8/16/2015 Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost Text is John 6:51-58.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over. Soon, schools will be starting and we’ll be back into normal routines. Vacations will be but distant memories. But before that happens, many of us will try to get some last days away. And, why not? Vacations provide opportunities to do things we don’t get a chance to do on a regular basis. Whether it’s laying around on a beach, kayaking down a river, fishing by the lake, taking a class to learn something new, or just reading a good book – vacations are renewing and life-giving.
In bygone years, one of my favorite vacations was time I spent with Edith. Edith was a next door neighbor, a wonderful woman who was old enough to be my mother. While with Edith, I would sit around her beach cottage in Old Lyme, CT, sipping on whatever, eating fattening foods and playing cards to my heart’s content. The smell of the ocean and the fresh sea breeze ushered in a sort of euphoric feeling and I felt like leaning back in a comfortable chair and exclaiming for the world to hear. “Now, this is really living!” But is it?
There is a story told of a very rich but uneducated man who was buried in the famous cemetery of Hollywood, Forest Lawn. He wanted to demonstrate to all his friends that “you can take it with you,” so he insisted that he should be buried sitting at the wheel of his Cadillac. Those who were present at his interment say that as the crane operator lowered this strange coffin into the immense grave that had been dug for it, he muttered to himself, “That’s livin’!”
Despite the incongruity of the remark, it reveals the mistaken notion that real living has certain requirements: driving a certain car, living in a certain house, moving to Florida or California or at least to the Cape or the mountains for the summer. It may be having a certain job, getting married to a certain person, getting into a certain college, and so forth. These “living conditions” are prized by those who believe “real living” comes from one or more of them happening. Yet, real living has nothing to do with these conditions, just as it has nothing to do with the amount of money you have or the time spent on vacation. Real living comes from within, not from without. Real living comes from seeing life as God’s gift to us and using that life for the good and the right.
Jesus said, “I am the living bread” who was sent by “the living Father,” and without this “you have no life in you.” With these words, Jesus asserts his authority to provide what people need for real living, and this real living has nothing to do with the stuff of the world. Real living comes through our connection with Christ, “the living bread,” and with “the living Father,” who sent him into the world to experience what life is like for us to bridge the gap between us and heaven.
This connection between us and God, and God and us, is not something that we can accomplish on our own. It is something only God can do for us. In order for us to really live, God has to enter our lives in a special way, and God has done this through Jesus Christ. For, no one else in the history of human kind has ever “come down from heaven.” Multitudes have tried to climb to heaven but no one has ever made it and no one else has ever come down. Only Jesus “came down” from the depths of trinity’s loving heart. Only he can know and disclose what God thinks and feels. Only he is the living bread who provides what is needed for our living.
Today, as we gather around the table to feast on that living bread, we will get a special taste of the real life offered to us by Jesus. The bread we will eat is special. It was formed with loving hands as it was specially made for yesterday’s wedding of Jeffrey and Amber. The bread is sweet. It is full-bodied. You may even walk away wanting a little more. And this is as it should be – for real life in the living Lord, is sweet, full-bodied and kneaded together with loving hands.
Jesus said, “I am the living bread…whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” These words assume that life is without limit and yet we know that human life is surrounded and permeated by death. We know very well that whatever we may eat or not eat, whatever we do or don’t do to help prolong life, sooner or later death comes. Yet, the life, the real life, of which Jesus speaks, is a life which you can take to the grave and beyond. For unlike the Cadillac that the rich man was buried in, the living bread provides ultimate victory over the death that now dominates the earth.
In both Jesus’ own teaching and in the apostolic writings, phrases such as “eternal life,” “live forever,” and “have life” always declare or assume incorporation into the resurrected life of Christ. Eternal life is not something that will descend upon us in the future. It is a promise and a hope in which we share as we live each day as it began with Jesus’ resurrection and will be consummated by our own on the last day.
The promise of eternal life addresses two important questions for us – that is how long we will live and what kind of life we will live. To have eternal life means we share in the risen life of our Lord now and in sharing that life we serve and witness, give and love. That is real living. Real living is not sipping drinks in an ocean cottage somewhere, but involves participating in the life and work of the risen Christ each and every day. Vacations may provide needed breaks from routine, but they cannot provide real life. Things we have and do may help us enjoy life, but they cannot provide real life. Real life is a gift from God through Jesus Christ who provides for us the living bread.
Jesus tells us that, for us, bread and life are one and the same thing. His incarnation – his entering into our world – and his coming amongst us in the bread of communion are both acts that are designed to save us. God does not merely come and then leave us on our own. Just like God doesn’t merely give us something which we may or may not need. God gives us himself. And in giving us himself he connects himself to us forever.
Imagine, if you can, becoming a worm and dying as a worm, in order to share your better kind of living with the world’s worms. This is a crude analogy, but it’s not an exaggeration of what God did in Jesus Christ. He gave himself. He gave himself totally to the world so that he might become for us the living bread, so that we could have real life and real living.
Live well, my friends, and be fed by the living bread. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.