12 Pentecost Proper 14 Yr B August 2018 Audio
I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. How can this be? Is it really true? Those who surrounded Jesus didn’t think so. Who is this guy they ask? You may ask it also. He’s just Mary and Joseph’s son, how can he say what he says? He’s just an ordinary man, much like us. But he’s also God’s son. And it’s these two things, humanity and divinity, that work together so that we may be made whole. So that we may know the love that heals, the love that wins. It is Jesus’ identity as God’s son, and as bread of life that we see in this series of readings.
Whoever believes has eternal life. John, in chapter three, that whoever believes may have eternal life, and for God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. And John in chapter six, those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.
For John, eternal life and believing are intimately related. Jesus associates his identity as the bread of life with believing. And for the gospel writer John, believing matters, and for John, believing is about relationship. The big picture that John paints is that believing in Jesus as the bread of life is primarily acknowledging the relationship between God and God’s people. A relationship that is so essential, it is like bread is to the body: nourishing, life-giving, sustaining. A relationship that is so intimate, it is like blood pulsing in the veins: pumping, throbbing, vitality. A relationship that is so mysterious, it is like creator, redeemer, spirit, all in one.
John shows us this essential, intimate, mysterious relationship over and over in the gospel. It is like word that becomes flesh. It is like lots of water that becomes lots of wine, fish that becomes enough for all. It is like bread that heals, and vines connected to branches. It is like blind eyes that see, and a friend raised from the dead.
This essential, intimate, mysterious relationship is grace upon grace, abundance that has no limit. It is to abide in Jesus, believe in Jesus. This essential, intimate, mysterious relationship is belief, and it is love. This relationship gives life, eternal life, says John. And according to John, eternal life is now; it is not waiting for life after death. It is new life affected by the resurrection and ascension of God in the flesh. It is life fully lived in the here and now. It is the way we are to live our lives right now.
God in the flesh, the God who does not despise the ordinary and common but rather who seeks out the ordinary and common to show us God’s dream for us, this is the promise that rests behind the bread and the wine made real in body and blood. For as God does not despise water, bread, or wine, such ordinary, common things, so we also know that God does not despise or abandon us, who are similarly such ordinary and common people. And so in the body and blood, we find God’s promise to take hold of us and make us God’s own, to remain with us and to never let us go. And there is another promise God makes to us. It is the promise to use us – to make use of our skills and talents, inadequate or insufficient though they may seem, to continue God’s work of creating, redeeming, and sustaining all that is. And that, also, is an incredible promise.
You see my friends, John’s gospel is not hard to understand, this essential, intimate, mysterious relationship, this grace upon grace, this belief, brings eternal life. And eternal life looks like love .
That’s right, it looks like love. Because love is not something that we feel all mushy about, love is who God is and what God does. It is for love that God, who creates all that is seen and unseen, God who creates the cosmos, comes into our world, to walk this path with us, to show us the way, to carry us when we cannot walk it our selves.
And how does God carry us? In love, through you. You are God’s hands and feet, you are God’s love in this world. You and you and you, all of us, this community of faith that comes together to pray, to eat bread and drink wine, to share meals, and tears, heartache and joy, and who is sent out into the world to do what we are called to do.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we hear that call as clearly as we’ve ever heard it. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
This bread of life is Jesus’ body and feeds us. This bread of life is Jesus’ body that is broken for us, so that the bits and pieces of our brokenness may be put back together. Believe it, Jesus says. Live it, Jesus says. And Love. For Love is the recognition of the truth that we are neighbors. The Love we show is the recognition of the truth that as bad as we think we can get, God’s grace upon grace is capable of embracing us anyway.
God’s promise of forgiveness and acceptance, of wholeness and of life, is given to each of us in a form we not only can hear, but also see, taste, touch, and feel. And so the bread and the wine, the body and the blood, bid us to raise our eyes from the confusion and ambiguity of life for a moment, so that we may receive God’s grace upon grace, God’s abundance, and return to our lives in this confusing world with courage and hope.
But don’t wait, don’t wait until the time is right, or until you have more or know more, eternal life is now. Don’t wait, until tomorrow or the next day, loving your neighbor is now. Don’t wait, until the world is a better place, make it so today.
I heard a story at bible study this week. One of us Trinitarians was out for a walk in her neighborhood. As she was passing by a family sitting outside in the beautiful pergola they had just built, she stopped to tell them how beautiful it was. This family was clearly dressed in a fashion that indicated they were Muslim, and yet, conversation ensued. She learned that these family members were preparing themselves for their pilgrimage to Mecca, a huge undertaking in and of itself, made more so because the elderly father was going as well. These neighbors prayed together, for safety in the journey, and in thanksgiving for being neighbors.
This is the bread of life, broken for you. Thanks be to God.