Twelveth Sunday after Trinity 26.8.12 John 6.56-69

11 08 2012

Difficult Teaching

We come to the end of our extended meditation on John Chapter 6 and the various themes are brought together. The challenge is difficult, but ultimately the choice is between responding to Jesus with complaint and accepting the gift of Life with a capital ‘L’.

John 6.56-69

Jesus said, ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.


(Photo credit: willismonroe)

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 68Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’

Reflections and Questions

‘living’ v 57 and live v 57 & 58

The refrain we noticed last week grows in intensity. This is about LIFE! AND LIVING!’.

As part of your personal meditation ask yourself how life-giving your faith is.  How life-giving is your discipleship and spirituality? And how life-giving is your preaching?

‘this teaching is difficult’  v60

Yes, this is a complaint.  Strange how spiritual food produces complaints.

Is this your experience?

‘the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life’ v 63

How about these for words on a preacher’s tombstone!

What could be said about the words that you have spoken, both in private and from the pulpit?

‘Many of his disciples turned back…’ v 66

Clearly this is a turning point. These people engage in a kind of reverse repentance. They turn their back on ‘the words of eternal life’.

How could you rephrase Peter’s comment when asked if he wishes to go away? And how can you use those strong but understated words of faith in a sermon?

bread fresh bread, bread, bread, bread, pitta bread, pitta bread, nan bread, pitta bread

Tenth Sunday after Trinity 12.8.12 John 6.35, 41-51

4 08 2012

Bread Again

We are still in the spiritual bakery. Whatever else we do we must not grumble.

John 6.35, 41-51

35 Jesus 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.

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 42They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ 43Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

Reflections and Questions

‘I am the bread of life’ v 35, 48

This has become a refrain. See also v 51 ‘I am the living bread’.

Before you get bored with the refrain ask yourself some questions:  Why is this point made so repeatedly? What is the deep truth here?  And the reflective one: what is my refrain?

Alternatively,  if you did not follow-up this idea last week, try it now:

This is only one of Jesus’ ‘I am’ sayings in John. He is also: ‘light of the world’, ‘gate’, ‘good shepherd’, ‘resurrection and life’, ‘way, truth and life’, and ‘true vine’,

What might a visual representation of all these together look like? Why not design an ‘I am’ stained glass window’ or write an ‘I am’ poem?  Let your imagination go!

‘complain’  v41 and v 43

This word should take your imagination back to the wilderness wanderings of the ancient Hebrews.  They complained, murmured or grumbled against Moses. See, for example, Exodus 14.

Hopefully your refrain is not in the idiom of complaint or grumble. But there is a lot of grumbling about. Do you need to preach a sermon about grumbling?  By which I mean, does your congregation need to hear a sermon about grumbling? (BTW  There is a chapter about grumbling in my book ‘Barefoot Disciple’ – see the link on the sidebar. Just so you know, I am against it.)

‘flesh’ v 55

The very last word of the reading completes the punchline. It connects us back with the opening verses of John – ‘the word became flesh’. And notice (again, see last week’s comments if you like) ‘ that the word ‘give’ is pivotal. It is the bread that I will ‘give’.

The giving of flesh as bread is for ‘the life of the world’.  What can you say about the quality of this ‘life’? What adjectives can you use?  (Hint: ‘new’ might be one of them.)

Ninth Sunday after Trinity 5.8.12 John 6.24-35

29 07 2012

True Bread

We are going to spend a few weeks in John’s sixth chapter.  In fact we don’t escape until September. Not all preachers will see this as a benefit. However, it gives an opportunity both to examine a theme in depth and to engage your imagination with some of the symbolism and imagery that John explores in this chapter.  There is deep and real nourishment to be found here: true bread.

John 6.24-35

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.

Four loaves.

25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, 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 isthe 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.’

35 Jesus 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.

Reflections and Questions

‘not because you saw signs’ v 26

We see Jesus looking into their motives here. The ‘reason why’ seems to be more important than the action.

Why would it be better if the people were motivated more by what they had seen than by what they had eaten?

‘Do not work for food that perishes’  v27

John’s gospel does not seem at all interested in things that perish – that is, things that are of significance in the world of space and time.

What do you think puts the meaning into meaningful? Can you think of perishable things that are meaningful?

‘gave…gives.. gives’ v  32&33

Whether it was from Moses or God the manna, like true bread, was given. But it is only the true bread that gives life.

What story can you tell about being given a life-giving gift?

‘I am the bread of life.’ v 35

This is only one of Jesus’ ‘I am’ sayings in John. He is also: ‘light of the world’, ‘gate’, ‘good shepherd’, ‘resurrection and life’, ‘way, truth and life’, and ‘true vine’,

What might a visual representation of all these together look like? Why not design an ‘I am’ stained glass window’ or write an ‘I am’ poem?  Let your imagination go!