August 9, 2015
John 6:35, 41-51
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
When we hear this morning’s Gospel lesson, perhaps we hear echoes of the exodus, the great story of the saving acts of God when the people were slaves in Pharaoh’s brickyards. Even before Jesus gets to where he says outright, “Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness,” we have several hints.
Throughout John, Jesus answers questions with the statement “I AM,” or makes statements that begin with “I AM.” When we hear “I AM” in the Bible, we hear echoes of Moses at the burning bush. There God tells Moses God’s name: “I AM WHAT I AM;” a name that has been endlessly commented upon and interpreted. Other good translations of this name include: “I will be what I will be,” and “I will be what you need.”
Jesus uses “I AM” statements throughout John’s Gospel:
- I AM the bread of life (6:35, see also 6:41)
- I AM the living bread that came down from heaven (6:51)
- I AM the light of the world (8:12; 9:5)
- I AM the gate for the sheep (10:7, 9)
- I AM the good shepherd (10:11, 14)
- I AM the resurrection and the life (11:25-26)
- I AM the way, and the truth, and the life (14:6)
- I AM the true vine (15:1, 5)
As in the exodus, when God provided what was necessary, food and water enough to sustain, so now in his time, and in ours, Jesus is that supply of all that we need. God provides all that we need: food and water, light and shelter, meaning and purpose, enough to sustain us in the wilderness of our lives. And we have this through Jesus.
But now as then, how often do we still complain? Does it not come in the way or manner or style we want? When God does it God’s way and not ours, do we start muttering? How often do we turn away the two boats and the helicopter, for those of you who remember the old parable?
In 2009, this church gave me a great gift of sending me to a retreat with Walter Brueggemann. There, in a circle of pastors, one minister from Grand Rapids explained his difficulty working with at risk and troubled kids when all he had on his side was the Word and the Sacraments. Part of my brain rebelled at the idea, thinking, “What? You have all sorts of curricula and books, theories and strategies that you can use for youth work.” But then I let his words sink in.
We have a world full of toil and sin. We have lives that seem both too full and too empty. We have enough to confess, and enough to pray for, to keep us busy for a long, long time. And what we have in the face of this is the Word and the Sacraments.
Baptism: where we experience God’s welcoming and forgiving love, God’s claim on us that is stronger and better than any claim the world can make.
Communion: where we experience again the sustenance that God provides and respond with thanksgiving and joy.
And the Word. Some of you know that I have several favorite hymns, and of those hymns, I have favorite verses. One is the fourth verse of Amazing Grace:
My God has promised good to me,
Whose Word my hope secures.
God will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
For this is it. God’s promise in scripture, in the witness of creation and the prophets, in apostles and the church, is lived out in our sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion.
And the promise is that God will sustain us. And Jesus is enough. God will sustain us. And Jesus is enough.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Whoever eats of this bread will have eternal life.
Thanks be to God.