+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen +
Text: John 6:51-58
Theme: An Organic but Mysterious Unity.
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
Unity with the triune God through Jesus Christ is not simply a matter of intellectual assent, heart-felt emotion or outward acts of devotion. It is a deep and un searchable mystery that through faith the totality of our being is in communion with Him in such a way that the Bible uses very organic terms to convey it. Jesus said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.”1 These are profound, but difficult words. So much so that the Bible says, “From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.”2
Dear friends, we should not deem it to be a simple or lighthearted thing to be followers of the only true and living God, Jesus Christ. Each Sunday as we emphasize the deliberate teaching of God’s Word to young and old alike, we do well to review the manner in which the teaching of the faith is different from all other knowledge. Knowledge in temporal things enables one to function in life by making calculated decisions. Yet such knowledge is not life itself. But knowledge of the true God is the substance of spiritual life and fellowship with the Almighty. Therefore Christ speaks of the existence of this life as a participation in His own flesh and blood. We are parasites that can only live by feeding off another.
Jesus said to the Jews, “Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”3 When we eat to sustain our physical bodies, we are putting nourishment into a failing system. The amount or purity of the nutrients cannot overcome the fact that our bodies progress inextricably towards death. But the nourishment of Jesus Christ extends the life of the soul without end and promises the restoration of the body too.
But how can we gain an understanding of how these matters work. Perhaps a simple comparison would be helpful. Just as the saying is used, “What goes up, must come down, so too, “What goes in, must come out.” That is, what goes into us, will at some point be expressed. What “goes into” every human being at the time of conception is the corruption of body, mind and soul that results from the poison of sin. The results are constantly “coming out” in thoughts, words and deeds. We do not become sinners because we sin. We sin because we are and always have been sinners. The power of the expression of original sin is only strengthened when we feed upon the sinfulness of the world, when we absorb the ways of man and not the ways of God. We are only fooling ourselves if we think that we are unaffected by the unrighteousness that our eyes see, our ears hear and our hands participate in. These things sink into our minds and are etched on our hearts.
These truths are even more evident among you people. From day one we must be fed with the “living bread that came down from heaven,” and not the poison of the world. The challenge before us is great. It is a sign of the times when radio advertisements are coupled with obvious statements of public safety. A message from such and such business included this recommendation for the prevention of child abduction. “Always keep your children under your supervision or the supervision of someone you trust.”4 Such a statement, though sound advice, should cause us to reflect upon the perceived need to make it a public announcement. Have the foundations of our society so crumbled that people need to be told by public announcement that children need to be supervised?
Proverbs says, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”5 The Biblical model of deliberate and consistent teaching of faith and values to children is at odds with modern philosophies of giving children an independent right to choose their own course. Here the Biblical foundations must be recovered. God charges parents with an awesome responsibility. “What goes in, must come out” is equally true with children. How many times have you heard your child repeat something you said yourself or something they picked up from school?
Children will not some how magically mature into morally sound individuals capable of making godly discernments and decisions.
When Saint Paul advises the young pastor Timothy he makes reference to his Christian upbringing, “Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”6 Timothy’s parents saw to it that he knew the Holy Scriptures from childhood. The Greek term for childhood is the same as that for infant. It was the customary duty for Jewish parents to teach their children the law of the Lord at age five.
Honest analysis reveals that the reason children live so distantly from Biblical teaching is because they simply imitate their parents. Or if they do not imitate them they assume when their parents are complicit about things such activities are acceptable. In a book7 on raising children a survey reveals that when teachers were asked 50 years ago to list the six greatest problems they face in dealing with young people in school their answers were chewing gum, making noise, running in halls, getting out of place in line, improper dating and not putting paper in waste baskets. Today the same question was answered in this way; drugs, alcohol, pregnancy, suicide, rape and assault and battery. In light of such facts, how appropriate are the words of today’s epistle, “Be very careful, then, how you live- not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”8
In such a state of affairs it might be easy to despair. Indeed, the days are evil. But evil cannot and will not prevail. We should never underestimate the strength and comfort of God’s promise. The Scripture says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”9 The “what goes in, must come out” principle also applies to the paradigm of salvation. My sins, yours sin, the sins of the world went “into” the body of Jesus and the righteousness which flows from Him alone comes out to us. The Bible says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wound you have been healed.”10
Dear Friends, our lives are now sustained by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. His word is our food. His love is our nourishment. His life sustains our lives. The saints of old lived by the same reality. In referring to the Israelites the Bible says, “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank for the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”11 How much more so we who are privileged to live after He has already died and risen again!
When we hear Jesus today speak of His flesh and blood we cannot help but think of the Lord’s Supper. In it we receive the body and blood of the crucified and risen Lord. From it we receive strength, forgiveness, life and salvation. And God is not stingy with His gifts. His grace comes to us also through the proclamation of the gospel’s promise and the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism. These things not only sustain our spiritual lives, they are life itself and they are the substance of our fellowship with God who is the Living One. Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”12 Thanks be to God for His immeasurable gifts! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 7, 2003
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 6:56-57
2 John 6:66
3 John 6:58
4 From a local radio advertisement
5 Proverbs 22:6
6 2 Timothy 3:14-15
7 “The Lifelines of Love”, Peter Kurowski
8 Ephesians 5:15
9 1 John 3:8
10 1 Peter 2:24
11 1 Corinthians 10:3-4
12 John 6:51