(Note: We are blessed to have welcomed Vicar Jason Toombs, a seminarian from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN, who will be completing his one year vicarage, or internship, with us this year. Below is the first sermon he preached at Trinity and St. John)
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, August 12, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, MT
Grace, Mercy, and Peace be to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s sermon is based on the Gospel lesson from St. John, chapter 6.
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.” This verse brought to a close last week’s Gospel lesson and it begins today’s Gospel lesson. Those who prepared the church readings wanted to make sure that we don’t miss this point, for Jesus is the bread of life and anyone who comes to Him shall neither hunger nor thirst. And in much the same way, we have the concluding verse this week being the beginning verse for next week, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” I don’t think that any preacher has had an easier first sermon reading for a new congregation. For JESUS IS THE LIVING BREAD THAT CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN TO GIVE THE WORLD HIS FLESH.
Jesus came down from heaven, not to do His own will but the will of Him who sent Him. This is not the only time that Jesus has said a similar thing. On the night in which He was betrayed, after He took bread and a cup and gave it to His disciples, He went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” He desires to accomplish what He was sent forth to do, to die upon the cross. Even before He left His splendid throne, He knew what the cost was, His own life for you. He emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, and came down to join His creation and die as a criminal. The creator did the unthinkable, He joined His creation in a creaturely way. He came down as the baby born of Mary, not as a fully grown man as some would have supposed.
The Jews pointed out that His earthly father was Joseph but that’s where they end it. They don’t look into the matter further. What more proof do they need? After all, they know His father and mother. They have seen Him playing with their kids. They have seen Him in the temple. They were there with Him while the Torah was read. They know everything about Him. Yet they know nothing about Him. They, the world, and we, sometimes only focus on His humanity, discounting His divinity. They can see Him with their own eyes but don’t hear the message that He came to proclaim. His message was too different. His message has authority, “You have heard that it was said ... But I say to you ...” They couldn’t understand that He had come down from heaven. They believed that Elijah had to come again in a similar way as going up into heaven, in a whirlwind. This Jesus came down from heaven in an earthly way, and yet a glorious way, being born of a virgin.
His coming down to earth was not for His glory. No, He came for you and to give you glory. He didn’t come to force people to believe in Him. He continues to spread His message through what the world sees as weakness. He does not demand obedience or warfare but comes to bring peace to the world. He comes to restore humanity back to the Father of all humanity. He came for all of the times that you grumble or think, “What’s the point in being here on a beautiful Sunday morning.” For all of the times that your husband, wife, mother, father, kids, siblings, your boss, has told you something but it went in one ear and out the other. For all of the times that you have doubted His forgiveness. And to take away all of your other sins. But He also comes to give you something. He gives you His peace, His perfection, His holiness. He comes to give you Himself.
He comes to give you what you need. He gives you Himself. For He Himself said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” Last week He said that the crowds were coming because they had their fill and wanted more, they were hungry again. Their bellies had been full, they got a free meal, and wanted more. But that’s not us, right? We never take advantage of people, we never tag along for a free meal. We always reach for the bill right away, ask the waitress, or waiter, to split the check. Nope, we can be just as selfish as they were. We desire food, we crave it. We know that if we don’t eat or drink, ultimately we die. It’s one of the reasons that babies cry, they are hungry. But this bread that we eat lacks. This can’t be all that there is.
But wait, there’s more. There’s always more with Jesus. For He said, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” And, “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” And, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Jesus came to give more than earthly bread, far more. He came to give us His very body and blood. He gives His flesh for you for the forgiveness of your sins. His flesh and blood are true food, they, along with baptism, are the only thing in the entire world that counts for anything before God. Without Christ giving His life for you, you are lost. But you are not lost, He has found you and has claimed you. You have been claimed by the Father through the Son in baptism.
You are able to taste and see that the Lord is good. This small portion of a meal that we receive, this little portion of bread and this sip of wine, hold more than it seems. Though our eyes see this as a small portion, through the eyes of faith we know that this is enough. The Lord has given His body and blood in an earthly way to you. You have been called out of the world, called to be in His true family, and are given a meal that He knows you need.
He knows that you need to be constantly reminded that your sins have been forgiven for His sake. The entire Divine Service revolves around this fact. You are reminded of your baptism at the beginning, hear the Words of Christ in the words of absolution, hear the Scriptures proclaiming this message, hear the pastor expounding this saving truth, pray that your sins are forgiven in the prayer that He handed down, come to the meal that He instituted for this forgiveness, and are reminded that the Lord has blessed you at the close of the service. He is constantly working forgiveness for you.
In this meal we also make a proclamation. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Amen, come Lord Jesus. We say that our Lord and Savior died upon the cross, shedding His blood for you, was buried, rose victorious over sin, death, and the grave, and ascended into heaven. But it doesn’t end there. He will come again on that appointed day, the day that only the Father knows. When He comes on the last day, He will raise all of the dead. Jesus said, “This is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” Everyone who believes in Jesus will be raised on the last day and enter eternal life.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.