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

Pentecost 27.5.12 Acts 2.1-21

20 05 2012

Sensing the Spirit

Pentecost invites us to attend to the Holy Spirit. It is difficult for human beings to do that directly and so we focus not precisely on the Spirit but on the impact of the Spirit. It is impossible to get even that properly into words.  But with the Spirit’s help we can be better communicators than we think.

Acts 2.1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ 13But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’

The icon depicts the descending of the Holy Sp...

The icon depicts the descending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This icon is the part of the iconostasis of the Greek Catholic Cathedral of Hajdúdorog, Hungary. The icon was painted around 1810. This icon is the last one in the row of the Great Feasts of the iconostasis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Reflections and Questions

‘They were all together in one place’ v 1 It is easy to overlook this point.  When people talk of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church they are  not usually thinking of the importance of gathering in one place.  Maybe they are missing out on something vital.

How important is it that ‘all gather together in one place’ in the life of the Church?  In your view, is the Spirit’s primary work to gather or to disperse God’s people?

‘a sound like the rush of violent wind.’ v2. The word ‘Spirit’ also means ‘breath’ or ‘wind’.  Look up Ezekiel 37.9-10 and remember John 20.22 where Jesus breathed on the disciples and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.  But here we have wind – and violent wind at that.

How forceful do you believe the Holy Spirit can be?  What is your experience?

‘divided tongues, as of fire’ v3  More imagery, signalling both communication and danger.

Why should the communication of the Spirit be like fire?  Can you offer both a Biblical and a personal answer?

‘these are not drunk, as you suppose’ v14 There is an implicit symbol in this, suggesting a kind of intoxicating effect of the Spirit. But there is no poison here. They are not out of their minds, but in their most right of minds.

What does the accusation to which Peter is responding tell us about the onlookers? And what does it add to the impression we have of the disciples’ actions and attitudes?