Posts Tagged ‘John 6:51-58’

Jump In and Eat Up 8-19-18

In this sermon, based on John 6:51-58, I explore the portion of the Bread of Life discourse where Jesus tells us that his flesh is true food and his blood is true drink…and that in him is life and wisdom.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

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

Grace and peace to in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…Amen.

After the past couple weeks away, its great to be back here again, and to work back into the normal swing of things…which actually takes a bit of work for me, as the week of family camp that my crew and I share every year is anything but ordinary…something that becomes apparent from pretty much the first moment you set foot on site…and then blatantly obvious once the program itself starts…as staff members come up with wacky and crazy ways to illustrate general rules as well as some of the various safety measures that are taken while at the camp.

Now there are quite a few, but one of these rules is you only drink water out of one of the water fountains or out of the bathroom faucets. The reason for this rule is keep people from drinking water out of the creek. There is a parasite in the creek water that will cause some pretty major digestive complications, and the people that run the camp want to make sure that everyone avoids that.

Now admittedly, after a dozen years of going to camp, I tend to think all of these different rules as somewhat second nature…but then I heard a quote this week, and in light of the camp rule, it struck me as funny. In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria. 

Now, at first, I just had to laugh, because I took it as a joke especially in light of the whole parasite in the water thing…but then I really got to thinking about what it was saying as a whole, and especially the first part of the quote…in wine there is wisdom. I found myself wondering why that seemed to be so significant and then I made a connection…it sounds just like our scripture lessons for this week.

We hear about wine in our Gospel lesson from John and we hear about Wisdom in the rest of our lessons from Proverbs and Ephesians as well as our Psalm for today. It’s not uncommon for the different readings in the lectionary to have common themes, but I was really surprised at how closely they all seem to fit together this week.

There’s a funny thing about the different passages that get lumped in together each week. Sometimes they don’t seem to fit together at all, and I wonder just what the lectionary committee was thinking as they assigned them…but then sometimes…like this week…they really seem to mesh.

And I didn’t realize quite how well they fit together until I listened to a broadcast from some of my old seminary professors this week. Now typically, they recommend preaching a single lesson…which you’ve probably noticed is my normal style…

But this week during the broadcast one of the professors said “You know that whole single lesson thing…this week…forget about it. Preach on the whole set.” So I’ll give it a try…although I don’t plan on dwelling very heavily on the other readings, I will highlight them just a touch.

We start off in Proverbs, and it could be safe to say that Wisdom is the feature of that entire book. After all, it was written by Solomon, who was best known for his God-given wisdom. However, this reading seems to look at Wisdom as a person…a person that is willing to share their knowledge with others. “You that are simple, turn in here…Lay aside immaturity and live, and walk in the way of insight.” We even catch a glimpse of the gospel lesson here. “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine that I have mixed.” That sounds a lot like what Jesus is telling us today doesn’t it?

Now our psalm that we shared earlier today seems to be imparting Wisdom. I can almost picture a grandfather giving advice to his young grandson…and there is certainly divine wisdom in this advice. “Those who fear the Lord lack nothing…and Those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.” The lesson from Ephesians follows this same model. Paul is passing along wisdom for how to live. One verse in particular stands out to me. “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Each one of these readings are strong in their own right. Wisdom is truly something of value. But hearing these readings raises a question. Where does this wisdom come from? Perhaps we can deduce that it must come from the Lord…which then raises another question…HOW ARE WE TO GET IT? (pause) I think we begin to see the answer to this very important question in John’s gospel lesson for today.

As we read this lesson…hearing Jesus speak of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, I’m guessing this leads us to a common idea…communion. Interestingly enough, John’s 6th chapter is the only reference to communion. The words of institution that we are so used to hearing don’t appear in John’s account of the last supper. Many scholars agree that if you want John’s take on the matter, you better tune in right here.

Jesus tells us “I AM…the living bread that came down from heaven.” Here he compares himself to another bread from heaven. Manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness. The divinely given bread which sustained the people during their day to day activities, but as we hear Jesus say… “your ancestors ate, and they died.” But Jesus says “whoever eats of THIS bread will live forever…actually he says it twice…and in that culture…to repeat yourself meant that it was…REALLY important. (pause)

So if Jesus is the living bread…how do we eat it? He tells us that too. “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Eternal life is only possible by eating the flesh of Jesus. What exactly is Jesus telling us here? That we are only saved through communion? That we need to physically hack him up and chow down? Maybe…but…I don’t think so.

Rather, it seems that Jesus is referencing something very important here…the source, of his flesh. Think of the beginning of John’s gospel. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” From here we jump ahead a few verses. “And the Word…became flesh.”

Now the Word as John calls it, is an important and significant thing. Some call it the Will of God…or the Wisdom of God. We see in John 1 that He was in the beginning with God and all things were made through him.

So if the Word became flesh…then the flesh of Jesus is the Will, or the Voice, or the Wisdom of God himself. And Jesus tells us that his flesh is the bread that grants us eternal life…and I think that makes sense…after all, in receiving his flesh, we are receiving the living Word of God….the same word which spoke creation into being.

Now I gotta go into the Greek for just a second…because there’s a distinction. Within his teaching, Jesus makes a sharp contrast between the Israelites eating the manna with our eating of His own flesh. Now, in the example of the Israelites, the Greek word for eat is esthio…which is best translated as to eat or to dine. However, here, when Jesus speaks of eating his flesh, he uses the word trogo…which is better translated to devour. In short…to trogo is to munch or gnaw. It implies an animalistic sense to eating…certainly more raw than to dine.

At one point or another, most of you sitting out there today have seen me eat. If you haven’t you might be surprised. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m an eater. Anyone who has ever watched me take down a hamburger will attest to it.

But I do have different eating styles, depending on how much I am enjoying the food set in front of me. My wife has come to recognize how well I like a new creation that she’s come up with based on my enthusiasm for eating. If I’m not a fan, I’ll pick at it…taking small bites…taking my time…I’m dining. Esthio.

However, if you put something really good in front of me…fresh hot pizza for instance…I’m leaning over the table…stuffing and swallowing as fast as I can so that I can start in on the next piece…I’m ravenous. A dog gnawing on a bone has nothing on me…I can tell you that much. This my friends…is trogo eating.

And this…is how Jesus describes the way that we should eat of his flesh. He encourages us to dive right in…to be ravenous in the consumption of his flesh. Jesus is telling us to eat as if our life depends on it…and do you know what…It…does.

The next time you take communion, think of that…the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is Life-Giving. And in His Body…his flesh…is the Wisdom of God…the knowledge that through Christ’s saving power, we have eternal life.  Not by anything we have done…not by any measure that we ourselves possess…but because Jesus Christ freely gives it. Just as He freely offers us forgiveness of our sins, he offers us his flesh…the living Word of God…He has offered himself in EVERY way…so that we may have life eternal….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:

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.