Why the long face?

Sermon John 6:24-35

“Why the long face”

In this month’s Lutheran magazine there’s an article about a group that visited Martin Luther’s old stomping ground in Germany, Wittenberg and one of them noticed a quote supposedly from Luther: “He who drinks much beer sleeps well. And he who sleeps does not sin. And he who does not sin goes to heaven”.

What’s that got to do with this sermon? Not a lot, I just like the quote, and why isn’t Cathy here to hear it. But today our topic is the bread of life, and both bread and beer can be made with either barley or wheat. And beer, like bread-and here meaning food in general is had in times of celebration and joy, but also as a source to try and fill the void. When that hole in our stomach, in our being is not through physical hunger or thirst, but through a spiritual void, a spiritual hunger.

Like retail therapy, excessive materialism and so forth. They are short term stop gap solutions to a greater problem. Rene Rivkin, now deceased but a once very wealthy man when asked does wealth bring happiness replied “No, but it does bring a better class of misery”.

Is having a few drinks with friends over a lovely meal wrong, is working hard to afford such luxuries wrong-absolutely not. In fact hospitality is something we should both provide and receive with joy.

Where the line is crossed is when things encroach on the first commandment: “You shall have no other Gods”. That word commandment brings up connotations of law, as it should. But the law is good, just like getting a speeding ticket is-well that may be stretching things a little, but the commandments do keep society on a leash-without them, imagine the anarchy that would exist.

The first commandment, how do we know if we’re stepping over the line? The answer straight from the confirmation class work book (so all the participants will know this off by heart).

A God, your God is whatever a person looks to for all the good things, and runs to comfort and help in times of trouble”. And in that explanation, of the law we see the Gospel. The Gospel we have heard today from Jesus when he says: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty”.

Law and Gospel. The law: don’t have other Gods. The Gospel, because they don’t work. In fact these other Gods in all probability will bring a worse outcome than what you went to them for in the first place. God and Jesus are not party poopers, quite the opposite, they want joy and life for us here and joy and life with us when we meet them on that glorious day in paradise.

In Jesus saying “I am the bread of life” he is putting the horse back in front of the Kart, getting things back in order. What he is not saying is that we won’t face the same trials and tribulations. They will happen to Christian and non-Christian alike. He asks that we hand them over to him. Just like he took our condemning sin on himself, he wants to take our worries on himself-to bring us some peace amongst our storms.

(and) what does he ask in return? Verses 28 and 29: “Then they asked him, what must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered; the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

If only I had known this earlier.

When leaving my previous job, as you could imagine some of my colleagues responses ranged from intrigue to openly suggesting my limited mental capacities had finally been extinguished. One such colleague who was a good friend, which in itself often had people shaking their heads because he was very driven to succeed in both promotion and prestige. In fact he would often joke about it-but we got on well because what each other saw was what they got. He did not have a hidden agenda-he was open and honest about his agenda.

(And) he asked me, why am I doing this. So I tried to explain the “call”, of God’s love to me, how I’ve come to see life through Christ and so on. I realised I wasn’t going so well when at the end he said “so what’s in it for you?” So, running out of solutions and knowing of his mindset I responded “I get to study for five years essentially without pay, and then work for half the money I’m on now”.

After that he said “Well good for you” and we went back to talking about the football”.

Now please don’t think I’m saying this for any other reason than for what I said it to him-just as a funny antidote. But ironically as Christians this does encompass us all.

Verses 28 and 29: “What must we do? The work of God is this, to believe in the one he has sent”.

Here we hear Jesus putting the horse clearly back in front of the kart. What is the purpose of life, of this world? That we believe that Jesus, the Son of God is the Messiah. The one who brings forgiveness and life.

So what of the other tangible works, of us individually and collectively? The works of the Church. Shall we befriend those against us, feed the poor, and give our time to helping in society. Absolutely, just like Jesus did when healing lepers and giving time to prostitutes and Pharisees alike. When someone’s down we don’t push them down further, we lift them up. Jesus did that and so should we.

Will it bring them to faith, maybe, maybe not-but it is to be done anyway-Because of what we know of Christ and his love for us, and for them-even if they won’t acknowledge him.

These works are good and they can bring comfort to those hurting, are these true works of a Christian Church-absolutely- but these acts in themselves are not the cure.

These acts are good, but they are the Kart that follows behind the one pulling it.

What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered; the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

What is the work of the Church? Ephesians 4 “He gave some to be prophets, evangelists and so on. So that God’s people will give works of service: so that the body of Christ may be built up”

So the body of Christ be built up, why? Because Jesus loves those lost and he knows that only in him is there the bread of life, that cures the emptiness of life without him.

Each of us here has been given gifts that we can use and do use to build the kingdom. Is our salvation reliant on it? Again, what works does God require? Jesus answered; the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

And knowing that, that freedom-that there is not one ounce of pressure-knowing that Jesus actually does love us enough to not ask anything more, work in the field becomes a joy. A joy because even if we mess up or say the wrong thing, why worry because if it’s done for the right reasons-being of what Christ has already done for us, we know he’ll sought it out, just like he has for us.

What a joy that with all our imperfections-we can just be ourselves, have a laugh at our stuff ups and not take everything so seriously. That to serve God and his people we don’t have to be anything other than what we are, but just have a go and be yourself-and try and have some fun-even its at our own expense.

Maybe Luther’s comment at the start of this sermon was right. Not so much the beer-I think I’ve got that covered. But the essence of his words. Luther, the great Theologian. Did he take the Word of God, the Gospel seriously? Absolutely. So seriously he risked his life for it. Did he feel and weep for the hurting-absolutely. Was he himself, a larrikin and not take himself too seriously and could enjoy doing God’s work as himself-absolutely.

What a joy to serve such a loving and accepting God and Saviour-The only true bread of life. Amen.


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