8/23/2015 Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost The text is John 6:56-69.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Words, our life is full of words. Some conjure up good thoughts and happy memories. Some make us sad. Some leave us puzzled, and others elicit nothing at all.
“Words, words, words: I’m so sick of words,” exclaims Eliza Doolittle in a song from My Fair Lady; and to this she adds, “Don’t talk at all; show me!” In a society that produces copies, mails, texts and discards enough words each day to overflow a bottomless landfill, we can relate to her frustration. Words used too much, and too carelessly, no longer move us. Sometimes, even the most important words of all, like, “I love you,” can come to mean little or nothing at all.
We have long since learned that words without corresponding actions are dead and unreal. They are figments which allude to something profound and important, but without the substance, the concrete which bears them out, they are but ghosts which do not reflect anything other than the shallowness of the speaker. If you ask children if they would like an ice cream cone, they would nod their heads with delight as they would envision favorite flavors and good times. If you hear the words “I love you,” spoken by a kind and gracious, caring and warm individual of whom you are especially fond, those words delight. But, those same words, spoken by someone who has used them to manipulate you and who has proven to you that their love hurts, will bring quite a different response. And so, words can build up or tear down. They can delight or they can stab at the heart and the soul. They can be meaningless when tossed about or they can be powerful.
As it turns out, no one has ever demonstrated the power of words like Jesus Christ as he is the word made flesh. He is the word of the omnipotent, almighty God. In him, we find the word of God living in the actions of one man, a word capable of bringing about what is spoken as he and he alone does what is necessary to make it come true. Through him the word of God takes on flesh and bone. And the words he uses, which are meant to build up God’s children and tear down the barriers that separate us from our heavenly Father, can be trusted.
“You are a child of God,” he says. “You are important to the One who truly is almighty. The One who is omniscient knows your name – he who knows all, even knows the number of hairs on your head. He has chosen you and through me you will have eternal life.” These words are words to be trusted. They are words spoken to you and they are spoken to me. In them is the power of God to claim us as his own. We no longer need to question our identity. We no longer need to question whether we count in this world. We no longer need to fear being alone. For, Jesus has spoken and his words come with the power of God to fulfill them so that the words which he speaks are spirit and life.
But, not all the words spoken by Jesus are easy to hear. Many are challenging and offensive to the hearers, like the words which instruct us to eat of his body and drink of his blood. But, Jesus doesn’t back away from them any more than he backs away from those words which provide comfort and hope. In typical fashion, people choose what they want to believe and disregard the rest. When words become too offensive, too challenging, too critical, too demanding for them, they choose to leave this Jesus in order to find someone or something else to fill their heart’s deepest needs. Yet, there is no place else to go. Only Jesus has the words of eternal life.
The words that he speaks are challenging and demanding to those looking for cheap grace. Yet, his words are spoken to guide and to comfort. They are words spoken so that we can know a full relationship with God and with each other. They are words spoken to you and to me. As beloved children of God, we need all words of Jesus, not just those that make us feel “warm and fuzzy.” We need his words to keep us on track, to guide us each day, to bring us back when we stray and to teach us the way of salvation.
“You are a child of God!” Those words are full of power. Yet, what do you believe about those words? Are they words which roll off your back like rain off the back of a duck, or are they words which are deep inside your soul and make your heart leap for joy? Do you believe those words, or do you find them to be empty and irrelevant, or offensive? What do you believe about the words Jesus shares concerning his death and concerning his being the living bread of which we must eat? Are these words offensive to good taste? Are they empty and irrelevant? Or are they words seeped in the power of God, words upon which we live and act out our faith? Remember, hearing and believing causes something to happen within us. We do not hear and believe and remain an outsider.
We have a huge number of choices in this world…a wide variety of things to select from, including who and what to believe. The great decisions, such as which god to serve, are the summary of so many small decisions, even thousands of resolves, attempts and failures. Yet, to whom shall we go? Jesus has the words of eternal life, the words of God which can bring about God’s promises. We may have tried other faiths and no faith, sought truth and found what does not work for us. But, the Christ of the hard and difficult cross is all we have.
My friends, the word of God endures forever. That word will never die. It is the word of eternal life. Somehow, in this crazy, unpredictable world, over which we have little control, our life has meaning to God far beyond what we know and can imagine.
As Peter did when Jesus asked him if he too would leave in order to pursue an easier way, may we turn to our Lord in faith. For our belief and trust in God’s word will not be in vain. In his word is the power of God to bring us to eternal life. May we believe it, and in believing it, may our hearts leap with delight. And may the peace to God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.