The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 14B (Aug. 9, 2015)

Lessons:1st Kings 19:4-8 Psalm 34:1-8 Ephesians 4:25-5:2 St. John 6:35, 41-51 Semicontinuous Series: 2nd Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 Psalm 130

Prayer of the Day: Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven to be the true bread that gives life to the world. Give us this bread always, that he may live in us and we in him, and that, strengthened by this food, we may live as his body in the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” 41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven.     

St. John 6:35, 41-51 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Drawn by the Father

On the airplane yesterday, returning to Denver from a family vacation in Washington D.C. and Richmond, VA, I read an article by Professor David Lose (in the April Lutheran Magazine) suggesting that one goal of preaching is to “help us see God and, having seen God, to participate in God’s ongoing work to love and bless this world.” For the record: I agree with him, and try to accomplish this as often as I can. So this morning I find myself wondering how this weekend’s Gospel lesson can help us to see God and participate in God’s work.

I find it interesting — perhaps enlightening — that although later in St. John’s Gospel Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” this passage views it from the opposite perspective: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” (v. 44) A sermon that exhorts us to more faithful discipleship might conclude that belief in Jesus is the only way to become saved (John 14), or if we don’t feel drawn to Jesus we better make ourselves closer to God so that we will (John 6). But the implication of both of these hypothetical sermons is that those of us who are insiders are fortunate and those who are outsiders are unfortunate. That doesn’t seem to line up very well with the ministry of the One who ate with sinners and charged religious leaders with hypocrisy.

Instead, if we are seeking to see God we might conclude that paying attention to what concerns Jesus most is a faithful way to know God better (John 14) and that we are fortunate to have a God who loves us enough to draw us into the source of true life (John 6). If we are seeking to participate in God’s ongoing work to love and bless this world we might conclude that our efforts to live like Jesus could help others experience the transforming love and grace of God (John 14) and our witness to others could be a way that God works through us to draw them to Jesus (John 6).

The beauty of this way of exploring the Gospel is that we are freed from developing pedantic arguments for the exclusivity of Christian faith; freed from having to convince others that they are wrong and we are right; freed for living among family, friends and neighbors as Jesus has invited us to live: holding at the very core of who we are a heartfelt love for both God and our neighbor (St. Matthew 22:37-40).

The Judean religious leaders may have complained about what Jesus was saying and doing, but that never deterred him. He continued to love and call and transform his followers. How can we become just as determined (and just as inspired!) to be a source of invitation for others — in order that through us they might come to glimpse the presence of God in their lives and in this world?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does Jesus become the pathway to God for those who know him?
  2. How does God draw people to know and love Jesus?
  3. How do these words from Jesus help his first century followers to be faithful?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does my relationship with Jesus draw me into the presence of God?
  2. How has God deepened my capacity to have a living faith in Jesus?
  3. How might my faithfulness become a source of faith and life for others?