when we are with those that we know best…those who know us best…and once again…it’s the same topic…just a little more blunt so they get the point.

“Lord, what do you mean it is not what goes in that defiles?” And Jesus looks them straight in the eye “DUDE…SERIOUSLY? We’re talking about food here…you eat it…and eventually it ends up in the toilet.” It’s a natural process how can that defile you…and then in his normal fashion, Jesus gets pretty specific with the disciples…and why? Well because he knows that in the long run these guys are going to become the pillars of the church here on earth…in the long run, these guys need to understand what it is that he’s teaching them.

You notice that he doesn’t change the message…only how he shares it. And that is true regardless of the specific story that we read…as Jesus shares the gospel…as he shares the good news that through him, the kingdom of heaven has come near, the end result is always the same.

Today he’s talking about what defiles a person…and he tells us that what defiles us is the flawed human nature…that a sinful human heart lies within all of us, and that our actions and words reflect it. Period. (pause) And so now comes the million dollar question…what do we do with that?

Well first…we need to hear the gospel…that that sinful human nature…that lies within all of us…it just does…and then we realize that there’s nothing we can do about it…and yet God choses us anyway…through Christ, we are forgiven…we are accepted…just as we are.

And then, we share it…but what we learn today is that the way we share it is going to be different all the time. Because the gospel meets us where we are…and if we’re the one sharing it…then the gospel needs to meet the other individual where they are…and not only that…but we also recognize that each and every individual is going to share the gospel in a different way…because God uses them as they are…with the gifts that they possess…with the voice that they’ve been given.

And I remember when that particular lesson hit home for me…I was in my second year preaching class…spring semester 2011…Now by this point, I was no stranger to preaching…I’d been preaching off and on for several years by this point…and while my own style was certainly evident, I’d also picked up a lot of tendencies from other people…and during the critique phase of about my second sermon in that class…my professor pointed it out to me. These odd little phrases like “And so now I’d like to invite you to consider this possibility…”

And she said “Scott…I’ve listened to you talk…you don’t talk like that. What would you actually say?” I thought about it for a moment…Well in regular conversation I’d say “Think about it.” (pause) And she smiled and said “So say it like that in your sermon.” (pause)
The wonderful nature of the gospel is that its personal. Its personal to the person hearing it because it says that God has chosen you…God, loves…you. (pause) And its also personal to the person sharing it because it says “I have seen God do this, now let me share that with you.” (pause)

Sometimes we share the gospel very bluntly…because that’s what people need to hear…sometimes we share it through our actions…how we treat one another…sometimes the gospel sounds like “I don’t know.” Sometimes it sounds like “I’m so sorry.” And sometimes it sounds like Yes Jesus Loves Me.

We might be speaking a different language…and we might be hearing a different language…but praise be to God that the message is always the same. God loves you, and he died to prove it. Amen.

What Are You Known For 8-23-15

In this sermon, based on John 6:56-69, I explore the “hard teaching” of Jesus that causes many of his disciples to turn away. What is this teaching, and why is it so offensive, even at times, to those of us who follow Christ?

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-are-you-known-for-8-23-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

We all have something that we’re known for…something that people always associate with us…typically, its something from our past…some memorable event or activity that we will be forever tied to…and for those who are familiar with this situation, its never ending.

Granted, I’ve got a lot of these in my history…different situations that define me within different groups and circles….here in town, its probably the fact that I’m a pastor…when I was in seminary, I became known as the guy in the orange hat…my senior year at Iowa State, the entire Horticulture department called me Red because of a certain episode with some hair dye…my group of close friends dating all the way back to Jr High have a multitude of inside jokes that they can pull out at my expense to make me cringe…but in all likelihood, the one that goes back the farthest…the story that has defined me the longest, well it exists in the context of my extended family on my dad’s side.

April of 1988…exactly one week after my 9th birthday…the wedding day of my dad’s youngest sister…and a time when personal video cameras were pretty new…and were unbelievably intriguing to 9 year olds. (pause) After the ceremony was over, the camera operator set up the tripod to record the recession line, as the multitude of guest filed out the sanctuary to greet the wedding party…as is the custom…and low and behold…this little 9 year old spaz case…kept popping up in frame…looking at the camera…turning around to look at the people filing by…turning back around to look at the camera…over and over again. Throughout the course of the entire video…I kept popping into frame…not realizing just how weird it was…nor the lasting effect it would have on my reputation within my extended family.

To this day…people still mock me on that one…anytime there is any sort of event…and there’s a camera present…someone is going to recreate that moment…and everyone laughs…it is…what I am known for. (pause) It is…a vital part of my history.

But isn’t that always the case? And as time marches on…these little aspects of a person’s history really become the defining factor for them…and we have the tendency to gloss over everything else…sometimes in a good way, and sometimes in a bad way.

Think about George Washington…the first president of the United States…remembered fondly…while we forget that he was also a slave-owner and general that nearly starved his own troops to death…Or Henry Ford…father of the American automobile, credited (incorrectly mind you) with pioneering the assembly line…but we forget that he was also a published anti-semite.

This same tendency has carried into how we tend to remember Biblical figures as well…and this has sparked quite a bit of conversation within our current study of The Story as we’ve discussed various Old Testament figures…for instance Abraham…the shining example of faith…was a trickster who tried to pawn off his beloved wife as his sister not just once but twice…and Moses…the great deliverer of the Old Testament…who was also a liar and a murderer who tried his best to weasel out of God’s calling at every turn…or the great king David, an adulterer who was involved with conspiracy to murder.

We find the same thing in the new testament as well, for who can forget Thomas…defined for all time by his doubt…or Peter…ever the one who would deny Christ…or Nathanael who questions anyone that comes out of Nazareth.

But perhaps the one most strongly identified with a single defining moment would have to be…Judas Iscariot…forever known as the one who would betray Jesus…so much so, that within today’s gospel lesson, we find the first introduction to Judas found in John’s Gospel…and we see that he is not even initially called by name…but that he is identified as the one who would betray Jesus…something that he hadn’t even done yet…something that is ultimately motivated by the presence of evil with him…and yet…as we see…it serves as the single defining characteristic that Judas, for all time…will be saddled with…and I find myself wondering…is that fair? (pause)

Is it fair to Judas that history always associates him with betrayal…with the apparent backstabbing that he hands off Jesus’ direction in the closing chapters of the gospel…should that be his one defining moment? Or would it be better for us to lump him in with a different group out of today’s story…that unknown batch of disciples who have been following Jesus…but having sat and listened to this hard teaching…they decide that it’s time to tuck tail and run. (pause)

Because…as we hear…Jesus knew from the start those who would not believe…just as HE knew from the start…that Judas would ultimately be the one to lead the authorities out to the garden…and yet…at the beginning of John chapter 6…in the initial miracle that began this long debate that has raged on throughout the entire chapter…not to mention the past 5 weeks of gospel lessons…when Jesus fed the 5000…guess who was sitting in that crowd…those disciples who turned away…and Judas was sitting there too. (pause)

Now we have the tendency to forget that when John talks about the disciples…its not just the 12 that he’s talking about…in fact…prior to this specific passage…this one point after all those other people turn their backs and walk away…we never even hear about the 12 disciples…they are never set apart…until now…when everyone else has decided that Jesus is asking just a little bit too much of them…that this new teaching is just too much to swallow…its true…up until now…those 12 guys that we tend to put a whole bunch of stock into…they were just a few of a much larger crowd…all of whom…were fed by Jesus…all of whom were in relationship with Jesus…all of whom…at least until now…have liked what Jesus had to say and willingly followed him…willingly found themselves in relationship with him…until now. (pause)
So just what is it about THIS teaching that is SO hard for them? What is it that in the end offends them…makes them lose faith in this man that they’ve been following? (pause)
Is it all the talk of body and blood as food and drink? Maybe…but I kinda don’t think so. In the end, what it seems to be is the truth that is slowly being revealed about the identity of Jesus…that maybe, just maybe this guy really is who he says he is…but if that’s true…and Jesus really is the Son of God…and not just that but that Jesus really is God…well then what does that have to say about the God that they have always known…the God that they were taught about. (pause)

Because what Jesus has to say is going WAY past anything that they can begin to wrap their heads around…way beyond anything that they can justify as being “From God.” First of all…this guy who claims to be God seems to be telling them…not just suggesting it, but flat out instructing them to break their dietary laws…God wouldn’t do that.

And this is the same guy who told them that they needed to treat their neighbors as themselves…even going so far as to naming Samaritans as their neighbors…which might not seem that crazy to us…but it’s the equivalent of telling us that the very people we need to treat as our neighbors includes Muslims….individuals who claim to follow God, but in a radically different way than we do…so different in fact that countless wars have continuously raged through the ages as to who’s right.

This is the guy, who seems to break every single rule that they have held dear throughout the entirety of their lives with the simple goal of being in relationship with the very individuals that those rules state are unacceptable. (pause) Yes Lord…this is a hard teaching…no wonder they walked away.

But remember this…even knowing what we know now…knowing that these individuals would eventually tuck tail and run…even knowing that Judas would eventually betray him…Jesus not only accepts them…but we hear in the verse immediately following today’s passage, Jesus assuring them “Did I not choose you?” (pause)

Jesus willingly choses to be in relationship with those who he knows aren’t going to go the distance…He choses to feed those who will not reciprocate…and in the end…He will even go so far as to wash the feet of this one that will ultimately betray him. (pause)

And while we ponder on that…its also important to remember that even the ones that seemingly got it…even Peter…the very one to make this marvelous statement “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Even these men who have come to believe and know that Jesus is the holy one of God…will eventually abandon him. Peter himself, who makes this faith filled statement, will eventually deny the relationship with Christ…Peter…is also the one to cry out “I DON’T KNOW HIM.” (pause)
What is it about Jesus that causes so many of us…all of us in fact…at one time or another…what is it that causes us to stumble…what is it that offends us so much? Is it, perhaps the notion that salvation is in fact…offered to the entire world…even to those who we deem in the back of our minds as unworthy…as unfaithful…could it be the fact that Jesus invited each and every one of us into relationship with him despite knowing the eventual outcome of that relationship…even knowing that like the disciples we each have those times when we turn and walk away? (pause)

This is a hard teaching…that the relationship between God and us as individuals…ultimately…isn’t up to us…that in the end, its not about what we think of God…but its what God thinks of us…and in our moments of piety…when we forget that its not what God thinks of those that we think are out…and yet God calls them in. (pause)

I can see how the individuals there that day would have been offended by this teaching…that all of the rules don’t matter…that all the checks and balances don’t matter…that all of our accomplishments mean absolutely nothing…and that we are just as dependent upon the invitation as everyone else.

Do you suppose that hearing Jesus make these bold statements was enough to make them question whether or not this is really God talking? Because in the end, that’s what sin is here in John’s gospel…not believing that Jesus is in fact, who he says he is…whether that meets us with our expectations or not.

This is why Jesus asks them if they are offended…if it makes them stumble…or as the actual translation stated “Does this cause you to stop believing?” (pause)

The gospel is hard…not because we have to do anything to accomplish it…but precisely because the gospel is without prejudice…and no matter what rules we try to apply to who’s got it and who doesn’t God ultimately doesn’t really care about our rules…and God will NOT be hindered by them. God will invite whoever God choses to be in relationship…and the only thing that we can do about it is recognize it…and then we need to be grateful…because to truly hear the gospel is to recognize our own need for it…

To recognize that yes…I am sinful…to recognize that no, there is nothing that I can do about it…and even though humanity might define me by the horrible things in my life…the sin that resides right here…the sinful things that I have done…and then finally to realize that the arms of Jesus are opened to me anyway…and that he accepts me, not as I would like to be or hope to be…not as someone else thinks I need to be…but simply that Jesus accepts me as I am, right here, right now…and there is no power on Earth that can change that.

My past doesn’t define me…not the mistakes I’ve made…not the triumphs I’ve accomplished…not the red hair in college, or the orange hat in seminary…not the old video of me bouncing up and down at my aunt’s wedding. I am defined by how God see’s me…as his beloved child.

And the beauty of the gospel…is that this is true for all of us…YOU…are a beloved child of God…and for all eternity, THAT is what you are known for. Amen.

I Have Come For the Food 8-16-15

In this sermon, based on John 6:51-58, I explore what Jesus is really talking about when he talks about his body and blood being real food and drink. I also discuss how this life changing reality of Christ finds us where we are.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/i-have-come-for-the-food-8-16-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

So after having been gone on vacation for the past two weeks, I’ve been finding myself in the odd mode of trying to get back into the normal swing of things. Setting alarms, time in the office, household chores…lot of things of that nature.

Additionally, with summer winding down and the school year looming, I’ve been noticing some things here in town that are a little out of the ordinary…like bumping into Jr and Senior High cross country runners when I’m out for my morning jog…or hearing the wonderful sounds of marching band camp drifting down the hill from the high school.

But perhaps the strangest adjustment that I’ve been dealing with the past 7 days since we got home has been the feeling of being hungry. (pause) As per usual, during the second half of our family vacation this year we were at family camp at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Bible Camp in the mountains of Southern Colorado…and among the multitude of wonderful aspects that we experience while we are on the mountain, there are two that really stand out. The first is the overabundance of amazing views. Mountains, valleys, amazingly colorful sunrises, blazing starfilled night skies…the views are endless…and admittedly I can’t do them justice by just talking about them…but one blessing has been the fact that Jay and Linda Ackland visited Rainbow Trail about a week before we got there so they could see their granddaughter who is on the summer staff…and so at least two other people here at Underwood have now seen what we see every year…and we can sit and talk about it together.

Now the second amazing aspect of family camp at Rainbow, is an overabundance of amazing food….and when I say overabundance, I mean it…You don’t have time to get hungry. Breakfast 8am…a huge spread…then there’s snacks at 10:15, typically a mixture of fruit along with cookies or other assorted baked goodness. Next is lunch at noon…afternoon snacks available in the camp store…supper comes up at 6…and the evening is capped off with various goodies that show up during whatever camp activity is happening that day…oh not to mention chips and salsa in the main lodge for the adults once the kiddos are tucked into bed.

You eat all day…and you don’t have to think about it…it just shows up…but then we got home, and I got back into my normal routine where breakfast typically consists of a cup of coffee…and so each and every day this week, as lunch time approaches, my stomach has been rumbling…and admittedly its been a little disconcerting for me.

I was thinking about that very thing late morning on Friday as I was starting to work on this message, and then I remembered a brief snippet from a wonderful movie…A Muppet Christmas Carol…when Gonzo reports “I have come to tell a story.” Immediately followed up by Rizzo the Rat reporting “And I have come for the food.” (pause) And that, my friends, is where my brain finally managed to enter into the gospel story for today.

If you’ve noticed, we’ve been stuck in John chapter 6 for several weeks now. The lectionary takes this time in late summer to fill out the shorter aspect of Mark’s gospel with 5 consecutive weeks in John 6…allowing us the continued opportunity to try and make heads or tails of just what Jesus is accomplishing when he feeds the 5000 with the loaves and fish…and then proceeds to spend the entire rest of a rather lengthy chapter continuing to talk about it…a chapter known in the scholarly circles as the bread of life discourse…essentially, as is common in John’s gospel…Jesus performs a miracle…and then he talks about it at great length…and just as we struggle to wrap our minds around just what is going on…often times we find that the people who witnessed the miracles…those sitting there listening to Jesus explain himself…well they struggle just as much as we do. (pause)
Now as per usual…when Jesus does something miraculous…it tends to attract a crowd and this one is of course, no different…as the great crowds of people continue to follow Jesus around throughout the entirety of John 6…and they continue to hound Jesus wherever he ends up…until at one seemingly exasperated moment He barks at them “You aren’t looking for me because of a miracle…you’re hanging around because you ate your fill…you ate of the abundance that I provided.” Might as well be Rizzo the Rat as Jesus calls them out “You are just here for the food.” (pause)

And now here’s the thing. Food…its wonderful…one of my favorite things in day to day life…but…every time we eat…we end up hungry again don’t we? We need that sustenance…we eat…our bodies go through the amazing process of turning that food into energy to fuel our daily activities…but then it runs out and we need more. Its an amazing and wonderful thing…but its doomed to repeat itself day after day.

And Jesus’ words today point out that fact…You’re ancestors ate bread in the wilderness…and they…died. (pause) Now Jesus isn’t saying that this is a bad thing…only that the things of this world, including the food that we eat and drink…is fleeting…its not lasting. (pause)

But…in the midst of this entire chapter, as well as this small portion that we are sharing today…Jesus reminds us of the amazing notion that God is offering us so much more…if we can simply get out of our way to realize it. (pause)
I am the LIVING bread that has come down from heaven…eat the bread that I give and live forever…Eat my flesh and drink my blood…for they are real food and real drink. (long pause)

Now what’s the first thing that pops to mind here? I’m going to venture a guess that hearing that takes your mind directly to…wait for it…Holy Communion…and that’s understandable…here in the Lutheran tradition we take the sacraments pretty seriously…and one could certainly argue that communion seems to be the more important of the two…as we do it a whole lot more often over the course of our lives.

We do it often enough that I’m guessing many of you sitting out there can probably recite the whole deal from memory…I remember my younger days of sitting in church, typically beside a friend of mine who was the son of the pastor at the time, and we would both recite the vast majority of the Sunday morning liturgy under our breath right along with the pastor…perhaps some of you do the same…including the well-known words “This is my body broken for you…and this is the new covenant in my blood shed for all people…”

In fact, perhaps we hear it so often that we’ve grown immune to the life-altering reality that is present within Holy Communion…a life altering reality that Jesus tells about today when he says that if you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have life eternal…something that those present today can’t seem to wrap their heads around…something that seems just a little too drastic for them to accept…something that is just too far out of the box. Eat his flesh, drink his blood…BY NO MEANS…for that would be breaking the Jewish dietary laws…and likewise for us today, the notion of cannibalism is just a little too out there…and perhaps we’ve shunted that very notion to the back of our minds when we receive the bread and wine…and sure, those words of institution are wonderful…but by the time we receive our portion, its only bread and wine. (pause)

But that’s not what Jesus tells us today is it? (pause) My flesh is REAL food…and my blood is REAL drink…and in perhaps the most important statement that Jesus makes throughout this entire chapter…the bread that I give for the life of the world is…my…flesh…not body…flesh. (pause)
And when I thought about that specific statement I couldn’t help but remember what is admittedly my favorite passage in the entire Bible…And the word became FLESH…and dwelled among us. (long pause)

The bread that Jesus gives us…this real food…it is the physical embodiment of God…the word of God…the will of God…whatever you want to call it…that aspect of God that was present within the creation of the world has entered into our reality…as one of us…and God has done this for a specific reason…to give us life beyond anything that we can achieve on our own…

Think about that again…the sustainer and author and creator of the entire universe and everything in it…the creator of life as we know it and all that is lifegiving has put on flesh and dwelled among us…and why? So that we might dwell…so that we might ABIDE right along with him. (pause)

Now here’s the kicker…within the other three gospels…we hear communion type language at the last supper…and as such we tend to connect it to the death of Jesus…to the crucifixion…and there’s nothing wrong with that…our communion liturgy support it when we talk about Jesus body being broken and his blood poured out.

But here in John…you’ll notice that this all happens in the midst of Jesus’ life…in the midst of his ministry…we aren’t even half way through yet…and his death isn’t even on the radar screen yet. (pause)

Jesus came into our reality…the LIVING bread…the LIVING Lord…He came to show us that we have a God who is invested in us…right here…right now…and though we tend to talk a lot about the resurrection…and we tend to focus on the life that is to come in some unknown future after God claims us back from the power of death…it is also vital to note that our LIVING Lord desires us to abide in him right here…right now…and as such he promises us that by doing so…by being in relationship…by receiving that which he has offered us this relationship will not end, but will go on into eternity.

That’s what is happening when we receive that bread and that wine…and we hear those words that this IS the body of Christ…and this IS the blood of Christ…and so today, in just a few minutes when you hear those words spoken to you as an individual, remember that it is FOR you. (pause) Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that life altering? (pause) That we have a God who loves us so much that he will enter into our flawed, weird…strange reality just to be with us?

Imagine how the people there would have taken this…and maybe that’s not so hard…because this same earth shattering reality is true for us today…and even though the crowds were following Jesus around because they got some bread and they wanted some more…maybe, just maybe, their motivation for coming doesn’t really matter…and maybe ours doesn’t either.

Maybe…just coming for the food is enough…because it doesn’t matter why or how we come…what really matters…is how we leave? (pause) And we leave this table…each and every time…assured of the promise that God loves us…and God accepts us…and that God desires that we spend eternity with him…so much that he will do that which we cannot do ourselves….so much that through Christ…he’ll make coming back from death possible…and not only possible…but he’ll make it a reality.

So in the end…I think its safe to say that whatever brought you here today…whatever motivation caused you to get out of bed and mosey through the parking lot to come inside and sit down…whatever it is…I want you to know that it doesn’t matter…good, bad, otherwise…because whatever our intentions they’re never good enough, because sooner or later we’re gonna screw them up anyway…but praise be to God that he can…and does…take our messes, and turns them into miracles…and He does it whether we understand it or not. (pause)
And whether we understand it or not…it doesn’t diminish the truth that this IS his body…and this IS his blood…and it IS…for you. Amen.