Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I Am Living Bread - August 19, 2012 - Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: John 6:51-69
I want to begin this morning with a note of clarification. If you remember, we are reading through our Lectionary series the second year or the year B in which our Gospel readings are primarily from the Gospel of Mark. However, since Mark is the shortest Gospel, we have several Sundays where our lessons are from the Gospel of John and today, again, is one of those Sundays. And actually, in their wisdom, the Lectionary committee has put together what in the past has been two Gospel readings, John 6:51-58 and John 6:60-69.
This week we continue in the Gospel of John and we begin by hearing more about spiritual food, specifically we hear more about eating Jesus who is the bread of life. I suppose just hearing about eating a person without the proper context might bring one to imagine that we, in the Christian church are cannibals, which accusation has been around since the early church and the practice of closed communion so that no one outside the faith was allowed to participate in the eating of the Lord’s Supper, but that is not the case that we are cannibals and that is not a proper understanding of what it taking place. To help us to understand what we are talking about we need to make a distinction between the two types of eating which we read and hear about in God’s Word. There is physical eating and drinking. This physical eating and drinking is where we actually eat meat and vegetables in order to sustain our physical bodies, in order to have fuel for our bodies so we might be able to live in this world. The other type of eating is what we call spiritual eating. This spiritual eating is an eating of spiritual food, the means of grace, the Word of God, confession and absolution, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, to sustain our spirit, our soul. And this spiritual eating is just as important if not more important especially for our eternal well being. If all we eat in this world is junk food then we will get fat and this eating may lead to an early physical death. Likewise, if we only eat spiritual junk food it may lead to an eternal spiritual death, what we call hell. We know what physical junk food is, but what is spiritual junk food? Spiritual junk food consists of the theologies and philosophies of this world which are contrary to God’s Word. We must continually take care in discerning what we read, what we hear, what we see, comparing everything to God’s Word, so that we are not eating spiritual junk food which ultimately leads too eternal spiritual death.
Let us take a closer look, then, at this spiritual eating and drinking. Throughout the Old Testament we are reminded of the importance of sacrifices. All the sacrifices which God instituted in the Old Testament were meant to point the people to the one ultimate sacrifice as well as to remind the people that there was a price for sin. The price, the cost for sin, is the shedding of blood and death. This cost, this price goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden where God told Adam and Eve that the day they ate from the tree of “knowledge of good and evil,” they would surely die and they did. They ate and immediately they died. They died a spiritual death and they began dying a physical death. In the Garden God promised Adam and Eve that He would send someone who would pay the price for their sins and then He sacrificed animals to make clothes for them to wear. Later God set up the sacrificial system so that the penitent would be reminded that the price for sin was the shedding of blood. The penitent would bring a spotless lamb, a lamb which was perfect, which had no flaw, which had no broken bones. It was to be a perfect lamb.
The penitent would bring the lamb to the priest who would kill the lamb. He would keep part of it for his food and offer the rest to God as a sacrifice. Through the death of the lamb, through the shedding of the blood of the lamb the penitent was reminded of the cost for his or her sin, the price for sin is the shedding of blood, death. It was not this sacrifice which paid the price for their sin, this sacrifice was merely a reminder and served only to point to the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of the one promised, the Son of God, who would pay the price, who would die for the sins of all people.
After the lamb was killed, after the priest took his portion, and after the lamb was sacrificed and burned on the altar, then right there in the temple, the family would gather around and eat the sacrifice. They would partake in this sacrifice, physically eating the sacrifice as they participated in this reminder of the death of the lamb for their sins.
Now, fast forward with me to the New Testament and to the time of Jesus. Jesus was and is true God. As true God He took on human flesh and blood. He was born as a human. He was like us in all respects except that He was without sin. Jesus came to do everything perfectly for us, in our place. All the things we could not do, live perfectly and obey all God’s commands perfectly, He did for us in our place. After He perfectly accomplished everything for us, Jesus took our sins, all our sins and the sins of all people of all places, of all times upon Himself and then He brought Himself, the perfect, spotless lamb forward to be sacrificed for us. He did not bring a lamb as a reminder that the price for sin was death and the shedding of blood. No, He came as the perfect Lamb of God to shed His blood, once for all, for our forgiveness.
Jesus is the spotless lamb. He is also the priest who took Himself and had Himself killed for us in our place. And He invites us to come and to eat of this sacrifice of Himself. We eat and drink of our Lord at His Holy Supper, at the Lord’s Table. We come to His table to eat His body and to drink His blood. We come to His table and as we eat and drink of Him we participate in His death and resurrection. His death becomes our death. His resurrection becomes our resurrection. His life, His eternal life becomes our life.
In the second part of our text we are told that there were some people who were offended by Jesus, or who took offense at Jesus and left. This happens too often in our world today. People take offense at Jesus. Please notice, Jesus did not dumb down, nor cease speaking hard words as too many so called Christian churches do today, compromising “for the sake of the Gospel” as they put it. Perhaps Jesus’ words might encourage us to boldly proclaim His Word, even if others take offense. And perhaps Jesus is again reminding us of the importance of keeping His teachings right and true over being concerned about offending others. As Peter explains, Jesus is the one who has the words of eternal life, where else can we go?
So what does this mean and what does this mean to us today? We are in the same shape as Adam and Eve. We are in the same shape as the children of Israel. We are sinners! We sin in thought, word and deed, in our actions. I would suggest that we probably more often sin sins of omission than sins of commission. In other words, we are probably pretty good about not doing the things we should not do, but we are probably not as good about doing the good things we should be doing. We omit doing the good things we should be doing, which is a sin, just as much as doing the things we should not be doing.
We cannot save ourselves, no matter how much we might try. And believe me, we do try. We like to offer our good works to God thinking that maybe, just because we are good, at least some of the time, that may justify and erase our being bad some of the time. In other words, maybe our good works make up for some of our sins. We just do not like the idea of God having to die too much for us. We do not mind saying the Jesus had to die for us, but we do not want to admit that He had do die as much for me as He did for the person who is really bad. What we forget is that all sins are equally damnable in God’s eyes. So our sins are just as bad as everyone else’s, the pastor’s included.
Sometimes we have doubts. It is too often that I hear, even good Lutherans make the statement, or one like it, “I hope I will go to heaven.” Folks, Ladies and Gentlemen, we do not hope for heaven, unless ours is a Biblical hope which is a certainty. Heaven is ours. Heaven is a present reality. It is a free gift. It was earned for us by Jesus’ death and it is given to us through the means of grace, as we eat and drink of our Lord through His Word, through Holy Baptism, through confession and absolution and through His Holy Supper. If asked what is the hope we have we will answer, “I know I am going to heaven.”
Thanks be to God that He continues to draw us to faith and give us faith by the working of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. As we read our Bibles, as we remember our Baptism, as we confess our sins and hear His word of absolution, as we come to the Lord’s Table, we eat and drink the Lord, we are given faith and forgiveness of sins, we strengthened in faith and kept in faith.
Especially as we come to the Lord’s Table we eat His body and drink His blood. We participate in His death and resurrection. His death becomes our death, His resurrection becomes our resurrection, His life becomes our life. By faith in Jesus we have life, better life in this world and life in the world to come, eternal life, heaven.
We continue to need to eat physical food in order to sustain our lives in this world. Along those lines I might remind you that we need to eat good food, nourishing food, food of a good balanced diet, but we also need to eat good spiritual food. We can dine on the philosophies and teachings of this world, which we would consider junk food, or we can feed on good food, the best food of the means of Grace, God’s Word, the Bible, confession and absolution, and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
I want to leave you with Jesus’ words this morning, because, as always, I believe that He says it best. And His words are words which strengthen us so that we are able to face whatever lies ahead in life. Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:51,53-58). To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.