Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We are what we eat????

In part, some thoughts on John 6: 51-58. 

John attempts to seduce us into the mystery we proclaim each week just before we devour Christ’s body and blood ... we say ourselves that the mystery of faith is that Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. 

Do we really know what all of that means? 
Are we able to comprehend all that God is in Jesus Christ? 
Are we truly capable to break down the mystery that is our salvation? 

Or, are we invited to admit that we cannot do this alone?

We produce barriers that prevent us from seeing the whole and awesome picture of who our God truly is.

So this invitation, this seduction pulls us toward the mystery of what this bread and wine is really all about.  What does it really mean to taste the body and blood of our Savior. 

What does this gift do to us, for us, with our faith and with our lives? 

It is a mystery.  Yet, here we are.
Praising the God of mystery.
About to devour the bread and wine that is Jesus’ sacrifice.
About to be strengthened in love so that we too may love.

Maybe we do not need to understand the mystery, the way in which yeast works, the growth that Jesus gives us here ... but instead, as we are invited, we just need to devour it, in faith.

You have heard the term, “we are what we eat”... yes?

Could it be that this invitation into the mystery of Jesus is as simple as “we are what we eat?”  If we unpack this, what could that truly mean? 

We try to be aware of what we eat.  We try to eat a healthy diet so that our body is strengthened and not sabotaged.  When we eat our fruits and vegetables the components of that food is broken down, and they nourish every part of our bodies so that we can do many, many things.

So, what about when we take Jesus into our very lives in this worship service, in prayer, and at this Holy Table?   This bread and wine,

Jesus thus becomes a part of the very fiber of our being, and we are nourished by his life-giving love. 

Our spirits and our souls get to feast on the wondrous love of God, a love who sends God’s only son to save us from sin and death. 

 In this meal, we are invited to devour the restorative power of the Holy Spirit who works in us and through us, even when we least expect it.

So, let us be so seduced, seduced to take Christ thoroughly into our lives, so that we can live in the joy and peace of our God.

This is the radical invitation that Jesus offers us in our text for today. 

In the midst of his ministry he says, Come, for all is now ready.  Eat my body and drink my blood and be blessed with the mystery that is my gift to you. 

As human beings, we don’t understand the extent of this love. 

As human beings, we only hope that when faced with an emergency, we are, in fact, able to love, truly love like Jesus loves.

As human beings, we cannot love this way without the help of our Savior ... and so we come. 

We come to this table, invited by Jesus,
To be strengthened in love so we too can love.
To be forgiven of our sins, so that we too can forgive.
To be saved from death, so that we too might live.

We approach this mystery not knowing all that it means ... but knowing that it is Christ who invites us, who seduces us and who calls us to become like Christ ... today, tomorrow, and forever.

It is a mystery.  It is a wonder.

So be it.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eternal Life and More Prayers:

Soren Kierkergaard, a 19th century Danish philosopher, theologian, poet and social critic once told a parable about a duck church.  You heard me correctly, a duck church. 
You see, there was this community of ducks who waddled off to duck church to hear the duck preacher. 
  • This duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks WINGS TO FLY. 
  • With these wings, the duck preacher proclaimed, there was nowhere the ducks could not go. 
  • With those wings they could, each and every one of them, soar to new heights and see the world differently than they had ever seen it before!  
  • Shouts of “Amen” were quacked throughout the duck congregation at this good and truth-filled news. 
  • There was excitement in the air.  And, at the conclusion of the service the ducks left commenting on the message of having wings. 
  • They collectively rejoiced at the good news as they waddled back home.  BUT, they never flew.
It seems our duck community was a little STUCK in the status quo.  Stuck in what they had been doing, maybe for their entire lives.

They heard the good news of having wings, and heard what this gift could do for them.  The heard how that gift could change their lives.  They even rejoiced in what they heard!
  • But, did they truly understand the good news? 
  • Did they take seriously the invitation to fly? 
  • Did they truly comprehend the encouragement to get un-stuck and soar in such a way that their world could literally be turned inside out and upside down? 
It seems our duck community is missing something.  Something between hearing and understanding.  Something of importance.  Something of life.
In the Gospel lesson for today (John 6:35-51) Jesus proclaims that all people, all of creation, has been given to him from God, the Creator.  And the will of God is that Jesus not lose a single piece of the cosmos as Jesus moves into the drama and passion of saving the world. 
  • God gives Jesus you,
  • God gives Jesus me,
  • God gives Jesus the questioners by the sea,
  • and the men, women and children,
  • and the past, present and future,
and Jesus has all intentions of accepting, embracing, and engulfing all that God has given him.  Instead, Jesus will do whatever it takes to save every single soul, and ensure that all of creation
  • has the opportunity to LIVE into the love of our Creator. 
  • has the opportunity SOAR in grace of God
  • has the opportunity FLY as one named and claimed by God ... looking at life from a different perspective ... the perspective of ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD.
Why?  Because eternal life with God is both about the here and now and about our futures.  It promises that we will never remain STUCK in this life without the promise of being UNSTUCK eternally with our God who loves us beyond our understanding.

Eternal life is a promise to be with God beyond this life, AND it is a promise of God being with us throughout our life here on earth!

Does that mean we will never have hardships or illness or unemployment?  No.  But it does mean that God is with us in our stuggle and our healing and our job-search.
  • Eternal life promises that God laughs with us, suffers with us, celebrates with us, and cries with us.
  • Eternal life guarantees that God sits with us in our fear, stands with us in our justice seeking, encourages us when we are stuck, and delights with us when we soar!
  • Eternal life proclaimed by Jesus in this text is pure gift, given by God to God’s people, IN ORDER THAT, we can live life in right relationship with our Creator. 
  • Eternal life is a gift of wings, in this life and the next.  It is a promise come true that God is with us today, tomorrow, the next day and forever. 
Do you hear the proclamation from our Lord?  Can you comprehend the true presence of our God?  Do you understand that God makes good on God’s promises, and truly is with each and every one of us, day by day. 

Oh what joy, to know that you are near me
When my burdens grow to great to bear
O what joy, to know that you will hear me
When I come, O Lord, to you in prayer
Day by day, no matter what betide me
You will hold me ever in your hand
Savior, with your presence here to guide me
I will reach at last the promise land.
                                                                      (Day By Day, With One Voice, #746 verse 4)
Friends ... God help us to soar on our wings of eternal life, today and forever.
So be it. Amen.
More Prayers from Our Community
(written in worship on July 29, 2012)
Love of God that is shared in Bethel be shared in our community. The peace that we have been taught be passed throughout the world. May the struggles that we have in our families be given the love of God.
Church: strength and growth for service.
Community: love and understanding for all.
Country: to let God into our lives.
World: peace.
Thank you Lord for life, my family and friends. I would be nothing without you. I humbly ask for your forgiveness for the sins I have committed and pray that you may forgive each and everyone else. I am grateful for all you do for this world. Your love is never ending. Guide us and protect us now and forever. Amen.
I pray that we at Bethel will be able to seek out those in our community who are in need of a variety of goods/services. Help us to build new relationships with those neighbors and to tell them about how Jesus has brought fulfillment to our lives. Help us also to ask God every day to bring peace to our broken world. Help us to overcome the evil forces that keep us from peace.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

John 6: 22-35

In our gospel lesson for today, we get a glimpse of the day after,

the day after Jesus feeds the 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
the day after Jesus leaves the crowd because the people are so impressed with his teachings, miracles, and healing powers that they want to make Jesus king.
the day after Jesus crosses the sea without a boat, walks on water, and gets to the other side of the sea, only to, ONCE AGAIN, be followed and confronted by a crowd of people.

This time the people have lots of questions. What strikes me about these questions is that the people who are questioning Jesus are asking surface questions that are focused on Me, Me and did I mention ME.

And Jesus, well Jesus answers the questions much more deeply then imagined by these questioners, and Jesus focuses on God, God and did I mention, God!

It is as if the people asking the questions see God as a cosmic vending machine. I ask the questions, or put in the proverbial coin, and you ... vending machine called Jesus, just give me the answer I want ... the item I select and I will be happy and on my way.

How do I go about doing the works of God? ca-chunk ca-chunk ... just tell me what I should do right now, this moment, I will go do it and I will be good, my soul will be saved.

And Jesus, does not give them a list of things to do ... but instead, says this. BELIEVE IN ME. (Collective Heavy Sigh!)

OK ... I will consider believing in you, but what sign are you going to give me to prove that you are worth believing in? ca-chunk ca-chunk ... Never mind the fact that I am following you because I am amazed by your teaching and recent miracles you showed us. What sign are you going to give me now? You know, something like Moses feeding the people manna from heaven when they were hungry in the wilderness.

I can imagine Jesus shaking his head, maybe even pulling his hair out at this point and saying something like ...

• "I AM NOT your portable vending machine ...
 I am not here to give you your whim of the moment that will make you feel better about being a good disciple or follower or minister."
"Instead, I am what you need.

 I am not what you want.
 I am not your luxury item or the newest and best desire of your heart.
 I am not your mister fix it."

"I AM WHAT YOU NEED ... I am your staple. I am the bread of life. I am your sustenance. I am your SAVIOR!"

"In time, I will fill your every hunger by breaking down the barriers that keep you away from a healthy relationship with your Creator ...

"Soon, I will quench every thirst you have about faith, and you will come to learn that your salvation is NOT at all about what YOU DO! .... your salvation depends upon what I DO. And I will give you all that you need!"
"I will be the bread you hug when you sleep at night. Like in the story the children heard this morning. We can rest assured that we are beloved children of God because we sleep at night knowing the Jesus is our Savior."

NOW ... knowing that our needs were met yesterday, are met today and will be met tomorrow, NOW the question becomes real, not from the surface, but from the heart.

BECAUSE God loves me, BECAUSE God loves you, what can I do, what can you do, what can we do to further this kingdom of love, acceptance, abundance, and hope?

It is in the hearing and understanding of this question that our Family Camp participants harkened back to our first lesson for today. Not as a list of things to do IN ORDER THAT GOD WILL LOVE US ... but as an invitation of how to live with one another BECAUSE GOD LOVES US. (Eph 4: 1-8, 11-14)
“lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,”
“with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift.”
According to our folks at Family Camp ... we are all ministers of God.
We have all been given gifts from God that we are to use in response to God’s love for us.

We are to use our gifts of ministry in unity with one another ... in ways that further God’s love and our community!
This is our vision as children of God. To collectively use our gifts to the Glory of God!

What gifts, you may ask ... that ability to

mow the lawn
cook and/or bake
write notes
make banners
make phone calls
share connections
play an instrument
proof read
follow up
be a worker bee
feed the hungry
stand for justice
write curriculum
hold a hand
be last in line

And what are we missing as gifts of ministry.

Because sometimes we sell ourselves short.
Sometimes we do not believe we have anything to share.

BUT, as a child of God, you have been showered with gifts ... gifts that are given to you from God. Gifts that tell us the truth of our Savior:

I AM WHAT YOU NEED ... I am your staple. I am the bread of life. I am your sustenance. I am your SAVIOR!

So please, take the gifts I give you and lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called

Because friends, we are loved~and in that love we

must go about the glorious response to God’s love for us by sharing our gifts and being ministers in a questioning society.

Let us proclaim the sustenance of our Savior ...
Let us point to the bread we hug when we sleep at night.
Let us share our gifts in ways that transform our world in love.

So be it. Amen.

This is the sermon from August 5, 2012 at Bethel Lutheran Church. I share it, in part, because the people at family camp missed it, and since they were my main source of ideas ... I wanted them to see it. (You will have to ask to see the power point part as I have not included it here). I also share it to say to those who were at worship ... the blue section above was what was on the misplaced page 3 ... I hope I did it justice, off the top of my head. I found the page in the office on Tuesday. HAHAHA. I hope all enjoy this post. Feel free to comment.  God bless you!  Pastor Brenda