Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bread of Life for the Church John 6:35,41-51

I've been reading two really contrasting things this week. First was Jesus promise in John 6:35-51, that he is the bread of life and second is a reminder from Pastor Keith Anderson of the thoughts and concerns of young clergy today. Many responded to Anderson's words from fear mixed with hope. If you can take time to read these responses I'd encourage you to reflect again on Jesus promise to be the bread of life asking what this promise of sustenance means for the church today.
Trusting in God's Promise; He is our bread When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35) some recoiled from his words. He sensed their doubts wondering who he was saying such things. They knew Jesus' family and in whispers likely remembered his out of wedlock conception. Who was he to say, “I am the bread of life.”

Jesus self disclosure as the bread of life didn't come out of the blue. He had just fed thousands with a few loaves and a couple fish (John 6:1-21). The crowd knew Jesus was out of the ordinary—but the doubters weren't satisfied and in truth neither was the crowd. The crowd wanted another miracle even bigger than the first. And the doubters wanted to know who he was to say, “I am the bread of life.” And Jesus answered both In John 6:41-51. If he is the bread of life then we have a promise—we will be sustained.

Doubt and faith exist as real dynamics in every believer's life. They are very present in the church today. As young clergy name their fears the Word of God reminds us that Jesus has promised sustain us. He is our bread our most basic provision and most essential need is met in him.

Faith in Jesus, the living Word, gives believers hope and trust in his promise to be our bread. Reason points us back to the limits of human ability; but faith moves us beyond these limits to see God's even greater ability. The doubting part of each person, even faithful believers, wonders how and why God has acted—but by faith we trust that there's something more—we trust that God is the one we need that Jesus really is the bread who sustains us. Luther wrote,
John warns all those who hear this doctrine of Christ not to pry and to question when God’s Word and spiritual matters are concerned, and not to ask how this can be reconciled with reason. Whoever wants to be a Christian and apprehend the articles of the Christian faith must not consult reason and mind how a doctrine sounds and whether it is consistent with reason. Luther's Works, Vol. 23 page 78, : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1959).
Bold faith allows us to see beyond the reasonable to the point where God alone could be at work. A crowd of thousands couldn't reasonably have eaten their fill from 5 loaves and 2 fish—but they knew they had eaten and been satisfied. Considering Jesus response in John 6:41 Luther wrote on about what faith is,
[A Christian] must say forthwith: “I do not care whether it agrees with reason or not. All I must know is whether or not it is supported by God’s Word. This I ask: Did God say it? That decides it for me.” You have often heard me exhort you not to dispute or reason about sublime spiritual matters that concern the articles of the Christian faith. As soon as a man ventures to rationalize these, to brood over them, and to try to make them conform to reason, all is lost in advance, and we are doomed.
God is going beyond the bounds of what we consider reasonable. And faith is God's gift enabling us to trusts that God has something bigger in store. And this type of faith is essential to the future of the church.

Jesus is the bread of life even for those who think the church is dying. Over the past generation it's been common for especially young pastors to lament and even outright mourn the slow change of the church as we know it. Great theological minds of our time have noted the slow demise of congregations and denominations while social theorists who study religious life pinpointing the tidal cultural changes and demographic shifts just below the surface. Some say they have chronicled the death of something we in the Body of Christ care deeply about—the church. Many pastors even believe the church is dying. But faith especially among many younger clergy trusts that God is creating something new.
Reason says that the church is dying in the Western World. But Faith says Jesus' body won't die—Faith says his Body can't die. Jesus is the immortal resurrected one who over comes death. How can his body be dying? About a year ago a little video by Jefferson Bethke went viral. He said he was done with religion as he confessed his belief in Jesus saying that Jesus is Greater than Religion. Bethke's video has drew 26 million some views so far and responses from those defending their religion and even those defending their lack of faith. As I watched the video again this week I started to wonder not what God wants our generation to do—rather I started to wonder What God wants to make of us in this generation? What I know by faith is that God will sustain his Body the church as we remain faithful to his word.
Pax, John


Ivy said...

Thanks John. I know what I want to communicate to the congregation--that Jesus is here to satisfy our deepest needs and longings--that we don't have to strive for that relationship with him...but just how to communicate that hasn't yet come together. As a brand new pastor (though definitely not of the young variety), I find the access we have to people's lives very humbling. People are sharing such deep hurts. We are truly broken people, beggars, in need of that living bread that Jesus offers us--his very life. I love my job!

Thank you for sharing your insights that are so great at stirring the juices of sermonating.

John, an unlikely pastor said...

Blessings on the new call. The part that most surprises me about Jesus declaring that he is the bread of life is the promise to sustain us both now and always. He's our bread our most basic key to survival today and in the world to come. It's this promise that gives us hope and a promise to share with any one who is hurting.
Peace, John