Sunday, September 02, 2012

A Word From Pastor Mike: "For You - Forever"

I asked my pastor husband, Mike, if I could occasionally share one of his sermons on my blog.  I brought it up enough times, he finally supplied me with some of his notes.  The following is from his sermon notes from two weeks ago.  It will be helpful to know that it is based on John 6:51-58 so I will insert that passage.  Oh, and I probably should warn you that he slips his quirky sense of humor into his sermons...

     ***************************************************************************
John 6:51-58 (NRSV)

John 6:51-58

51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those 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 forever.”



     *********************************************************************************************

Now, from Mike's notes...

For You - Forever

This past week we were in Minnesota.  We toured the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis.  It was the former home of Gold Medal Flour.  Across the Mississippi River you could see the Pillsbury Flour Factory.

(note from Sue:  Remember, I forewarned you about Mike's sense of humor! The underlines words indicate parts he delivered with a bit of a distinct emphasis.)

While I was there I came across this obituary:  Veteran Pillsbury Spokesman, Pop-N-Fresh, died yesterday of a yeast infection.  Dozens of celebrities turned out for the funeral.  Among those seen were Aunt Jemima, the California Raisins, Hungry Jack, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Skippy Peanut Butter.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy.  She said her friend "never realized how much he was kneaded."  (another note from Sue:  It's ok to groan.  I did.)  The church was piled high with flours (not a typo) from many friends.

Pop-N-Fresh rose quickly in show business but in his later life he had many turnovers.  He was not a very smart cookie as he wasted much of his dough on half-baked schemes.  Unfortunately many of his so called friends buttered him up for these failures.

Even though Pop-N-Fresh was a crusty old man, he was a roll model for millions.  Fresh is survived by his wife and two children  plus they have a bun in the oven.  The service was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

(pause to regroup before the serious stuff)

Jesus said, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven."  In this reading Jesus seems to be all over the place.  Is he...

a) talking about communion?  "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life...abide in me and I in them" sure sounds like communion.

b) talking about the incarnation - God taking on flesh?  "I am the living bread that came down from heaven" sure sounds like that's true also.

c)  talking about his death for us?  "The bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh."  That sure sounds like the cross to me.

This is the great thing about the Bible.  You can go into it as simply or as deeply as you want.  There is bread.  There is food for everyone.

What I was fascinated about in the text were the promises of eternal life.  
     (a) "Whoever eats this bread will live forever."  
     (b) "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life and I will raise them up on the
            last day."                  
     (c) "Whoever eats me will live because of me."
     (d) "The one who eats this bread will live forever."

These are promises for you about forever, about eternal life.  But what is eternal life?  When does it begin?  What does it look like?

Eternal Life

Sometimes it is helpful to describe something by saying what it is not...

A former professor of mine, Jim Nestingen, was in the newly formed country in South Sudan.  He told a story of what eternal life is not and what it is.  He told of a 10 year old girl.  Her older brother sold her to an older man who had lost his wife.  The brother needed money so he could be married.  Without getting too descriptive, we can safely say that this was not eternal life for a 10 year old girl.  As soon as she was old enough, she started having children.  Then, the old man died.  This meant that she would go up for sale as part of his estate.  She was bought by a church!  They redeemed her!  They set her free!  Eternal life started for her and she is now the pastor of the very congregation that set her free.  Jim Nestingen said there was so much joy on her lips that you couldn't help but get caught up in the dance of it!

It's interesting that in our gospel text today Jesus announces that he is the living bread come down from heaven and that whoever eats of this bread will live.  The response...grumbling.  How can this man do this?  Sometimes we make the Christian Faith too complicated or we get distracted.  Jesus puts it this way, the one who believes has eternal life.  What must we do to be saved?  Believe in the one who the Father sent.

This last week I got to listen to African Lutherans tell their story.  I got to see a Sudanese man be commissioned to go back to his country, where there is barely a government, few hospitals, school or churches and yet the church grows - and I wondered why.

And I think the reason is they have completely sold themselves out to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of God.

They aren't really concerned about the American dream, getting their kids to soccer games, or water skiing competitions.  Maybe extreme poverty keeps people dependent on God and thankful, even glad, for the few things they do have.

The good news is that God isn't really concerned about boundaries.  It isn't a Christian competition between continents - God loves sinners wherever they may be.

The Father sent the Son to be the Living Bread for all people - the one who feeds on this living bread has eternal life.  We feed on Jesus in daily prayer, weekly worship and reading the Bible daily.

When you come to communion you hear the words, "Body of Christ given for you" and "Blood of Christ shed for you."  It is a promise - for you - it's the living Christ within you.  It is eternal life for you.  Begin selling yourself out completely to God and enter the joy of eternal life.