the one about the meal...
August 19, 2015, 9:17 AM

Sermon from August 16, 2015

Sermon Text: John 6: 51-58

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and thoughts of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

You know, I read this Gospel story and I too at times voice the same thoughts as those gathered around Jesus. Does he really mean we’ve got to eat him? That’s a little, um… disgusting right? It is no wonder that those outside this faith in its early inception wanted to stamp out and snuff out the light of Christians because they thought that they were cannibals who ate babies – hearing a lot about ‘eating flesh, drinking blood, and the baby Jesus…’

As Christians, and as the flavor of Lutherans that we are we read this text and immediately think of the sacrament of Holy Communion. We see those words of flesh and blood and think of the bread and the wine. Where we believe and have trust that Jesus is so fully present in, with, and under this bread and this wine that we can call it the body and blood, without it actually and literally being the flesh and blood.

We partake in this meal each and every Sunday we worship. We participate in this feast that has been prepared for us; this feast that has been given to us. We eat of this bread and drink from this cup and we remember Christ being with us. We come to this meal cleansed in our baptisms as we eat, believe, and have faith that Jesus dwells within us as we eat this meal.

But, we probably don’t talk about this meal as often as we should, or we just gloss over it both in our lives and in the service each week because it is so common for us. We also don’t talk about it all that much because there are probably quite a few of us – even some of you today – who don’t quite understand what this meal is or what Jesus offers in his flesh and blood for us.

What I find most comforting about this feeding sign that we get to read – and which we are in the middle of – for four weeks; is that Jesus breaks bread and passes it around till the people are filled. After that is when he starts talking, where he starts to get people to see what they just did. How Jesus approaches this meal – and the meal that he alludes to for us – is not one in which we first learn and then eat, but to realize what we’ve just done.

That’s a little different than how many of us – many of y’all – were raised in the church. I’ve had my fair share of conversations about having to ‘fully know’ what this meal stands for before one can consume this great feast. Yet, we see Jesus operate in a way that doesn’t really reflect that.

I want to tell you a story.

A few years ago I approached a young couple about the possibility of their children partaking in communion. The response was one that I wasn’t really expecting to hear, but centered on them not knowing what this meal was for. Not to impose, I told them that we’ll have that conversation when they feel their children are ready. They preferred to follow the ways that they were raised. Their kids could have communion after some classes…

Well, God has a funny way of taking our well laid and thought out plans and kind of turning them on their side. Sure enough, not even a few months later, the youngest of their children – who was 3 at the time – stated after communion, “Mom, why can’t I have Jesus too?”

In that moment their mother was floored. Obviously this young girl knew far more than what her parents gave her credit for. Her response was essentially, “You know… I don’t know why you can’t have Jesus…”

Sure enough, the next Sunday those girls were holding out their hands with glee and yearning to partake and participate in the meal.

So, what are we to do? We have this meal and who is it for? What are those barriers that we setup so that we can ‘follow the rules’ and be correct?

This meal that we eat – this bread of life that we consume – this body and blood of Christ that we have is a continued invitation through our baptisms to be in relationship with Jesus. In our baptisms we get to come to this table and feast with and on Jesus.

We come to this table having faith that we are cleansed and forgiven, we get to receive this meal and know that it is for us. That this is Jesus offering himself to each of us out of love and grace.

Of course, much like the rest of our faith and relationship in and with Christ – this sacrament isn’t just something we do ‘just because’ and it isn’t something that we acknowledge only during this hour or so of worship.

But, this meal is an invitation to be in relationship with Jesus. That we consume that which gives us life. What gives us life sends us out into the world in such a way (and filled) to point others to the one who offers life.

That in this meal Jesus is making promises with us. Jesus is offering himself for us and to us. That that sacrifice on the cross continues to mean something every time we look to the cross and consume this meal. That in this meal Jesus proclaims new and renewed life for us. A meal where Jesus dwells within us.

That’s a bold promise. That is a wonderful promise. That Jesus offers himself; the I am. To each of us and for each of us.

What Jesus gave to us, to all of us, to the world, was his flesh, his very self. To use an outdated image of God; Jesus did not look down from above and see our need and then lean over the balcony of heaven and hand down to us care packages of divine wisdom and holy  food and drink.  No, Jesus came himself.

The gift God gives us is God’s very self, in the person of Jesus, in the sacrament of the table and the community of the church – for we too are the “body of Christ,” called to be “living bread from heaven.”  The gift we are called to give to the world in Jesus’ name is not our stuff, not our extra cash or excess provisions.  NO!  The gospel invites us to give ourselves, our flesh if you will, for the sake of the world and for the life of the other.

I think that’s something we can all live out – even if we don’t understand it.

Jesus is this. Jesus is this gift to us. Jesus is this gift to us that we share with others. Jesus is this gift to us that invites us to share ourselves with others.

Jesus wants us to eat and be filled. Jesus wants all of us to eat and be filled. To be filled so that we can go out in sharing ourselves with others for the sake of the world and for the life other.

That’s what this meal gifts to us.

When we hold out our hands to receive this body and blood – this bread and wine – no matter how young or seasoned in the faith – we are saying that Jesus is here. We may not fully understand how or why, but we know that this is Jesus – we feel it – we yearn for this meal. And in that eating we are filled and sent. Sent out to the world to be in relationships with those around us – outside these walls; outside our comforts. For Christ came to us and for us to be in relationship too.

This is Jesus. Eat and be filled. Be filled and be sent. Know that you are loved and welcomed. Amen.

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