* a sermon preached at my home congregation Calvary Lutheran Church on August 23, 2015 *
** you may also want to watch and hear this sermon preached. Here is that video. And here is the audio if you prefer to just listen. **
Text: John 6:56-69
Please pray with me:
Speak truth to us today.
Even it’s difficult for us to hear,
Help us know the truth of your love for us.
Good morning, church! It is good to be with you this morning. I’m honored and privileged to share this time with you.
Well, here we are, church. We made it. No-carb dieters and those with a gluten intolerance, take heart. We made it to Week 5 of this 5-week series of passages on bread, specifically what are called the “Bread of Life” texts. Next week, we’ll get back to Mark, but this week we get what might be some of the more difficult words from Jesus in this whole exposition.
And Calvary, I need to tell you something this morning, something that may be…difficult…to hear, so please just trust me when I say that this is for your benefit… “Calvary…you’re spoiled.”
I mean, you have it really, really good. I’m not kidding, Pastor Phil and Pastor Kyle have spoiled y’all…with Interns.
I mean, you just finished up a great 11 months with Drew, who’s one of my classmates, we entered seminary together, and he’s a rockstar. I mean, seriously, did y’all meet Thaddeus?!? Cutest dog ever, am I right…?
And you’re getting another absolute rockstar in Anna. Seriously, she’s phenomenal. Y’all are going to learn a lot from each other, and I’m thrilled to see the ways in which you both grow over this next year. And all of this is not even to mention Amy, and Ethan, and Alex, and Paul, and on and on and on… Calvary’s list of former interns reads like a “Who’s Who” list of all-star pastors in the church. No joke.
And as much as that says something about those individuals, I think it says just as much about you, church. It tells me that you are called, Calvary, to raise up and train leaders for the church, and that you take that call seriously, and that you have affirmed and embraced that call, and by God, you’re good at it. You are such a blessing to our church, the ELCA.
It’s funny how those things that are often difficult to hear at first, can be turned into a blessing like that, isn’t it? Sometimes the blessing doesn’t come about that quickly, but I’ve often found that to be true of things that are, at least initially, difficult to hear, that eventually I come to understand them as something that are for my benefit. We call them “hard truths,” right? The things that maybe we don’t want to hear, but they are certainly the things we need to hear.
It’s what I hear in Jesus’ words today. “Eat my flesh and drink my blood. Eat me and you will live.” See, we take for granted that we know that Jesus is talking about the Eucharist, but remember that the concept of Holy Communion would have been completely foreign to the disciples and those gathered in 1st-century Judea. It’s likely that they would have thought that Jesus was talking about full-on Hannibal Lecter cannibalism… Which is funny, but also helps explain why they were a little put off by Jesus’ words, “This teaching is…difficult, Jesus… Who could possibly understand this…?”
But it is difficult, even for us. Because even though we understand Jesus to be talking about communion, there are promises made and gifts given in this meal that we have to trust. We have to trust that Jesus body and blood are broken and given for us, and that somehow that means something, that it has an effect on us and how we live in this world. We have to trust that this meal of bread and wine, as much as it is for us, is also food for the journey, nourishment that carries us out into the world to be the hands and feet of Christ to a world that desperately needs it.
And if we’re honest with ourselves, I think we would prefer easy, wouldn’t we? We would prefer it if Jesus didn’t say things like, “Eat and drink my body and blood.” We would prefer it if Jesus didn’t ask challenging things like, “Does this offend you? Do you also want to go away?” Because if we’re honest, I think we would say, “Well…yeah.”
But don’t be discouraged, church, when the way of Jesus is a little tough going. When Jesus asks, “Do you also wish to go away?” remember that the disciples did leave, they did scatter when things got really tough. They denied, they fled, and they hid behind locked doors. So know that you’re not in bad company, it’s in our nature to want to leave or turn back when things get rocky.
But also know that that rocky place, that mound of rocks, outside of the city walls, that hill of death, is where our salvation was realized. Know that even as the savior of the world was put to death, death was defeated; death does not have the last word. So although we may wish to go away at times, we serve a God who brings life from death, who breathes that life and encouragement into us, who makes resurrection from things that are dead.
Sometimes following in the way of Jesus is difficult, not so easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it, right? Because following in the way of Jesus means sometimes having the unpopular opinion. Following in the way of Jesus means fastening truth around our waist and holding faith in our hands, shouting down the evil in this world and proclaiming the gospel of peace. Following in the way of Jesus means picking up your cross, and following…
Following in the way of Jesus looks like 8-year old Drew asking that his friends bring water for his homeless friends underneath Lancaster instead of gifts to his birthday party It means being willing to be challenged, church, and absolutely, unequivocally responding to that call, and then some! There’s no way you could walk into the sanctuary without seeing those mountains of water…
If those stacks of water out there show you anything, it should be that you are absolutely capable; you can absolutely step up, and that you are a blessing. As we bless these backpacks this morning, know that the blessing of this church sends you out into your schools to be a blessing to others. As we enter into this capital campaign, as we celebrate tradition and imagine the future, remember this. Calvary is a church that steps up to be a blessing. Calvary is a church that is open to being challenged, willing to hear some hard truths, and to respond in overwhelming ways.
Who are the truth tellers in your life? Is it your spouse, or partner? Your mom? Dad? Your kids…? Siblings? Friends? Your pastor…?
I think we all need a little truth telling in our lives, someone who can cut right through all the junk, all the stuff we try and put up in the way to prevent people from seeing who we really are, someone who can get right to the heart of us, who knows us…
Maybe you need a little truth telling this morning. Maybe you need to hear something difficult.
Well, here you go, try this one out: You are loved more than you could possibly imagine.
You are so loved, you are forgiven, you are beautiful, you are saved, you are an incredible child of God’s own. And this table, these gifts, this body and blood, this bread of life and cup of salvation are for you. And for you. And you, and you, and for the church, and for all of God’s creation. God’s love and grace are here for you. Come, you who are broken…you who are unsure…you who are desperate…you who are needy; come and taste and see that you are loved beyond your wildest imagination just exactly the way you are.
Come. See. Taste.
It’s the easiest thing you’ll do all day.