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