A sermon for the 13th Sunday After Pentecost, August 22, 2021
Following Christ is not easy.
Following Christ asks us to step outside of ourselves, outside of our culture, outside of our society and world, and in stepping outside, look objectively at all that is around us, within us, and re-insert with a message of love, a way of peace, a way of being in this world that is so radically different than how this world appears to operate.
Christ challenges us today in the challenge that is following him.
Christ loses many who are following him today because he is pushing them outside of the world they exist within, he is pushing them beyond the constructs of man to consider the true potential of creation in relationship with God, to consider the true potential of creation to maintain a relationship with God both here in the physical life and beyond in an eternal life.
This is an uncomfortable ask.
We, as creation, like to be comfortable.
We like to have the answers.
We like to be in control.
We like to be in charge, in power.
We like to exist within a carefully constructed reality that does not leave much room for deviation.
But Christ is asking us, pleading with us, to look beyond that comfortable bubble for the sake of our eternal lives.
And yet, we still complain.
“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.”
“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
It should never be EASY to be a Christian.
The people are not wrong today in saying that the teaching is difficult. That this message of eternal life coming from the eating of the flesh of a man, flesh that is offered to those who truly have the faith in Christ to give over all of themselves and follow him in a way of love, a path of peace, that will disrupt the ways of the world, that will challenge those in power and authority, this is not an easy message to comprehend, to accept, to live into.
But that is what is asked of us as followers of Christ.
We have the benefit of being here, today, 2000 years after this Gospel account, with all of the history of our tradition, our worship, our practice, to know what it looks like to truly follow Christ, and to know the dangers of what it looks like when we do not place Christ at the center and allow our own failings to dominate the authority and power structures of our time.
We have the benefit of knowing that what Peter says in this scripture rings true, even today:
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.”
“Lord, to whom can we go?”
I think this question is worth a moment of reflection, especially today.
There are a number of other things that demand our attention today, and that’s before we account for living in a time of pandemic that has both taken away so much from us and absorbed all of our energy and attention.
We seek out fulfillment in our lives from a number of areas.
But in seeking that fulfillment we look so far inwardly that we cannot see beyond our own selves. We cannot connect to the larger reality that exists around us. This trap of inwardness prevents us from looking at our neighbor, from looking at ourselves in relation to our neighbor, from seeing ourselves as part of this creation rather than the sole focus of it, of understanding that creation does not exist for our own indulgence in seeking fulfillment but rather that creation serves to help us move past our own selfish desires and seek that fulfillment, that bread of life, that feeds us like nothing else can, which comes from being in relationship with one another, with God, which comes from a life of radical love that follows the path that Christ has laid before us.
If we do not turn to Christ, if we do not seek out the eternal life that is offered before us today, if we do not seek that bread and drink that fills our eternal hunger, our eternal thirst, than we are living solely for ourselves and will try to keep taking and taking from this creation to fill the void in our soul that can only be filled with the true bread that is offered to us at this table, the true bread that challenges us to understand this world in a new way.
And so, we come to the conclusion of John 6.
Next week we will return to Mark and continue to learn of Jesus’ ministry as he continues to challenge the authorities of his time.
But, as we leave John 6 behind, I think it is worthwhile to revisit what Christ has laid before us these past many weeks:
- Jesus will feed us, both physically with the 5000 and eternally through his own flesh and blood
- This flesh and blood represents to us our opportunity to access eternal life
- This offer knows no barriers, no boundaries, is afforded to all, if we simply come to him and give over all of ourselves in order to receive what is being offered by Christ
This foundational message is one that we live into every single week at this table together.
This foundational message invites us to this table today and every day, so that we may encounter Christ in this world, even today.
Come and eat of the bread of eternal life and drink of the wine that quenches all thirst, forever.
Come to this table and know that Christ is laid before us, for us, for our eternal salvation.
Come to this table and reorient your life outwardly, to seek and know Christ in your neighbor, to follow the way of love, the path of peace, even as we continue to transform our own spiritual understanding inwardly.
Come to this table and eat.