In our Gospel for Sunday, (Mark 9:38-50) we continue to follow Jesus and his disciples on their journey. From this Gospel we see that they, the disciples, still have a ways to go in learning all that Jesus needs them to know before he dies. John tells Jesus that they have seen someone casting out demons in His name and that they tried to stop him because he was not one of them. Jesus reassures the disciples that this is okay and then points out what the real problem is: how they deal with the sin in their lives. Remember that our sins offend God and we cannot be neutral about them. James tells us how to confess our sins and be forgiven. In the OT reading, the people have a similar problem with Eldad and Medad, who were prophesying in the camp but had not been in the meeting when the others received the Spirit from God. Moses, replies, "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!" Clearly Moses is a prophet, because that is what will happen to all believers when Jesus dies and is seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven.
As we advance in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus continues to explain what will happen to him… and the disciples continue to miss the point and instead start up a side conversation about which of them was the greatest. Jesus responds that it is His name, not their accomplishments that give them status. That if even a small child is welcomed in the name of Jesus, it is equivalent to showing hospitality to the Creator of the universe. In all our readings the point is made, that the way of wisdom is not in striving for our own safety, status, or wealth, but to be trusting in God, gentle, peaceful and merciful.
This week, we hear a conversation between Jesus and his disciples, in which Peter rightly proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, but then tries to rebuke Jesus when Jesus explains what will happen to the Son of Man. For a moment Peter gets it right, and then so very wrong. To compliment this reading we have the epistle of James explaining the dangers of being a teacher who will be judged with greater strictness if we can’t control our tongue, and in general, the damage we do with our words. Would that we could listen more carefully to who Jesus says He is, and that our lives would flow from that source of living water. “but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8
There are some interesting parallels in our readings this week. In our Old Testament reading, Isaiah prophesies about when God will come to save Israel: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy” ~ Isaiah 35:5-6 Then in our Gospel, Jesus heals a man who is deaf and dumb. In our Epistle reading, James warns us against showing favoritism in our congregations and having faith without works. Then in our Gospel, Jesus heals the daughter of a Gentile after an exchange about children and dogs, tables and crumbs. It is the Psalm that seems to gather these thoughts together: human power and human princes fail, but the Lord is faithful forever, and heals, feeds, executes justice, and watches over those in need.
In our readings for Sunday, we have completed our journey through John and now move on to Mark. Our readings all point us to a comparison of the Laws given by God to Moses and how Jesus' coming into the world changed how they are applied. God gave Israel the stone tablets on which the law was written. Jesus writes the law in our hearts and our minds when we come to know Him. Israel had to enter the temple to have access to God. Jesus, His Father, God, and the Holy Spirit come into us, when we accept Him as savior, and make their home in us, making each of us their holy temple. Israel in Jesus' time thought it was okay to obey the letter of the law, keeping them outwardly, while breaking them inwardly. Jesus calls us to a total commitment to His Law. It is not what is outside of us that makes us unclean, it is what flows our from our hearts that matters.
This week, we finish the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John. What began as an impromptu miracle of feeding the crowds of thousands who are relentlessly following Jesus’ every move and want to follow him into battle, ends in an awkward quiet when the words of Jesus move from inspiring to seemingly impossible, and many of those who have been following him turn away. Following Christ is not easy. It is an ongoing active decision. This Sunday, at the first service, we have the privilege of baptizing and welcoming into the family of God three boys who have made this decision. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69
Most of our readings this week advise and exhort us to live in way of insight, in the fear of the Lord, not as unwise people, but as wise. But in our Gospel, Jesus says: Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. All the encouragement and instructions are worthy and valuable, but as Christians, we do not live only by precepts of wisdom, practices and godly habits, but also by being nourished each week by partaking of the body of Christ, both in Eucharist and by gathering and worshiping together. Each week, we praise God and remember that is not by our efforts that we are saved, but by His sacrifice. It is not our habits that protect us from sin and death, but by His life that we are forgiven and live. And it is not by our emotional maturity that we have unity, but by the blood of Christ that we are reconciled to the Father and one to another. Come join us in worship of the Bread of Life this week.
The Rev. Cindy Stansbury
John 6:35 & John 6:41-51
12 mins 31 secs
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Crowds have followed Jesus for the signs that He may be the next Moses to lead them to victory. Crowds have pursued Him for the bread that has filled their stomachs and the potential prosperity He represents. But then Jesus begins to say that He is the bread of life, the bread sent by God, the bread of heaven, and that their future, their life, depends on believing that Jesus has seen the Father, is sent from the Father and that “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” Jesus is no longer looking like the leading man in a story they know, but is asking them to embrace an entirely new story. He is claiming to have seen God face to face, and asking them to have faith in Him. And it is too much for them: they grumble they complain and begin to fall away. We too are prone to the same tendency: to create a version of God that fits in our minds and in the constraints of our lives, rather than to listen and follow who He reveals himself to be. We can become so comfortable with our image of God, of what kind of God we are willing to follow, and how far we are willing to go, that we try to confine God to be a safe god, a small god, instead of the Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This week’s gospel is the aftermath of the feeding of the 5000, a discussion between Jesus and the crowds about motivations, signs, manna, Moses and the Bread of Life. But it also contains this exchange: “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." John 6:28-29 The purpose of God’s work is that we believe in Jesus as sent by God. Our “work” is to believe the Truth of who Jesus is and then, in the words of our epistle this week, “to lead of 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". Living and worshiping together as one body, using the gifts we are given to build up the body of Christ, is not an extra thing, an optional thing that we add to our already full life, it is the center of our response to God and his gift of eternal life.
In our gospel for Sunday, John 6:1-21, Jesus feeds the five thousand and walks on water. Two powerful miracles in a row. The 5000 saw a king who would give them food, with no effort on their part. Someone who would heal their sick and give them a better life here on earth, not bad things. They did not realize that Jesus would set them free not only from sin but also from death. Where do we stand on this? How do we see Jesus?