Sermon for Sunday, August 9th, 2015 || Proper 14B || I Kings 19:4-8; Psalm 34: 1-8; Ephesians 4:25 -5:2; John 6:35, 41-51 || The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
Last week we talked about the church as the body of Christ—as Paul exhorted us to keep “the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” and “to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body… as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
We also admitted to the absolute impossibility of doing any of that by relying only on ourselves!
Then we heard the good news: We heard the good news that because of the life-giving gift that God has given us in Jesus, and that Jesus continues to give us in himself, that what may seem to the cynic like an unrealistically exalted or lofty goal for living—like a bunch of pie in the sky wishful thinking idealism—is, for the follower of Jesus, the very definition of the moral life– and an entirely realistic and attainable one.
“I am the bread of life, Jesus tells us, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
When we rely on Jesus—who is as necessary to life as food and water— we are able to promote “the body’s growth in building itself up in love,” by imitating his example of self-sacrifice for the sake of the common good. When we rely on Jesus, we can “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” by appreciating our differences and celebrating our unity in diversity. And as long as we’re relying on Jesus, we can’t help but “speak the truth in love” because he knows no other way. This is the way of life Paul is calling us to live, and the one Jesus, the bread of life, makes possible.
And in this age so seemingly lacking in the lost art of civil discourse and fragmented by its pervasive “us and them” ethos, it’s a critically important way of life to which the church must give witness. Everywhere we look, from just outside the walls of our church all the way to the walls of Congress, from corporate boardrooms to university boards of trustees, from political debates dubbed “fight night” by the talking heads to nation against nation name-calling and bullying, we are surrounded by a lot of really, really bad examples of how to conduct ourselves as the infinitely and magnificently diverse collection of individuals God created us to be.
You know, this morning we’re going to baptize Lexi and Braxton into Christ’s body, the church. They, and all our young people, need to see and know that there are other ways of being in this world than those they see modeled on TV and acted out in too much of real life. They need to see and know what it’s like to be a part of a community that puts others before self, a community that builds each other up and supports each other, a community that embraces its differences and welcomes a full range of ideas, opinions, and perspectives.
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths,” Paul exhorts us this week, “but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear… 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.”
Can you imagine if everyone in the town of Cohasset took those words to heart? Or everyone in Congress and the White House? How about everyone in every bedroom and boardroom across America…or around the world?
Well, it may be a long time coming before this world of ours looks that much like the Kingdom of God we pray for every week, but we, my friends, are uniquely called and situated as the body of Christ to model that way of living for others. And we are uniquely empowered to live that way of life by the bread of life into whom we are baptized and on whose Word and Sacrament we feast every week.
Listen to this alternative translation of the gospel reading this morning: “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. The one coming to me might surely not hunger and the one faithing into me will never thirst…. ‘”
The one “coming” to Jesus will never hunger and the one “faithing into” Jesus will never thirst. Now “faithing into” is a weird phrase in English, but it’s actually a much better translation than “to believe in.” The point is, we don’t have to have all of this stuff down perfectly before we can participate in the very different, much healthier, more Christ-like way of being in the world to which we are called. We can live into it.
I love that more literal translation because, “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” can sound so scary. What if we’re not sure what we believe? What if we’re not sure we believe enough? And what if we don’t know whether we’ve come to Jesus?
Well, it’s okay! It’s more than okay if we’re on our way…if we’re committed to coming toward Jesus and his way of life…if we’re committed to living into our faith and going deeper. Jesus will always provide all we need to follow in his footsteps and to do his Kingdom work. He is the bread of the only life worth living, the life for which our world so desperately hungers, the life it’s up to us to model. Amen.