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.