Posted on Wed, Aug 26, 2015
August 23, 2015
13th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: John 6:56-69 – “Live IN the Word”
56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
The Words of Eternal Life
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 68 Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’
Did you notice the anticipation and sense of identity and preparation for moving or marching into the future with a great purpose and mission in today’s Old Testament text and Epistle text?
I can just see Joshua standing like a larger than life general, 24
Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.
14 ‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’
I have a feeling nobody turned and walked away, especially after Joshua so convincingly says, “but for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!” It is a moment of destiny for the people of Israel; will they allow themselves to be the people God has guided and blessed to become?
The Lord has led Israel into the land promised to them, and Joshua was inspiring to continue on in their faithfulness to God as God was making them into a mighty people. They had been blessed in battle and through suffering; there was no way the people could turn back now…
Then we have Paul writing his almost militaristic description of how we need to be fitted out to live a life of faith in a world filled with temptation and deceit. This text takes me back to my youth where in our church there were with many of pictures of “Christian Soldiers” that looked remarkably like the same Roman soldiers that we saw arresting Jesus, beating Jesus, and eventually nailing him to the cross, and then lying on the ground when Jesus emerges from the tomb. I was very confused with these images when I was a child. It was also the time of the Vietnam War and we had several of our neighborhood boys fighting at the time, and the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” was sung regularly… Eventually I was able to distinguish the difference in the meaning Paul was trying to give to us in the metaphor of what we need to guard against temptation, evil, slothfulness, selfishness and basically being led away from living as a person of faith living following in the ‘discipline’ of Jesus…‘
And then as I grew up and somehow the Spirit of God seemed to grasp me and cause me to want to learn more, sing more, pray more, and figure out how to live in love and forgiveness in a world so full of pain, evil, greed, and broken promises… I seemed to begin to refine my understanding of faith, and what it meant to not just live according to your faith, but to live IN your faith.
The verses that really caused my mind to stir were about Jesus telling the people that when you fed, clothed, or visited the least of these, you were visiting me… and the people didn’t even realize they were doing these amazing acts of service. In order for that to happen, or for your right hand to be the loving and comforting hand of God, without your left hand knowing what is going on, requires and incredible mindset, set in a relationship with God as if you were living totally within the Grace, Love, Joy and Mercy of God, not by trying to live in such a relationship, but just because you know that YOU ARE ALREADY THERE! Or better yet, you don’t have to know anything; your entire being just acts according to the Gospel, without any thinking at all.
There is one word and one phrase from today’s Gospel, I want to explore; the first word is, “abide.” The Biblical understanding of the word “abide” has more to do with the concept of “living within” something. For example, to “abide” in Christ, has a sense of “living within the promise of God’s grace, hope, joy and love” to the sense that you are no longer searching for that ‘place’ or ‘habitation,’ but you just ARE or HAVE BECOME that grace, hope, joy and love of God and your entire being reflects that grace, hope, joy and love of God without thinking… at all times… even, or especially in the most difficult of time… does this sound difficult? It may… or it may sound as natural as a loving parent reminding their son or daughter that you are family now and forever more…
The origin of the word “Abide” is ORIGIN Old English ābīdan‘wait,’ from ā- ‘onward’ + bīdan (see bide).
With the nuance, to abide is to understand that you stay close together in anticipation of something coming soon in the future…
Jesus is letting all the people around him to understand how important it is to ‘abide’ IN Jesus’ Word and promises. The ‘disciples’ Jesus is mentioning in today’s text are not the 12 chosen disciples, they will be questioned later; John’s use of the word ‘disciples’ is for all those who have tagged along to listen to what he might say, or get another free lunch from the time Jesus fed the 5000.
Jesus is speaking to the people, and especially his chosen disciples, and the writer of the Gospel of John, is speaking to a young church, and to us.
The crowd cannot follow the metaphor that they must eat of his body and drink of his blood in the same way we understand the Eucharist, and they are confused and even offended. They have not made any connection between what Jesus is doing, and his role as becoming the sacrificial lamb that will be sacrificed for their forgiveness and salvation.
The message and the problem is the same today, when people hear Jesus, or the Church say, “let us walk together in the discipline of Jesus!” People will ask, “What does that mean?”
It doesn’t mean that once you believe all your problems, your aches and pains, your financial and relational problems will go away like magic like some of the TV evangelists will have you believe… but it will mean that you live day to day in relationship with your Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. It means that you have witnessed that faith that declares to you that you no longer live according to your own power, logic, wisdom or rabbit’s foot, but now you live WITHIN God’s powerful PROMISE of constant love, mercy, hope and justice! Your life is now connected forevermore to God’s mercy and grace, now and forevermore. And as we walk in the discipline of Jesus knowing it is from God that all ‘blessings flow,’ soon the physical action of reflecting the mercy, joy, grace, and love of God becomes second, or first nature.
Some people responded positively to Jesus’ teaching, some did not, and some of those who only wanted to be served by Jesus, turned and walked away… the same thing happens today. But Jesus’ love and mercy for them does not change, he continues on to the cross for their sake…
But it is the words of Simon Peter that reveal the Truth, “So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 68 Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’”
Think about that statement, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. In a world as crazy as they one we live in, with problems and issues that seem insurmountable, with the church being called on to do more and more for the hurting in our society, I find myself during my prayer time saying, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life,’ more and more.
A new day has begun with this morning sun, a new day will rise with the sun tomorrow, and until the day Jesus returns, we will keep marching faithfully, abiding with Jesus, empowered through the Holy Spirit… is this a difficult teaching? Don’t worry; through the gift of baptism, Jesus looks at each one us as His Sons and Daughters… Jesus will not leave our side, or let go of our hands. Amen.
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