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Last Sunday's Sermon




John 6:56-69

Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 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 forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 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. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father."
 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."


The Sermon



Will I Stay or Will I Go

This passage from John is one of the most thought provoking passages to me. Some of his followers, actually many of Jesus followers leave. This talk about eating flesh and drinking blood is just too esoteric for them. The imagery is too graphic and they decide to go. What may have really drawn them in the first place? Jesus was today’s equivalent of a rock star or a charismatic politician. 

esus performed miracles. He turned water into wine. He even raised the dead. People wanted to see these miracles with their own eyes so they followed him around. In addition to performing miracles, Jesus offered them salvation. They could spend an eternity in heaven. They could spend an eternity with no wars, no disease and be free of struggle. Who could not want that?

Then came the catch. If you wanted this salvation, you had to change a few things. You had to put God first in your life. That meant God would come before family and friends. God would have to come before all of their possessions. At the same time they would have to show and feel love for all of God's creation. 

The gospel reading implies that the turning point for those followers two thousand years ago was the metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood but I am thinking otherwise. I think many people who left Jesus were only there for the superficial thrill of the rock star and his miracles. They had not bought into the teachings. They were not prepared to go the distance. 

The twelve disciples were ready. Peter was clear when he said, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” What are the words of eternal life and what does it look like? Give me some examples of what it looks like? I would like to make this a little harder. I want some concrete examples of what you have done that is an example of putting your Christianity into practice. 

I know that most of you are uncomfortable with talking about your accomplishments but I have a motive in asking this. I want you to be introspective and reflect on the ways you are practicing your Christianity. It is not bragging as much as it is testifying to putting your faith into practice.

Discussion

Jesus told his followers to dedicate themselves to God and show that dedication by the way they lived their lives. He requires the dedication from all of us today. In the Book of Common Prayer there is a prayer of self dedication I would like to read to you.

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray according to your will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Amen


Birthday


Thursday was my birthday and as I get older I seem to spend more time reflecting on the past.  It is a good thing... I think.  Life can be a rocky road and in my reflection I remember stumbling over a rock or two.  The key for me is to not dwell on those times I have stumbled but to pick my self up and carry on.

On a similar note, I was working at the Ministry Center yesterday and a man and his son came in for food from our food bank.  I introduced myself and the little boy piped up, "My name is Billy and I am six!"  I responded with, "My name is Fred and I just turned sixty six!"  We laughed.

I had a visitor to the church a few days ago.  He was from one of the larger churches in town and he came to drop off a flier for a program they were offering.  I talked to him for quite a while and the deeper we got into our conversation the more I realized why I am an Episcopalian.  I can't exactly pinpoint any one thing that was said but I guess it was his black and white approach to Christianity.  I see a lot of gray in my life and our denomination allows for that. 

Tomorrow is Sunday and I go to Grace Church in Albia as well as St. Andrew's here in Chariton.  It makes for a very full day and that's a good thing.

Blessings,
Fr. Fred

Last Sunday's Sermon


   

John 6:51-58

Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 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 forever."

The Sermon



There is a saying, “you are what you eat”. We have been talking for several weeks now about the bread of life and drinking living water so that you may never again thirst. That is what I want! I want to be closer to God. I want to eat this wonderful bread and drink this living water. 
Two thousand years ago Jesus's statement, “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.” was misinterpreted by many as some kind of weird cannibalistic ritual performed by this offshoot of Judaism called The Way. There were even rumors of human sacrifice.

Even today it seems a little strange to use a metaphor about eating human flesh and drinking blood. Jesus was talking about consuming his teachings. He was talking about the bond that would develop between he and his followers. He would live in them. They would live in him. This idea of the duality between God and man would fall away and they would become one in him. Jesus was also talking about the sacrifice he would make for man. He was prepared to give himself, and die on a cross for those he loved. His sacrifice would wash away their sins.

I am a retired teacher. Many of the students I taught were considered emotionally troubled and because of that I would help them deal with the tough situations they would get themselves into. I would spend a lot of time helping these students in their interactions with whichever authority figure they had gotten in hot water with that week.

Here is a taste of what we would do. I would say, “Billy, you are about to get called down to the principal's office for swearing at Ms. Onion. I know this is not going to be easy for you so I am going to go there with you, but before that happens I want you to tell me about it.”

I would listen to his story and then I would say something like this. “You and I have no control over what the principal is going to say but you have control over what you will do. So tell me what it will look like when you and I visit the office.

Billy and I would then talk through what he was going to say and how he planned to react when he faced his consequences. I have to tell you that this worked every time. Students who tended to be explosive when they were in a stressful situation were calmer and better prepared for what was to come next.

Why am I telling you all this? I think Jesus is preparing us for the end. He was telling us that if we consume his teachings and put our trust in him we will be ready for what is to come next.

I have spent a good bit of time at hospice this week. A friend of mine was in the final stage of life and I did what I could to support him and his family. A constant theme of our discussion was about Bill's giving nature and how hard he worked at making this world a better place. While I was visiting them I read Prayers for a Vigil from the Book of Common Prayer. The words are comforting and say a lot about our beliefs. One of the sentences is, “Receive O Lord your servant, for he returns to you.” Bill had spent his life consuming the bread and drinking the water that is his Christianity. Now it was time to go home.

My question to you is what does it look like when you or I consume that bread and drink that water. What does it look like when we act out our Christianity? If we are practicing Christians, can other people tell and what do they see? I ask you to reflect on that this week.

Amen