Devotional Message: The 11th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 13B (8/5/2018)

Lessons

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29 (24, 25)
Ephesians 4:1-16
St. John 6:24-35

Semicontinuous Series

2nd Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
Psalm 51:1-12

Prayer of the Day

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love, you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied. Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

6:24So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ “32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

St. John 6:24-35 New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: Why Am I A Christian?

Why would a person claim to be a Christian? In truth, there probably are as many answers to this question as there are people who have attempted to answer it. Some of us are Christians because of a yearning to spend eternity with God. (The cynic might portray Christian faith from this perspective as an eternal insurance plan: believe now, and it will pay off when you’ve died.) Others of us are Christians because we believe it will enhance our lives. This is why there are any number of faith-based programs for self improvement: The Christian Parent; The Christian Business Executive; The Christian Athlete; The Christian Student… Yet others are Christians because our understanding of God requires it: refuse to follow Jesus and God will deliver an eternity of punishment. Each of these answers can be substantiated by quoting from the Bible. (In fact, just about anything can be substantiated by quoting from the Bible if one reads cleverly enough…) But in this week’s Gospel lesson, Jesus provides a different sort of an answer to this question. “Why would a person claim to be a Christian?”

He begins by noting the motivation of those who find him in Capernaum. After Jesus had fed some five thousand people with five barley loaves and two fish (with twelve baskets of food left over!), he and his disciples make their way across the sea again. The crowd travels to the other shore of the sea looking for him — a considerable distance. Upon seeing the crowd, Jesus challenges them: “You have not come here because you discovered who I am. You are here because of what you hope to get for yourselves: another meal!”

The crowd is both amazed and filled by the banquet Jesus provides for them in the wilderness. Many of them, no doubt, would be happy to call themselves Christians if it means a life of meals like this. But Jesus has a different understanding of what it will mean to be a Christian. To be a Christian means to receive the bread of God. And to receive the bread of God is to receive “that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

What is this bread of God? The first, most obvious answer is that the bread is Jesus. He has come from God so that he might bear the kingdom of God into our lives. His sacrifice,  his compassion, his commitment to justice, his gracious embrace of all people (even those we might find ourselves reluctant to embrace): glimpses of God’s kingdom embodied. Through his birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection, Jesus gave life to the world, and continues to do so.

And perhaps just as profoundly: the bread to which Jesus refers is the life to which he invites us. A life of reflecting his sacrificial generosity, his loving compassion, his fierce commitment to justice, his amazing grace. Why would a person claim to be a Christian? Very simply: because a life that loves God more than anything else, and is as concerned about our neighbors as we are about ourselves — this is the life we were created to live; the only kind of living that makes sense for us; the only kind of living that brings life to the world; the best reason for someone to claim he or she is a Christian!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. Why does the crowd pursue Jesus across the Sea of Galilee?
  2. Why does Jesus accuse the crowd of being more interested in themselves than in him?
  3. What alternative does Jesus offer to them?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. When have I misunderstood the Gospel of Jesus Christ as being about “what is in it for me?”
  2. When has my heart rejoiced at the experience of loving God deeply, or caring about my neighbor passionately?
  3. How has my faithfulness, or the faithfulness of my church, “brought life to the world?”