2018-08-26/14th Pentecost-B/Community Lutheran/Pr Joe Vought
Of all the Gospels, John’s Gospel seems the most intense. Jesus is always challenging people into a deeper relationship of faith. Remember Nicodemus the Pharisee in John ch. 3? He came to Jesus alone at night probably because his Pharisee friends thought Jesus was too radical. Nicodemus came with a yearning heart only to hear Jesus say, “Flesh is flesh, you must be born from above, by the Holy Spirit.” Many think he became a secret disciple of Jesus, at the end of the Gospel he helps bury Jesus. Then in John, ch. 4, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well in the heat of the day. When Jesus challenged her and saw through to the deeper painful truth of her life, she did not run away but asked Jesus for living water. Jesus words were so life-giving she left her water jar at the well and went to tell everyone about him.
Then in ch. 6, after Jesus’ feeds 5000 people, multitudes follow Jesus to the other side of the lake, hoping he will be their Bread-king. But Jesus will not be used and abused like some kind of commodity. He calls the disciples and crowds to something greater with a sermon about the Bread of Life. “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life.” “What must we do?” they ask. “That you believe in him whom he has sent. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father… Whoever believes in me has eternal life… I am the bread of life.”
We’ve been hearing Jesus’ Bread of Life sermon for 5 weeks. Like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, Jesus challenges disciples and all of us to a deeper encounter. Today he says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them… whoever eats me will live because of me.” Notice the reaction, “When many heard it they said, ‘this teaching is difficult, who can accept it?’” Other disciples were complaining. Jesus knew there were some who did not believe and some who would betray him. All those reactions to Jesus: difficult, hard to accept, complaining, offensive, disbelieving, betrayers, and finally, we hear of “those who turned away and no longer went with him.” What is your reaction to Jesus who says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me?” Can you handle the scandal of Jesus who is our Bread of Life and asks you to follow? Let’s be honest, it’s easy to follow Jesus when he is multiplying bread, meeting our needs, forgiving our sins, saying things we agree with. But when Jesus challenges us to commit to his will and way and take all that he is and stands for into our lives, we want to renegotiate. When Jesus speaks about eating his body and drinking his blood he is asking us to take all that he is and all that he says into our lives so that we will be His Body and Blood in the world.
Let me try it this way. Have you ever met someone who inspired you, pushed you to be better? When we meet them we are drawn to them, they make us want to be better. Maybe it was a coach, teacher or a mentor. I had a coach in High School I admired and do you know how he returned the favor? He kicked our butts and made us run miles and miles, then hills and sprints. Because of him we became a team and won the District Meet. Dexter Weikel was my college choir director. Besides a full load of classes we practiced 2 hours, 3 days a week. I thought about quitting but Dexter was charismatic, a gifted organist and director. He made us work and practice. We loved him and he made us want to get it right so that we became one voice. Jenn Quinones is like that. I love singing with Jenn now and then, it is fun but hard work too. She makes all of us want to do it well. Or, how many of you have seen the movie, “As Good as it Gets?” Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin: He is such a mess of conflicting emotions and drives and yet he is so head over heels in love for a woman that at one point he cries out, “You make me want to be a better man.” And her heart melts.
Jesus loved his disciples. He fed them and showed them the face of God. He also confounded them because He expected more of them than they ever expected of themselves. When Jesus preached the kingdom of God he made their hearts burn, always calling them to their greater selves. We say it in staff meeting: “Jesus loves us just as we are but Jesus loves us too much to leave us where we are.” (Repeat that with me) As our children and youth begin a year of challenge and learning, how is Jesus calling all of us to grow? Because Jesus is our Bread of life, he calls us to be bread for others: to do good work, teach our children and youth, serve the hungry, to welcome the community and build this church. So we come with open hands to receive the Bread of life. There is Godly work and ministry to be done and guess what, it can even be fun. From this Eucharist let us lift up our hearts, offer our lives to let Jesus make us into the people He wants us to be. Lord Jesus you are the Bread of Life. With Peter we can only respond, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Amen.