Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sermon for 12 August 2012, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 14B)

The Rev. Paul J Cain
John 6:35-51
Proper 14B, 12 August 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Is John 6 about Holy Communion?
Yes. But John 6 is not only about the Lord’s Supper. It is all about Jesus.
Consider John 3, including the famous verse John 3:16. It speaks about baptism, about being born again, or born from above. Is John 3 about Holy Baptism? Yes, but John 3 is not only about Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Holy Gospel, and Holy Communion are what they are and do what they do because Jesus said so. Jesus Christ tied His promises to them. That takes all discussion about Word and Sacrament out of the realm of opinion and into the world the Lord creates by His Word and Promises.
John 6 fits into the same context as Mark 6. The numbering may be coincidental, but both follow-up on the feeding of the 5000+.
Jesus calls for faith in John 6:29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Faith is a gift of God to you, not a work you get to do or have to do. Faith, like the gift of the Holy Spirit, is a gift because it comes to you from the outside, from the Lord Himself. It is His work in you. Jesus Christ is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome. We sing that truth at Evening Prayer. In John 6, Jesus Himself reminds us of who He is and what He does for the life of the world. He is the bread of life.

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Is this passage speaking about Holy Communion? Yes! How can we think of feeding on Christ without being reminded of the Sacrament of the Altar? Is this passage only about Holy Communion? No. Primarily, we feed on Christ.
We feed on Him in His Word. And we can read His Word silently or aloud. We can hear it read. We can sing it. And we regularly hear His Word preached to us. Studying the Bible is only one way we feed on the Word of Christ.
The Lord, through God the Holy Spirit, calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith. His Word is life. Christ is life. Taste and see that that the Lord is Good.
And the Lord’s promises here grant you not only faith and life, but also eternal salvation: heaven! AND, Jesus will raise you up on the Last Day. The Resurrection of the Body and Life Everlasting complete the full picture of eternity for us all.

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will 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 he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This 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. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
There were rumors about the early Christians during the first four centuries of Christianity. One such rumor was that Christians were cannibals. Why? You may have this already figured out, but let me fill in the blanks for all of us. Christians were sometimes thought to be cannibals because they ate the Body and Blood of Christ! This is but one argument from the Ancient Church that shows how seriously they took the real presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in, with, and under the blessed bread and wine.
You have called me as your pastor to be what St. Paul calls a steward of the mysteries of God. I take that responsibility very seriously. Because of that, the elders and I are preparing to slightly modify our distribution practice in September.
Currently, an elder welcomes communicants to the Lord’s Table with a greeting and the host, the communion bread and Body of Christ. Then, I follow with the individual glass communion cups and the common cup. I have appreciated this arrangement in my first few years here because your elders have helped me get to know you at the altar rail.
As your called “steward of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1), I take seriously all that St. Paul models and teaches in the way of pastoral care concerning the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. Therefore, our proposed distribution practice is this: As pastor, I will welcome communicants to the Lord’s Table with a greeting and will administer the host, the communion bread and Body of Christ. Then, an elder will follow with the individual glass communion cups. I will come around again to administer the common cup.
One of the best parts of Lutheran theology and practice is the example of Luther in teaching the congregation before modifying practice. Such teaching before any apparent change helps avoid misundertandings, allays fears, and helps all of us better understand what Jesus teaches about anything in God’s Word.
Jesus says, 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Jesus gave His life so that you may live. He is the living bread that came down from heaven itself. If you feed on Him, He promises that you will live forever. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.