Pentecost 13B, Sunday August 23, 2015.
56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[a] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
This is our fifth week in one chapter of the bible – John chapter 6. We have been feasting on the bread of Life, Jesus. The feast reaches its crescendo today. All this talk of eating and drinking has made me think about diets. All the while what we have really been talking about is diets!
Why are we so obsessed with what we eat? There is a diet for anybody for anything these days.
There are diets that add years to your life and life to your years. There are high protein diets, low carbohydrate diets that decrease your weigh and keep you fit. There are organic diets that don’t pollute your body or the environment in which we all live. There are beauty diets that keep you good looking and young. Good diet!! There are detox diets that flush out the pollutants in your body and make you clean.
It seems that people assume that their health, vitality and well-being depends mostly on their diet.
The common belief seems to be among many that good food not only nourishes the body but somehow makes us better people – more well, more vital, more alive – living longer and fuller lives.
It is partly true. A balanced diet of healthy food will surely improve your health. But is this belief also over reaching? Can food really make you a better person? What we hear in the Bible is that food is good but it cannot give you spiritual health. Food is good but it comes up short in the search for spiritual health and the things of the Spirit – joy, reconciliation, forgiveness, deep peace, love, hope…..
However there is one diet that can give you that gift – a peaceful, alive, aware, joyful, satisfied, content and full spirit….
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
This diet gives you spiritual health. Best of all Jesus says this diet actually makes you holy and pleasing and acceptable to a holy God of love and grace.
Jesus says to all who seek true peace, love, hope, life and well-being, “it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven” (John 6:32).
Jesus says he is complete and longest lasting, never ending well-being…
33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
As a Christian your spiritual health does come from what you eat. In this way it is true that “what you eat is what you are”.
Sunday is his banquet – his meal his holy meal by which he makes us all holy. This is the place to feed, refuel, be re-energised with the best food in town – eternal food, joy food, life food, peace, food, forgiveness food, Jesus food.
As the guests of the man himself, around his table, we say, “Sir”, “Lord”, ‘God”, give us this bread always.
He does. He gives you his own life and so you can live heavenly, holy, joy-filled lives in any circumstance right here and now, not only one day in glory with him and all the holy people of God in the everlasting heavenly banquet we hear of in the Bible.
Jesus rose from the grave bodily – humanly – so that he could give himself to his people bodily, humanly in his divine feast to which you’re an invited guest.
54 This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
The bread we eat is not only bread. It his Jesus’ flesh – given for the life of the world – for the life of you and for me and or all in this community.
Friend, can you hear that the flesh of Jesus he gives in the bread in his meal is life?
Can you see that this food, the flesh, this bread work in complete opposite to all other normal food?
When you and I hook into some lovely food of any sort, our magnificently designed bodies assimilate the proteins and nutrients into our flesh. Our digestive system breaks even the best steak and mushroom pie or Pavlova down and changes it into what the flesh needs. The food we eat is no longer food. It is changed to become part of our bodies.
So, if I eat brussel sprouts (and we sometimes do), I don’t become a brussel sprout. No, the brussel sprout becomes Adrian.
But the flesh of Jesus has the opposite effect on us. We are assimilated into his body. We are resurrected and renewed into his body, his church. As we eat his flesh and drink his blood we become like the food not the food becomes like us. We become like him in an inward and hidden process of transformation from the indie out.
This life long process crescendos in final bodily resurrection from the dead. His heavenly life becomes your heavenly life.
How can this be? Because his flesh is not dead. Jesus is not dead. His body is not dead. His flesh is alive and well and spiritually charged with all his grace and love. His flesh is filled with the Holy Spirit. So when you eat his living flesh you receive his living Holy Spirit and you are born again, over and over as you continue on living in his body, his church, his people.
What an astounding gift. His life becomes your life and your life becomes his life and it never ends. His resurrection becomes the resurrection of your body now and at the last.
Martin Luther put it well.
Christ’s flesh does not let itself be transformed but transforms those who eat it…..It is as though a wolf ate a sheep and the sheep was so powerful a food that it transformed the wolf into a sheep.
So, can you hear that when you eat Jesus’ flesh and blood physically and spiritually, that food is so divine, so powerful, so alive that it actually transform us like nothing else or no one else ever could? He makes us holy, pleasing, accepted, alive, hope-filled, joy-filled and most of all new – new every morning – just like God’s grace and kindness – new every morning!
In this profound meal of life Jesus does not make you superman or super woman, or give you super biological vitality or super human life-power like superman get kryptonite. From his alive flesh you don’t get super brain power so that you are a super person. But you do get an inward hidden transformation process or life with a difference. His own heavenly life for you as your live in him in the everyday things of life.
You carry his spiritual vitality in your body as you be with others, serve with others, go about your study, your work, your friendships, your suffering. And gradually, you are being matured in love. – his love. You become more and more like him.
All that comes from the flesh that Jesus offers to you which you gladly receive with great thanks and joy with all other fellow travellers on this journey of life we share here.
My fellow guests you have the best diet – the Jesus diet. It is good for you because he is good and he gives his goodness away to you freely and in love every time he offers you his flesh and blood. That diet gives you his life-giving, energising Holy Spirit. He grows you, nourishes you for the things he has already prepared in advance for you to be and do.
DINNER IS SERVED
So whether you are a person who is seeking a sign from God to fix a problem, or a person who just feels that you have to earn his favour and acceptance, or whether you are person who wants to live a full and happy life doing what pleases you but have not come to terms with this man Jesus and his words to you, or whether you are a person who loves the spectacular and is drawn to great signs of power, especially spiritual power, or whether you are person who is just confused about a lot of things and just cannot find the centre, find the simple truth, find the real thing that is really all that matters….
It is here. It is Jesus here. Jesus is More than you need and want.
We end up with Peter and his great show if trust…
“Lord, to whom else would we go. You have the words of real life”.
Here is the bread for your life, and the flesh and blood poured by the Holy Spirit energising you, resurrecting you, forgiving you, imparting what food cannot impart in full and forever – joy, hope, divine life in our everyday life.
Jesus is more. As a result you are more and together we are more in him.
Share or reflect on your diet – what’s healthy about it and what needs to go!
Share or reflect on your top three meals.
Lord, open the eyes of our hearts that we may know you better. Amen.
Skim through John chapter six noting things like;
1. Where things happen and on what special time of year?
2. The two groups of people Jesus speaks to – crowd and “the Jews” – Religious law leaders….
3. Jesus’ diagnosis of their heart problem
a. The crowd seeking more and more miracles so that they can get what God gives but not really have a meaningful relationship with God.
b. The religious leaders who don’t want more miracles or more of Jesus but who do want God’s blessing on their lives as they go about earning that blessing to keep their power and place…
4. Notice how Jesus raises the whole thorny issue of whether or not there is a resurrection from the dead to an afterlife and how this really gets the Pharisees and Sadducees arguing.
5. Notice how Jesus speaks of himself as Bread and then Flesh and Blood and how he is the true bread the real food that gives life to people….
6. See the surprising news that many of his disciples turned away at Jesus’ talk of people having to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Why do you think they turned away? What caused the offence for many people?
a. Was it the fact that he did not give the crowd any more spectacular picnics?
b. That Jesus did not give the religious leaders any reward or affirmation for all their law keeping?
c. That Jesus sounded like some kind of cannibal and wanted his followers to be that?
d. Or all of these things and more……?
We said that Holy Communion is a very special thing in this sermon. We said it was Jesus live giving us his own life in the eating and drinking of the bread and wine. We said that it is the best food that truly does do more than normal food.
This food is so powerful and so holy that it transforms us. Unlike normal food which we transforms into what our bodies need, this food transforms our bodies into Jesus’ body on earth – his community, his people, his church. This food makes us holy and gives us the Spirit’s power to live in the Spirit’s gifts and produce his fruits. Have you always believed this or something different about Holy Communion? Share you story…..
We said that in this eating and drinking together Jesus transforms us in a hidden inward process of making us more like him over the journey of our life in him. What do think about that claim and can you see how this belief is arrived at from these unique words in John chapter 6? Share your thoughts on this….
If it is true that Jesus really does give us his own life in the meal he established on the night of the Passover, what does that mean for how we live and what we value. Where do we look for lasting life and hope? How do we share what Jesus gives us?
Remember how we said that Jesus not make us super humans as we receive his flash and blood but that he gives us “life with a difference” in the sense that we are all engaged in a life-long process of inner transformation that allows us to live in suffering, grief, business, school, marriage, building, faring, retirement and the like everyday. How do you respond to this kind of belief? Share your thoughts….
Jesus, bread of life, help us feed on you always so that we become more and more like you every day. Amen.