Here we are again, for some of us it’s not new you’ve been on zoom for a year or more now; but still the restrictions on our lives have come back, not just the Divine Service over zoom, but we can’t even visit each other, our friends or family, can’t eat together, hug or shake hands. It’s almost like we live in a world where the only real people are those we live with, everyone else is either a disembodied voice over the phone or a flat copy on the TV. Our lives mainly confined to our homes, thank God for wide open farms when you have them, yet many of us have more time to think, to worry, to get caught up in our own heads. But that is not who we are, that is not who God has called us to be, we are not disembodied spirits trapped in a physical cage, we are the holy people of God, body, soul and spirit, we are of the New Creation.
Now looking around some might think that Christianity is just about sitting in a chair or couch and listening to someone speak; listening, maybe even singing along to certain songs; That the Faith is just about what happens when we die and that we don’t really care about this world. Now that might have been true if Jesus had just said ‘believe my words, the concepts that I teach.’ But He didn’t. As we slowly make our way through this chapter of John 6, we have heard the miraculous feeding of the more than 5000, that these people listening to their bellies and not Jesus follow after Him to seek more bread for their bellies; then Jesus rebukes their low focus on this earthly world, as if my belly is who I am, is what protects and provides for me. Rather Jesus speaks of a bread from heaven, not like the manna people ate, but something different, something spiritual; this bread you are to believe in and take into your life and receive everlasting life; whatever that might mean.
By Jesus’ Word He has broken their focus on their bellies, their earthly appetites, and brought them to focus on heavenly things. It’s not too different that what we’ve experienced with these lockdowns. Before we could be distracted by so many things, when we had the time and opportunities we could fill our days with so much stuff. Travel, shopping, sport, visiting, craft, schooling, Bible studies, all sorts of different things; but when the lockdowns came it brought the question, what is really important in this world. What am I doing to myself and others when I do all these things, is it worthwhile or not, God pleasing or not? So, Jesus changed their focus from bellies to heaven with words, COVID changed our focus to question what do we treasure, and what is going on.
And these are spiritual questions, and our minds might get worried, and perhaps we haven’t been taken up into heaven but I’m coming to you now from the internet’s cloud. All this airy-fairy stuff, but it is important. What do we treasure, and what does it mean to be and live as a Christian today; what does it mean to believe in Jesus, the bread of Heaven. It means to chew on His flesh and drink His blood. Jesus isn’t just a good teacher, to bring some wispy words of wisdom for our earthly life; He didn’t just appear to die, deceiving the authorities then later continuing His work; He is not just some spiritual or heavenly being, Jesus is God in the flesh. He has flesh and blood like us, a belly, a mouth, and He died on that cross. He did not just teach but also healed and comforted, He held children in His arms, and picked others off the ground. And He did not just serve people in ancient Jerusalem, but sent out His Apostles to serve people everywhere, to bring life to the world even today. Jesus is not just some ancient abstract concept, He is real, He is earthy, He is here.
Jesus has brought us from the depths of our earthly lives, to the spiritual heights of the heavens, then back down into a New Creation, His Incarnation. This is the pattern of our Divine service, away from the world, Confession absolution, to hear God’s Word, the Readings, to receive Christ, Communion and to go out rejoicing under His Blessing. From feeding bellies with barley loaves, to this talk about believing in heavenly bread, now to chewing His flesh and drinking His blood. From feeding our bodily desires, through His Holy Word and teaching, to our Holy Communion with His Body and Blood. This is why I far prefer to lead God’s service in person, face to face; because that is who Jesus is, He is here with us, truly with us, so close that we are members of His Body, He dwells in us and we in Him according to His promises. And because we are united with the Bread of Life we have Life everlasting. All this we believe, yet we are not just spiritual or intellectual beings, our bodies, our flesh is part of who we are, it’s part of who Jesus is. Our Faith is lived out in our actions, our service to other people. If we believe that the most important thing is this earthly life we will be controlled by our earthly desires, if we think the most important is some spiritual existence we will forget God’s good creation, if we think Jesus, God in the flesh, is most important that will transform the way we live here today, just as His Holy and incorruptible Body and Blood transforms us from people trapped in darkness and sin, into free and faithful people of God.
Now of course, we receive a foretaste of this truth most fully in Holy Communion, receiving the true food and drink, Christ’s Body and Blood, and receiving it’s benefits through faith; where we receive this truth not just in our heads, but on our tongues, with our teeth. Not that we overpower Jesus, breaking Him apart and forcing Him to become part of us, rather it is Jesus overpowering our brokenness and making us right with Him. But truly it is a mystery, a truth we can know but not understand. How is it that bread and wine and God’s Word can be Christ’s Flesh and Blood, bringing us forgiveness and New everlasting life? How is it that the Creator of all lived as a human and died for the life of the world? It’s a mystery, and it’s something good to chew on.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now into life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.