First Lesson: Song of Songs 2: 8-13
Responsive Reading: Psalm 45: 1-2, 6-9
Second Lesson: James 1: 17-27
Gospel Lesson: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to begin this morning by telling a conversion story only it isn’t a typical conversion story. This conversion story centers on roast beef. You see about four years ago, I was small and weak. I weighed less than I did in Middle School which for most people would be a happy thing, only it wasn’t. My energy levels were always dragging, and I was perpetually hungry. I ate everything that I thought I was supposed to eat: lean meats, whole grains, fruits, the occasional vegetable, no soda, and never any dessert. I was scared of having any fat in my diet because of the potential consequences that might come with it. Butter would have been a rare treat reserved for holidays. Then I started reading; I was reading voices that contradicted everything that I had previously thought. So I decided to make a complete 180 in my diet. I adopt a philosophy that I hold to this day that a person can never eat too much fat especially saturated fat in their diet. Some positive things start to happen to me. I start increasing my bench press in the weight room and take this as evidence the diet is working. So maybe a month or so after changing my former ways, I go with a group of Confirmation students to an all-you-could-eat brunch. This brunch would be a dream for me: prime rib, steak, sausage, bacon, butter that I could eat to my heart’s content. The day was glorious! One of the kids that day was named Cookie. Cookie wanted to drink orange juice with his meal. Cookie asked what I thought about drinking orange juice?
Now remember, sometimes the new preachers are the most radical preachers. The Apostle Paul was the most radical preacher of grace because it went against the ways of his former home. So I decided I would be a radical preacher on this day. I told Cookie that orange juice is worse for you than pop because of the fructose sugar content being so high. One of the other chaperons was a Nurse Practitioner who thought I sounded like a nut when I was espousing all this stuff. Why was I so extreme? Recent converts tend to be the most passionate about following their beliefs, but they also tend to occasionally blinded because of the fervor of their perspective. I’ll get back to Cookie and the orange juice in a little bit.
Today, I want to look at one book of the Bible in the Book of James. What should you know about the Book of James is that Martin Luther didn’t like the Book of James. Luther considered James to be the “epistle of straw”. Luther didn’t like the Book of James because he saw it as being in direct contrast to the Book of Romans which he considered the most important book in the New Testament. If Romans was the book of gold then James could be burned away never to be heard from again.
What made James so bad for Luther? Luther kept hearing the famous verse from James over and over again “Faith without works is dead”. Luther had problems with this verse. Luther had struggled for years and years with the meaning of this verse. Luther had spent nights sleeping on concrete floors hoping it would motivate him to do better in his faith. Luther spent years believing that his faith was dead because of all the good that he had failed to do. One night Luther is reading from the Book of Romans when he finally discovers a word of liberation from his previous struggles.
Romans 1:17 “The righteous shall live by faith.”
I want you to think about Luther’s attitude towards the Book of James this way. 1998, I go away to Concordia College in Moorhead. I wasn’t going to have to go to bed at any particular time. I could eat whatever I wanted. No one was going to ask me any questions about “Where I was going?” or “When might I return?” Newfound freedom all sounds great for a little while until you finally come home and are dealing with the same parents that raise you. You quickly get offended if one of your parents dares ask you where you were at 2 AM the previous night. My worst college homecoming behavior was one time getting mad at my sister Anne because one of her friends had the gall to call at 5 in the afternoon when I was taking a nap.
Whenever old ways of life and new ways of life collide there is going to be conflict. In the 1960’s this would have taken place when a child returns home to proclaim to his World War II serving father to say that he is morally opposed to all war. At this point, there is going to be some inevitable conflict.
So back to the Book of James. Paul’s letters make up the majority of the New Testament. Paul’s letters talk about sin, grace, law, Gospel and drive home the heart of the Christian message that “There is nothing you can do to earn salvation because Jesus won salvation for you.” Paul’s writing is all great stuff! I want to preach Paul every Sunday because of it.
The people that heard this in the early church thought it was good stuff! People in the early church had grown up believing as evidenced by today’s gospel lesson that if you don’t wash your hands the proper and holy way, then you’re not a child of God.
So when people began to hear Paul’s message of freedom they began to take it to extremes. The church in Thyatira had all sorts of sexual immorality, the church in Corinth had all kinds of drunkenness and if you read through the Book of Jude you see all kinds of problems of poor behavior that permeated the New Testament church.
To illustrate this concept, let’s reflect on teenage binge drinking. Europe tends to be a lot more lax about laws regarding teenage drinking than the United States. Many European children grow up with the idea where there is little in the way of a fixed drinking age. European children tend to drink quite a bit but in many countries they have half the rate of excess binge drinking that they do in the United States. A study came out a few years ago which described US Teens as among the highest offenders of drug use and binge drinking in the western world even though both are strictly illegal. As the story of Adam and Eve reminds us, there is such a thing as a forbidden fruit effect. So when people in James’ day kept hearing “grace, grace, grace” along with no stern commandments that a Christian need to do. They revealed in their previously forbidden fruits to excess.
Back to when I first went away to college at Concordia. I thought it was great. I could stay up till 2-3 AM and still go to class in the morning. I could eat or drink whatever I wanted with no one to tell me “no”. Moorhead was one of the few places with 24-hour pizza delivery. Total freedom all sounded so good until I realized nearly a decade later how unhealthy all my liberated habits had become. If I have one, major, regret in my life it’s that I wasted so many years of my life trying to get it all together. I wish I had realized the harm in my actions sooner. Many people will probably name similar periods in their life where they failed to understand how their freedom can have unpleasant consequences.
Back to the Book of James. James is a reaction against extremes. The idea that if there is no such thing as law or judgment then the good times can just keep rolling on.
One of the big news stories this week has to do with Ashley Madison.com which is a website that seeks to provide the means and connections for married individuals to carry out affairs. Hackers revealed Ashley Madison had 36 Million registered users. Every zip code in the United States but three had someone that was a member of Ashley Madison. This list gets publicly revealed all sorts of destruction takes place: marriages and families collapse and individuals even take their own lives. The issue with Ashley Madison isn’t that people can’t receive forgiveness. Jesus specifically proclaimed forgiveness to a woman caught in adultery in John 8. The issue rather has to do with social mayhem caused in Ashley Madison’s fall. Now why James was written was that people shouldn’t use God’s grace as an excuse to commit bad behavior. I shouldn’t be a jerk to Bob because God has forgiven even worse jerks than me. The Gospel is not an excuse for selfishness. This is the very attitude that James seeks to address.
What can we say about Luther’s attitude about the Book of James? Luther was an emotional guy and a hothead. Luther also wrote a ton of stuff. Luther was the type of guy who you would probably want to keep off Facebook when he got into a bad mood. Luther’s overall concern was “What is the Gospel?” or “What promotes Christ?” Luther was absolutely correct in his ability to assess the main issues. Luther wasn’t wrong, when he held that James could be abused.
I knew a lady whose named was Catherine. Catherine grew up Presbyterian. Catherine said the minister nearly every Sunday would preach on the Book of James. The Minister was able to use James to point out all the flaws in individual congregation member’s lives. The issue with this minister isn’t whether what he’s saying is true or not (it probably is) Christians will fall short, the issue with obsessing over the Book of James is that it misses the bigger point. Our obsession should be clearly defining the Gospel. We must clearly define God’s rescue from a world racked with sin. Sin always brings brokenness, sin always brings pain, and the Gospel seeks to liberate us from our fall. The idea that James is trying to rebel against is the idea that because of the Gospel that our lives don’t matter. Our actions have the potential to wreck lives beyond our lives of which the Gospel is no justification for defending.
At the same time, we remember the words of Isaiah 64:6 this morning that “All our righteous deeds are like filthy rags.”-Isaiah 64:6. We will not impress God. The point of James is to protect us against our worst instincts, not to inspire us to reach God’s presence. James isn’t seeking to encourage us to bring more to God’s table. James is rather saying that God’s generosity isn’t an excuse to purposely throw plates on the floor.
I want to admit something this morning. I will admit it to Cookie Price and Nurse Practitioner Julie Kircher. I was wrong about orange juice. While I wouldn’t keep orange juice in the house, it does provide vitamins and minerals that are helpful when consumed in moderation. My second confession is that as much as I enjoy saturated fat bonanzas it is probably of benefit to my digestive system to throw in a salad every once in a while.
The point of the Gospel is that while it can reach the worst of sinners, it doesn’t seek to give sinners permission to commit the most heinous of sins. While converts are always passionate about the liberating new way in which they view the world. The old guard always needs to try to keep converts in check against the worst of our own bad behavior.
 Markquart, Ed. “James, True Religion, and the Real Thing”. Sermons from Seattle. Pentecost 13 B. Web. Aug.25.2015.
 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15,21-23.
 Revelation 2:18-29
 1st Corinthians 11:21
 This comes from a 2012 study in The Lancet medical journal found in a Daily Mail Web article published on Apr.25.2012.
 Brewer, Todd. “James, an ‘Epistle of Straw?’ Not So Fast!” Mockingbird (MBIRD). 26.Mar.2015. Web. Aug.24.2015
 McAlone, Nathan. “There were only 3 zip codes without any Ashley Madison accounts. Yahoo Finance. 25.Aug.2015. Web. Aug.26.2015.
First Lesson: 1 Kings 8: (1, 6, 10-11) 22-30, 41-43
Responsive Reading: Psalm 84
Second Lesson: Ephesians 6: 10-20
Gospel Lesson: John 6: 56-69
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I want to tell you a story this morning that we will not find in the history books. We know the “twelve disciples” in Andrew, Nathanael, James the Young, James the Old, John, Judas, Matthew, Jude, Peter, Phillip, Simon, and Thomas. What we maybe don’t know is that Jesus started out with way more than twelve disciples. What happened to these “other” disciples? These “lost” disciples one day came across a teaching of Jesus’ so radical that they were not willing to stay with him through thick and thin. I want to tell the story of these former disciples this morning.
You see Jesus wished to call all sorts of “disciples”. A little while back, Jesus called a couple of John the Baptist’s disciples in Andrew and Peter then Jesus went and picked up a couple of Galilean fisherman in Phillip and Nathanael. Jesus kept traveling to different places such as weddings and throughout all of Galilee along the way, Jesus kept making disciples. Jesus had just done something big, and I mean really big! Jesus had left a crowd of 5,000 people in awe as he fed them with five loaves of bread and two fish. The Feeding of the 5,000 would seem to be the event that would expand the ranks of the Disciples ten, no scratch that, a hundred fold, only it didn’t. What actually happened after the Feeding of the 5,000 is our Gospel lesson for today.
Jesus started to speak and people didn’t like what he had to say.
“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”-John 6:56. The crowd immediately began to grumble as they were easily offended.-John 6:60-62.
You see people complaining about God are like people complaining about the weather or Joe Mauer. It’s the easiest thing that someone can do. Only on this day, Jesus was hearing that he was at the center of the people’s grumbles. The thing is that most people when they hear someone grumbling about them are quick to apologize for fear of offending others.
Jesus would not back down from his initial remarks instead he doubled down on his remarks. Not only was Jesus going to give his flesh to eat, but he was going to ascend to the right-hand of the Father. Jesus was going to give the same flesh to eat that he was soon about to give on a cross.
Why was Jesus offering his flesh so controversial?
You see plenty of people in the crowd that day thought they knew how God should work. The crowd that has previously surrounded Jesus as he fed the 5,000 loved his potential as a new Moses or David a unifying force for the whole nation to rise around. The crowd hoped that the feeding of the 5,000 was going to be the first of many miracles that were about to take place within their presence. They were looking for a messiah that would make them healthy, wealthy, and wise. A messiah that would roundhouse kick the Romans right off the holy ground. A messiah could not suffer, nor die. A messiah was supposed to be an invincible hero, a mixture of Superman, Samson, and Dirty Harry all rolled into one. Manly men like these guys don’t cry nor show weakness, men like these are always victorious. When Jesus started to speak though he didn’t offer the prosperity that they sought, Jesus rather offered suffering and death.
Jesus knew that this was going to be a problem. Jesus knew that as soon as he talked about the command to eat his flesh and drink his blood that many would fall away. Shortly after Jesus’ death, one of the greatest critiques of his followers was that they were nothing more than cannibals. They mocked them for making their worship service a celebration of receiving a dead guy’s body and blood. Jesus’ incessant talk about his flesh and blood was going to make people leave and they did. They marched their feet right out of his presence and vowed never to associate with this “flesh-eater” ever again.
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”- John 6:66
The loss of so many disciples was one of the hardest days of Jesus’ ministry. Many of their closest friends were no longer going to surround Jesus’ remaining disciples. They were going to be twelve lonely men traveling all alone through the wilderness.
One evening Jesus approached the remaining twelve disciples. These men were in need of a pep talk. The remaining disciples were the team that just lost a game 63-0, they were the bride that had been stood up by the groom at the altar, or the father who had just watched his only son go off to war. Jesus knew that he needed to say something to the men that remained.
You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.-John 6:67
No one wished to be the first one to speak. Finally, Peter spoke up. Peter wasn’t a perfect guy by any means. Peter’s eventual denial wouldn’t stop Jesus though from later promising unto Peter that he would be the “rock” upon whom Christ would build his church. Jesus bestowed unto Peter an awesome promise as imperfect a vessel as Peter might be.
Upon being asked if he was getting ready to leave Jesus, Peter cleared his throat and began to speak. I imagine Peter sounding like the fourteen boy trying to muster up the courage to talk a girl for the first time.
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”-John 6:68-69
As soon as the others heard Peter’s words they knew that they were a band of brothers who would stick together no matter what foxholes they might be required to crawl into going forward.
Jesus knew that this feeding of the 5,000 was not going to be the last time that he lost one of his disciples. For he knew one of the men who was still present with them, would soon betray him into the hands of the authorities. Jesus was still going to go forth bringing hope and salvation to the world, no matter how bleak the outcome may be. The Disciples were far from perfect men, but they were the kinds of men for whom Jesus was going to die.
The fact that Jesus was going to remain steadfast till the end reminds me of God’s promise to Abraham as he pleaded to save the Old Testament cities of Sodom and Gommorrah from certain destruction.
The Lord answered “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy them.” For the sake of one man, Christ Jesus would lose his life. Reminding us once again that God’s mercy will always be greater than any individual’s sin.
The story I told is the tale of the twelve lonely men known as Jesus’ remaining “disciples”. Their story does raise an interesting question for us this morning regarding what exactly happened to the former disciples? Were these men saved, only to at one point in time lose their salvation?
This morning is the fifth and final sermon in our Bread of Life discourse from John 6. This morning we consider the radical meaning of Communion. Communion is so radical that many of Jesus’ previous disciples abandoned him.
The men that abandoned Jesus had good reasons for doing so. These men knew the Old Testament well.
Genesis 9:4 “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
Deuteronomy 15:23 “But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.”
These men who abandoned Jesus were pious, religious men. Their story reminds me of the story of Cain and Abel. Abel was the good brother, the generous brother, and the holy brother. Abel was probably considered by Papa Adam and Mama Eve to be the better brother. Cain had heard his whole life “Why aren’t you more like your brother Abel”. So Cain finally snaps in a field one day. Cain kills Abel. We think we should know God’s response, only we don’t. God decided to put a mark of protection on Cain no matter how wicked his previous sins have been. God promised to walk alongside Cain no matter what other people thought God should do.
So what happened to the men that fell away as disciples? The issue with them isn’t that they betrayed or even abandoned Jesus. Each and every one of us leaves Jesus during our lives. We call this sin. The problem with the former disciples that left Jesus is that in the midst of their sin that they did not believe that God’s grace was big enough to save them.
Many people wonder whether one could lose their salvation. What if they commit an especially bad sin? The thing though about the Jesus claiming to be the “bread of life” is that it speaks to people who have their anxieties and doubts as they entertain the biggest questions of the Christian faith. Jesus in giving his supper seeks to assure people that their faith has made them well, regardless of their own self-examination.
The issue with the Lord’s Supper isn’t whether it is possible to fall away from the Christian faith. The issue with the Lord’s Supper is that it is given to us to let us know that we shall perverse no matter how nasty the conditions surrounding us shall be.
The words of 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” These words begin to ring true when we consider thinking that it is our heavenly supper that sustains our faith in the darkest and most isolated of times.
“But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,”-1st Corinthians 1:23
The thing about the Lord’s Supper is that it doesn’t matter whether it makes one lick of sense to us. We hear “flesh” “blood” “body” and we don’t want to begin to even attempt to sort it out. The thing about the truths of the Gospel is they probably won’t make sense to us. God’s promises are not conditional, but rather they are unconditional. The way that God truly does work as in the story of Cain and Abel is difficult for many of us to grasp. The thing about the Disciples who did stick around is they probably knew there was no one else to turn. The music chairs game that they were playing had seen every chair filled up. The remaining disciples had no other answers up to this point in their life. So they stayed with Jesus for the reasons that Peter says:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”- Amen
 John 1:35-42
 John 1:43-51
 John 2:1-12
 John 4:46-54, John 5:1-18 along with the previously mentioned Wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12) are the previous major signs in John’s Gospel.
 John 6:1-15
 John 6:56-69
 John 6:62
 Hylen, Susan.“Commentary on John 6:56-69”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 23 Aug.2015. Web. Aug.17.2009
 Peterson, Brian. “Commentary on John 6:56-69”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul. 23 Aug.2009. Web. Aug.17.2009
 Genesis 18:16-33
 Genesis 18:32b
 Background on the “lost disciples” given by Markquart, Edward. “Series B Gospel Analysis: John 6:56-69”. Sermons from Seattle. Web. Aug.17.2015.
 Genesis 4:1-16
 Genesis 4:15
 John 6:68
First Lesson: 1 Kings 2: 10-12; 3: 3-14
Responsive Reading: Psalm 111
Second Lesson: Ephesians 5: 15-20
Gospel Lesson: John 6: 51-58
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
George Constanza was mad. George at work the previous day saw a delicious bowl of shrimp cocktail placed before him and his co-workers. George began to eat this shrimp, not like a man who merely enjoyed shrimp or a man who was hungry but rather George ate like a man who hadn’t eaten in years. Everyone in the room was speechless at George’s lack of decorum as he kept devouring shrimp. Finally, a co-worker of George’s made a joke of George’s love of shrimp. “Hey George, the ocean called; they’re running out of shrimp.”
Everyone in the room laughed at the joke; George though didn’t think joke was very funny. George would have given anything to come back at his co-worker at the moment. The problem was that George wasn’t either clever or quick on his feet. George went home quickly becoming obsessed with the perfect response to the shrimp tease. Finally, George thought of what to say at the next meeting. George was going to respond to his co-worker Reilly’s teases by saying “Well, the Jerk Store called and they’re running out of you.” George thought this insult would be a game-changer, and no one would insult him ever again.
George quickly discovers a problem; George’s co-worker had taken a new job out of state. George was probably never going to see Reilly again, whereas most people would probably delight in such news, not George Constanza. George decides to come up with an excuse to travel to Ohio from New York to encounter his former co-worker at his new job. George was finally going to burn Reilly good in front of all his new co-workers. George delighted at the thought. George wanted to provoke Reilly to say the shrimp line again, so he gets the biggest bowl of shrimp cocktail that he could find. George purposely throws all table manners to the wind. Reilly tells the shrimp joke, so now George can trot out his line. “Well, the Jerk Store called, and they’re running out of you.”
To which Reilly responds without a moment’s hesitation “What’s the difference? You’re their all-time best seller?”
What the story of George Constanza reminds us of is that it’s often not a good idea to fight fire with fire when it comes to naming someone else’s sins. The truth is that we’re all in need of forgiveness.
Today, we come to the fourth in a series of sermons about the bread of life. Today we look at our whole belief system regarding communion and its meaning. In our lesson today, Jesus promises that whoever eats his “flesh” and drinks his “blood” has forgiveness. What exactly is forgiveness for us this morning? Defining Forgiveness helps shape not only understanding of the Lord’s Supper but also the Christian faith.
To reflect some more on forgiveness, I want to tell you the tale of another jerk from the Old Testament named Jacob. Jacob cheated; he lied and swindled his brother Esau and his blind father Isaac out of a double portion of his father’s inheritance. Everyone knew Jacob was a jerk, so Jacob ran away. Jacob ran far, far from home. Jacob finally decides he should return home to begin to make amends. Jacob hears a rumor though that Esau is looking for Jacob with four-hundred men. Jacob is ready to give up at this point. Jacob ends up in the middle of the dessert. Things were looking bleak for Jacob. In the midst of the night, a visitor arrives where Jacob was sleeping. This visitor began wrestling with Jacob. These two men wrestled throughout the night. As soon as the sun started to rise, the visitor dealt a crushing blow to Jacob’s hip. Jacob would be crippled every day for the rest of his life because of this blow. God because of this blow gives Jacob a promise and a new name “Israel” which means that Jacob struggled with God and lived to tell about it. The angel’s blow reminded Jacob of something important that God already had forgiven Jacob for all that he had done, there was no need for Jacob to run in terror anymore. Esau would soon show Jacob similar forgiveness.
Communion is where real life experiences come face to face with God’s ability to forgive. The whole bread of life discourse is shaped by the feeding of the 5,000. People kept coming to Jesus wanting food; he kept providing as improbable as it may seem with two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus was not in the business of turning people away from receiving his meal.
I can hear many of the objections now. What if people engage in some particular sin. Should they still receive the “bread of life”. Everyone brings baggage to the Lord’s Supper. Whenever we go forth to the Communion rail what we are reminded of is that our sins are just as bad as anybody else’s. Too much of the discussion over in the Christian church nowadays has to do with whether one act may or may not be a sin. The problem with this discussion is that it misses the bigger picture that we are all in rebellion all the days of our lives. When we go forth to the Communion rail, we believe that we go forth in the words of the Apostle Paul as “chief of sinners”.
What Communion reminds us that while Christ would be totally in the right to condemn us, he ultimately does not? The Lord’s Supper reminds us that Christ does not condemn us even as we engage in the worst of human nature. The Lord’s Supper reminds us that everyone is a sinner. No amount of debate can change that fact. No one escapes this judgment. There are no such things as levels of sin or degrees of the sinner. The greatest of Christian temptations is to embrace pride as an acceptable sin.
The Lord’s Supper brings us face to face with the question of “What must we do to be saved”. We hear whenever we take the cup the Prayer of the Tax Collector “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.”
What the Lord’s Supper does bestow upon us is a series of remarkable promises. Listen to the promises given in our lesson for today alone:
-We have life ongoing (v.54)
-We shall be raised on the last day (v.54)
-We shall absorb Christ (v.56)
-We shall live for Jesus’ sake (v.57)
-We shall live forever (v.58)
The thing about eternal life is that it does not come through either correct living or correct understanding. Eternal life comes because in the Lord’s Supper we receive forgiveness.
Let me tell another story, earlier this year the Women’s World Cup is taking place. In the semi-finals, England is playing Japan. England and Japan are tied at 1-1 with only a minute plus left in regulation. England had a defender named Laura Bassett. Bassett has a ball come at her foot. Bassett tries to deflect it out of play like she had done her whole career up to this moment. Disaster strikes, Bassett kicks the ball into England’s goal. Laura Bassett had worked her entire life, only to let down what seemed like entire country at the worst of possible moments. Laura Bassett’s distress was such that there might not have been anyone that could have possibly comforted her at this moment. Bassett as soon as the horn blows is on the ground just sobbing. Reporters want a reaction to what had taken place then shove their microphones in the face of England’s coach Mark Sampson to ask what he thought of the goal that blew England’s championship dreams. Coach Sampson without a moment’s hesitation looks at the reporters and says “Laura Bassett is an absolute hero.”
What made Sampson’s response so incredible is what a contrast it is to how people often think.
Coach Sampson’s response was best summed up by Tal Prince, who says “What a contrast to our culture today. Not just in sports, but life in general. Make a mistake and prepare to be relentlessly ridiculed by your teammates and the masses. Look how Laura Bassett’s coach, teammates, and country responded to her gut-wrenching mistake last night. How would your world be different if people responded this way to your biggest mistakes.”
The truth is things like this do happen to us. God embracing us in the worst of our moments is what happens when we go forth to receive the “bread of life”. Communion reverses the order of the world where the most scarlet of sin gets turned into the whitest of snow (Isa 1:18).
You ask most people “What makes a good church service?” the answer will be they liked the sermon or they liked the music. These responses though raise problems. What if the preacher isn’t very good? What if the preacher tells one pointless story after another? What if you can’t begin to name the preacher’s point? What if the sermon dares to be boring? What if no one knows any of songs? What if some of the singers sound like dying birds? You might have an acolyte fail to show up. You might have a microphone not work correctly. All sorts of things can go wrong with a worship service. When people receive the “bread of life” they receive the constant source of nourishment in one’s spiritual life. It is the receiving of the “bread of life”.
People within our midst are going to struggle. People might struggle with all kinds of nasty sin. They might be a drug addict, alcoholic, engaged in sexual sin, or they might just be a flat out jerk? Should we refuse them communion in the midst of their brokenness? No, instead we send them forth to the communion rail because their individual sins are between them and God. We trust that within the “bread of life”, our Lord will do what he sees fit. One of the greatest Christian hopes is that God does not judge the world according to our standards.
George Constanza was right. The Jerk Store is open. Sinners walk into it nearly every single day. We also have a savior granting “forgiveness” within this Jerk Store by giving unto us the bread of life.
 Kavet, Gregg&Andy Robin. “The Comeback”. Seinfeld. Season 8. National Broadcast Company. Jan.30.1997
 John 6:51-58
 Genesis 27:1-40
 Genesis 32:22-32
 Genesis 33:1-4
 John 6:1-15
 These paragraphs were inspired by a post written by Garner, David entitled “The Church, the culture, Tolerance, Repentance, and Love”. For He is Good and Loves Mankind. 28. Jun.2015. Web. Aug.11.2015
 1 Timothy 1:15
 Barfield, Ginger. “Commentary on John 6:51-58”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, Minnesota. 16.Aug.2015. Web. Aug.11.2015
 Espenshed, Howie. “The Upside-Down Notion of an Absolute Hero”. Mockingbird Ministries. 3.Jul.2015. Web. Aug.12.2015.
 Quote taken from Espenshed, Howie. “The Upside-Down Notion of an Absolute Hero”.
 This example is drawn out from one used by Ed Markquart “Holy Communion Gospel Analysis: John 6:51-58” Sermons from Seattle. Web. Aug.11.2015
First Lesson: 2 Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33
Responsive Reading: Psalm 130
Second Lesson: Ephesians 4: 25- 5:2
Gospel Lesson: John 6: 35, 41-51
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Today is one of the biggest days of the year for me. My beloved Minnesota Vikings in a little less than nine hours will take the field for their first pre-season game. I will give you a preview of my upcoming evening. Sit on the couch about 7 PM with some Dark Chocolate and Lemon Juice all excited for the first few series of the game. The Vikings regulars will then hit the bench, and then I’ll talk to my dad on the phone for a while as they play. I’ll go to bed after half-time taping the second-half with good intentions to watch it upon waking up. I’ll get bored watching the game tomorrow morning as it’s hard to get excited about a game that doesn’t count in the standings. The Vikings could win tonight 60-0 or lose 60-0, and people will not remember the score of tonight’s game, four months from now. Tonight’s game is merely a potential preview that might only paint a small picture of what the future holds in some small way.
Second and last Vikings related story for today. I have a friend named Cody. Cody lives in the Milwaukee area. Cody goes to work surrounded by the green and gold of the Green Bay Packers. Cody goes to Church Sunday morning, and people are wearing Packer jerseys. So Cody will often get razzed by Packers fans with them saying “How can you cheer for a team without any Super Bowl trophies?” As Cody is telling me this, I tell him that the response to the teasing Packer fans should be simple. “I cheer for them because it’s going to be all the sweeter when the Vikings do finally win one.” It is this great future hope that keeps me going during loss after loss.
Today we come to the third sermon in a series on the bread of life. Two weeks ago, we looked at the bread of life as a miracle. Last week, we looked at the bread of life for this life. Today, we look at the bread of life in connection with eternal life.
How should we understand the lesson for today? Look at it as a history lesson. Our Gospel begins with the same words that we ended last week:
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”- John 6:35
The whole key to understanding our lesson is to tie it in with Jesus’ great miracle from the Gospel of John in the Feeding of the 5,000.
Many of us know the famous symbol of the Energizer Bunny how it keeps going and going and going. Banging its drum again and again never seemingly stopping no matter how much we think that it should.
The never ending feast was the feeding of the 5,000. Two fish, five loaves, over 5000 people they kept coming and coming and coming receiving the bread of life without qualification or exception. The feeding of the 5,000 though was not the beginning of the bread of life story.
The bread of life story starts a long time before even the days of Jesus, back in the days of Moses.
The Israelite's escape from Egypt, cross the Red Sea, and then wind up in the desert seemingly left to die without food or water in the bright desert sun. God had different plans. God rained down manna in the morning from heaven and quail in the evening. This story of manna and quail would have shaped the whole way that the people in Capernaum heard Jesus talking about the bread of life.
When Jesus said “I am the bread of life,” this would bring back memories of an even earlier encounter in Moses’ life with a burning bush. Jesus claiming “I am the bread of life” would have sounded like God saying to Moses “I am the Lord your God.”
When people on this day heard Jesus claim to the “bread of life”. We cannot imagine the meaning of his words after the fact. The audience would have thought what Jesus was saying to be a joke. You can just hear the snickers. They looked at Jesus with all the seriousness of a six-year-old who claims to be a car as he zooms around the room. Look at this silly fellow. He’s just an ordinary man, son of Joseph and Mary. We know his parents. They’re not anything special. He’s not anything special. He’s certainly not God standing before us. People are hearing Jesus claiming to have come down from Heaven would make as much sense as someone standing up today claiming to come down from Mars.
What Jesus was saying is that he is God’s presence here on earth. Jesus was nothing more than an ordinary- looking first century Jew. Jesus blended in with the crowd. Jesus would have looked no different than anybody else at the synagogue. Here Jesus was claiming to be life-giving nourishment descended from heaven.
Jesus claims to the “bread of life” because he is speaking an essential spiritual truth about a physical truth. We need “bread” to survive. We need nourishment to sustain our daily lives. We need to be fed. Our need for food is why so many of our celebrations revolve around food. You ask everyone hear what the best part of the following holidays: New Years’ Day, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas the answer will nearly always be the food. Jesus knew the value of food well. Jesus merely wanted his hearers to think about food in a whole different way.
When I finished college, I lived in the Fargo-Moorhead area for a while without much going on. I would stay up most of the night and sleep most of the day. One of the highlights of my days was around 2 or 3 AM every morning, Hornbacher’s in North Fargo would put out their fresh donuts for the day. There was nothing better than donuts when they’re first warm. I can turn down store-bought donut pretty quickly, but right out of the oven is like a sensation that a person can’t describe. These donuts probably tasted to me like manna tasted to the people of Israel at first bite. The thing about donuts though is their value for my life would be short-lived rather than nourishing.
Jesus compares himself to the manna that the Israelite's received in the dessert to make the point that manna is pretty good, but it will only feed you for a time whereas the bread that he gives will feed for all eternity. All other bread will spoil. All other bread will only lead to more hunger. The bread that he gives you will not only last forever, but as within the feeding of the 5,000 we can receive this bread that he gives lasts forever.
As we consider the meaning of the “bread of life” for today, we come face to face with the same question that was so difficult for people in Jesus’ day to fathom. People in Jesus’ day wondered “How this ordinary man may be the great I am who burned in a bush” whereas we wonder “How can Jesus be present at both God’s right hand and the bread/wine at the same time?” How can Jesus be at all sorts of different churches on a Sunday morning? How this ultimately works is probably above what any of our heads can fathom.
What we say is that Christ is uniquely present in the Lord’s Supper. This presence is not the same thing as saying that God is with us at all times or in all places. Christ’s presence is a much different situation than even saying that God is in “all things”. Christ’s presence in Communion according to the scriptures is very different than his presence in the parking lot, on the golf course, or even fishing on Lake Superior. We cannot casually throw God’s presence around being here, there, and everywhere while denying that he is uniquely present at the very place that we need him to be. We believe in Christ’s unique presence in the Lord’s Supper because Jesus himself instituted his presence. Jesus says, “This is my body given for you.” The Apostle Paul twenty years or so after this day writing his letter to the Church in Corinth refers to the “Bread that we break, as participation in the body of Christ?”
These promises do not rest on rational or scientific proofs they rather rest on God’s ability to do what he says he will do.
Luther gave a couple of examples of how Christ can be present without us seeing that I would like for us to consider on this morning.
Think of the soul. You ask a doctor where in the body is the soul? They cannot do it. You ask the pastor where is my soul? They will give you the same answer of uncertainty. We cannot escape that nearly every religious tradition and even some Atheists believe that the soul exists. People can’t prove a soul through any scientific or philosophical evidence yet they will believe that it is there. People just believe that the soul is there.
A second example to consider how Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper is that of the seed. Seeds sprout, yet the thing about this event is that it is not visible able to be captured by any camera. The lack of cameras doesn’t make the sprouting of the seed though any less essential to its life span. The thing is even though we can’t see heaven at this very moment does not mean that we shall never see heaven come before our eyes.
Our story for today does not end today. The story does not stop at even your death. The fundamental promise of this text is “You shall live forever.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.”- John 6:47-48
As we consider the meaning of Jesus’ promise think of the words of Psalm 23 this morning:
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” You shall live in the house of the Lord forever.”
Think of the words that Jesus spoke to a grieving Martha she mourned the loss of her brother Lazarus “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
The story of the “bread of life” only ends at the time of Christ’s return. The whole focus of the bread of life discourse is on Christ calling forth all his saints from their graves and into his presence. Christ’s return will be the moment when we see the Resurrection of Christ’s body and blood within our body and blood. The meal that we receive is merely a foretaste of the feast that it is to come. The Lord’s Supper relates to eternal life because it is the giving of a promise that death shall not ultimately have the last word over us. We go forth today assured that we shall ultimately participate in the final resurrection.
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”-John 6:51
 John 6:1-15
 Exodus 16
 Markquart, Ed. “Pentecost 10 B Gospel Analysis: Eternal Life”. Sermons from Seattle. Web. Aug.4.2015
 Exodus 3:6
 John 6:42
 Luke 22:19
 LW 36:338-339
 LW 36:339
 Psalm 23:4,
 Psalm 23:6b
 John 11:25-26a
First Lesson: 2 Samuel 11: 26 - 12:13a
Responsive Reading: Psalm 51: 1-12
Second Lesson: Ephesians 4: 1-16
Gospel Lesson: John 6: 24-35
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin with a story. Last Thanksgiving weekend, I was home in Lindstrom. A small group of runners gathers at the coffee shop every Saturday morning at 8 AM to run maybe 3-5 miles. I decided to go out running with this group. One of the guys I was running with on this Saturday was named Tom. Tom’s in his mid-60’s and quite physically active. Tom swims, bikes, and runs. Tom’s a good runner for his age competing for medals in his age group at local running competitions. As I was talking to Tom this morning, I could sense that he was a smart guy when it came to physical fitness. So as I’m talking to Tom, I ask him what I could do to be a better runner. Tom’s answer was simple and direct “lose weight”.
Now as I heard Tom’s words the initial human reaction was to get angry. A few days prior, I had run a 5k down in Duluth where I came in 8th place out of 55 in my age group. I probably had more in the tank as I was passing people the last quarter mile. The last few weeks that I had been at church, the little old ladies were being unusually aggressive trying to get me to eat bars during coffee hour. As I gathered with the running group on Saturday morning, I thought myself to be in the best shape of my life. I’m the rare person fitter at 35 than when playing Basketball in high school. I probably weighed 100 pounds more at my heaviest than I did that Saturday, yet I hear that I needed to lose more weight. Tom’s words seemed to be the harshest form of judgment. There will people out here this morning that might get irritated as I tell this story especially those of you who have struggled with your weight at times over the years.
I don’t tell this story to insult Tom. Tom was correct if I got a few pounds lighter than I would probably run faster. I’ll get back to Tom and myself in a little bit.
The story of me versus the scale leads us into our sermon for this morning. The sermon is part two of a five-part series on the meaning of Holy Communion. Last week, we looked at Communion as a form of miracle whereas this week we look at Communion and its relationship to this life.
What I want to talk about today is how Christians should respond to receiving the sacrament. Many of us think we know how to respond to Holy Communion? We go home energized to take on the world by doing all sorts of marvelous deeds in God’s name. The thing about our response to Holy Communion is that it often seems to work like the scale, we never appear to see the number that we like.
Let me tell another story that I’ve told before only this time, I’ll continue it. In 2011, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore his knee against the Washington Redskins in the second to last game of the season. The pundits wondered if AP would ever be the same player again. AP comes back at the start of the 2012 season, and he’s better than ever. Adrian Peterson is named the NFL MVP. A reporter asks Peterson how he could pull off such a marvelous comeback. Adrian Peterson cites that his return was proof that “Jesus Juice” as he terms it works.
The problem with Peterson’s answer is that the wonderful effects of Jesus Juice were short-lived. The weekend of the second game of the 2014 season news breaks, Adrian Peterson had been indicted for felony reckless injury to a child.
People’s response to Peterson was predictable. People called AP all sorts of nasty names. People cited this as an example of Jesus Juice not working.
The thing about all these critics is they don’t get how Jesus Juice is precisely supposed to work. Yes, there is plenty of stuff that I can say about Adrian Peterson:
1. He’s no super-hero
2. He’s not a responsible parent.
3. He’s not a role model.
All of these things would be true.
The point of the Lord’s Supper is that it doesn’t exist to transform us magically into the best versions of ourselves as possible. The Lord’s Supper exists because it points us to the actual nature of God’s work.
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill,”-John 6:26
Today’s lesson takes place immediately after Jesus feeds the 5000 people with five loaves and two fish on the lake shore. Jesus then vanishes as the Disciples paddle to the other side of the lake. The Disciples are immediately shocked to see Jesus walking on water towards them in the midst of a storm. The crowd that Jesus magically fed now travels to the other side of the lake in Capernaum waiting for his arrival.
Once Jesus sees them, Jesus knew that they had come to see him for the wrong reasons. Jesus knew that what they wanted was merely more bread. The bread seekers in the crowd thought like how we always think God should work, give us more of what we believe we need a reward for all the good that we have done. The key word in the sentence is always we.
Martin Luther made an observation about the Christian Faith is his lifetime that was central to his whole belief system. Luther’s observation is that Christians see God working in either one of two ways. Christians either see God working through human success. The ability to have your life go according to your plans. If God has given you a fancy house or an MVP trophy, then God must think that you’re pretty great stuff. Plenty of Christians think this way.
There is a different way though that God works. The Book of Job tells the story of a man who had it all: children, possessions, and health only to see God allow it to be taken away in an instant. Job endures some epic struggles as he tries to sort out where God was in all this. Job finally has a great confrontation with God in chapter 37 only Job never receives the answer that he desires to make sense of it. God instead seeks to assure Job that he walks alongside Job in the midst of Job’s pain. God is for Job at his worst, just as much as when Job is at his best.
I knew a guy from seminary who got a job as an associate pastor at a big-time church in the Twin Cities. This guy could preach! My friend and mentor, Roy Harrisville would always comment on what a talented preacher this guy was. He like Job seemingly had it all: a wife, kids, and he was probably going to end up as the Senior Pastor at a large Twin Cities church. One day it gets revealed that this guy was maintaining an inappropriate relationship with the church’s married choir director. Life gets quickly thrown into turmoil. He is removed from the ministry. He ends up taking a job as a garbage man. We hear this story and think “what a dramatic fall”. What this story reminds us is how even the best of Christian people experience failure and suffering. What we must also remember is that this doesn’t mean though that God doesn’t work through these broken situations?
I think of the story of David and Bathsheba. David’s pants are down for the whole world to see. God hands down harsh punishment upon David that he was going to lose a son because of it. In the midst of this awful situation, God was still working. David was going to be given another son named Solomon. Solomon while as a complicated a figure as David was going to serve others as one of the wisest men the world would ever know.
The thing is we often don’t get grace because we often don’t get sin. The big story in the news this week was of Twin Cities dentist Walter Palmer and his shooting of the Zimbabwe Lion Cecil. The story to me doesn’t seem to be to about trophy hunting or even whether Palmer is innocent or guilty. The real story is about the exact nature of sin and how many people understand it. The real story is found in people’s hysterical reactions in wishing Palmer death behind the hidden identity of their computer. People like to place sin in their narrow constructs according to what they deem to be right or wrong according to their standards. You step outside the bounds of politically correct and polite society then you are considered to be a sinner who we must ostracize from the world around you. The people who fail to understand sin are those who delight in destroying others, those who like the Pharisee give thanks that they are not like the Tax Collector. Whenever people condemn others, they fail to remember the words of the Apostle Paul that chief of sinners thou I am. If we say that we have no sins, then we deceive ourselves and the truth it is not in us.
The thing that makes Jesus so great is that he offer forgiveness to this Palmer fellow on the same terms during his Bathsheba moment as when he was at the top.
What the Lord’s Supper reminds us is that God does not condemn us in the midst of our failure to hit a goal weight of Christian perfection. God wants to bring his grace unto you. Grace is why God extends to you his heavenly supper.
Communion isn’t Jesus Juice; it’s not Gatorade to help prepare you to finish any sort of race strong.
Communion is rather the act of Jesus giving unto us a great gift in his body and blood to seek to comfort us with the promises of his Gospel in the midst of our pain and suffering.
Martin Luther said the following about the true nature of the Church. “If you want to find the Christian church, you will never find it where you do not see Christians resting upon Christ’s shoulders…For no one is a Christian unless he lies on Christ’s shoulder…and is carried by him, just as a strayed, lost sheep is carried by it’s shepherd. A real Christian believes that he is carried on Christ’s shoulders, that…all his sins lay on Christ’s shoulders…Christ must carry us, must make payment and satisfaction for our sins, or who are lost.”
We cannot carry him. Instead, he must carry us.
What we hear when we receive the Lord’s Supper is that Christ alone deals with sin and Christ alone saves sinners. Our goal isn’t to say that we’re less of a sinner than Bob this week, but we still sin more than Bill. Scorekeeping is not how any of this stuff works. We don’t keep score; the game is over.
“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”- John 6:27
As I was talking to Tom that day, all I could merely do was laugh off his suggestion to lose weight. To be sure, I’ve dropped weight multiple times before and know what could be done to do it. I also know that it can be silly to consume yourself with all the ways that you don’t measure up, especially when such things do not define who exactly you are in the eyes of God.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”-John 6:35
 Patrick, Matt. “Adrian Peterson’s Theology of Glory (and Why It’s Unhelpful) “ Mockingbird. Christ Episcopal Church- Charlottesville, VA. 28.Aug.2013. Web. Sept.3.2013
 John 6:1-15
 John 6:16-24
 This comparsion by Luther is known as theology of the cross versus theology of flory.
 Riley, Pastor Donovan. “Sermon on Job 14:13-19~God is for Losers”. Thefirstpremise.wordpress.com.27.July.2015. Web. July.28.2015
 2 Samuel 11
 2 Samuel 12:18
 2 Samul 12:24
 Luke 8:9-14
 1 Timothy 1:15
 Paraphrase of 1 John 1:9 based on LBW Confession.
 Luther’s House Postils, ed. Klug III.224-8- taken from crossalone.us.