August 23, 2009      Classical Music Sunday at Resurrection Lutheran Church  

Text: John 6:56 -69      Message by Rev. Carol Kniseley     Title:  You Are What You Eat

If I could be so bold as to initially suggest a bumper sticker that would carry the message for today’s Gospel lesson…it would be this:  ‘You are what you eat.’   Or so it seems.    In light of what we’ve all been hearing on the news lately, about the number of Americans who have been over-indulging when it comes to satisfying their appetites…it seems quite appropriate that we turn our attention to something that we all love to do.   Namely...to eat.

We all have our favorite comfort foods…that no matter how we are feeling…seem to fill the void at a time when we need a bit of motherly attention.    I read recently that the number one comfort food in America is still…(can you guess it?)   macaroni and cheese.    Go figure.     Although I have to admit, I ate a box just the other day…and I did get the low cal version (trying to be good).

Today’s lesson comes at the end of a series of lessons all based on just one theme:  the bread of life.    And in particular, the body and the blood of Our Lord.    One would think that such a topic would find us in the midst of a discussion pertaining to the Lord’s Supper…and yet, in John’s Gospel, there is no such beast.     Not once does the Gospel writer of John have us sitting down to a meal with Jesus and his disciples…where Jesus the host breaks the bread and lifts the cup of wine…and utters those words that we all know and hold so dear to our hearts.   

The very words that have been so carefully preserved for centuries on end...and will be spoken even today…as we come forward and partake in the sacrament of holy communion.    The very act of which was so repulsive to some in Jesus’ day…that many who professed to be his disciples…actually turned and walked away.   

What they had hoped to hear…Jesus did not say.   What they had hoped to hear was that Jesus had come to lead a revolution of sorts against those who oppressed the nation of Israel.    That, like Moses, Jesus would rain down from heaven not only manna to satisfy their physical needs…but holy justice that would put every sinner in their rightful place and  lift high those for whom the Law was their way of Life.     What Jesus did say was that because of His now being sent into the world…He alone is the way of Life.    

If folks were hoping for a revolution to take place...they got their wish.    My guess is that they had no way of knowing just how life changing Jesus’ words would prove to be.    In John’s Gospel…we are still a year away from Jesus being crucified and his body being given for the life of the world.   It will be a revolution that only God could envision.   What Jesus is now saying in words…will finally be realized on the night in which he was betrayed.    What once was simple bread and wine used to remember the Passover…will become a meal of celebration in which Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood opens the way to eternal life.      Go figure.

We began today’s sermon talking about comfort food and what we like to eat.    I am reminded that today is also the day in which the church at large lifts up Saint Augustine as one of the great theologians of all time.      And yet it is no secret, that before he became a “saint” in the eyes of the church…he most certainly had a reputation that was far from “saintly”.     You name it…and he tried it…as he searched in vain to fill his lust for life to the very brim.   One of the most famous of quotes from his autobiography aptly puts into words his life’s story:  ‘Our hearts remain restless, O God…until they rest in you.’   

Saint Augustine was a restless soul…who was looking for love in all of the wrong places and relying on words that ultimately led to a dead end street.   That is, until he heard the words of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, and through him came to know Christ.     In the year 396, Augustine himself was made Bishop of Hippo arguing even then, that the holiness of the church…does not depend on the holiness of its members (particularly the clergy), but that holiness comes from Christ, the head of the church.    Who better to preach such a grace filled message than one who was chief among sinners.   

Like Saint Augustine…and all the saints who have gone before, we have been given the awesome freedom to either follow Jesus…or go away.   From today’s lesson we hear that it was to the Twelve that Jesus turned, and very pointedly asked:  ‘Do you also wish to go away?’    Wish…is a very weak translation of a verb that means “to will”.     Leaving us to discern which way we will go.    I would beg to say, that this business of following Jesus is a choice of ‘the will’, made again and again and again…every single day.    

Recall with me for just a moment who it was that answered for the Twelve.   It was Peter…who claimed to believe and even know that Jesus was the Holy One of God.    And yet you and I both know…that it will be Peter…who will also deny that he even knows Our Lord…choosing to take the easy way out.    

The good news and grace of it all…is that even when our choices and wills betray us, God’s grace does not.      Grace…does not excuse our many, many failings.    Grace…simply and profoundly receives with open arms all who answer the question, ‘To whom can we go?’, with the choice and the will to follow Jesus.   

Not because it is the traditional thing to do, for that may or may not be true.     Not because it is the acceptable thing to do, for that may or may not be true.     Not even because we may be part of a growing and vibrant community, for that may or may not be true.     But…because we, too, find in Jesus the words of life…and in those words…the grace for living day by day.        Thanks be to God…we are…what we eat.      Amen