26 Aug Wisdom and so much more
The Rev. John C. Brink
Aug. 26, 2018
Proverbs 9: 1-6; John 6: 51-58
The gospel of John is noted for its poetic language, its high Christology, the nature and person of Jesus as the Son of God. It’s a close study of His acts and ministry that defines His powers as those of God — in the flesh.
At the same time, John’s Gospel can be seen as a venture in repetitiveness as it attempts to define what is truly important about Jesus. Maybe this repetitiveness is a sign that the Gospel writer understood the difficulty of what is being communicated. Obviously, he’s trying to hammer it home.
In this sixth chapter of John, Jesus knows that what he is talking about is against our natural inclinations and common understanding. He repeats again and again that he is the bread of life, so that we get the message that when he says bread, he is not talking about flour, water, and yeast. He is talking about bread from Heaven, and he continues to work the words that seem beyond our immediate understanding. I get the feeling John is trying to teach us fast-moving, technical, practical, multi-functioning folks to see that the word of God, the body of Christ, has become flesh, and has become real beyond any discussion of theology or physics.
Here we learn to trust and even expect more from our faith. But, what was it like for the disciples and followers who first knew Jesus?
In the metaphor of the flesh of Jesus, we are reminded of the apostle Paul’s writing in Galatians 2:20, “No longer I, but Christ who lives in me.” Would you agree that it is hard to know Jesus without a visceral, personal engagement? We will find it hard to know Jesus if we sit back in the pew, coolly considering him as if He were nothing more than an abstract, disembodied idea.
Incarnation of Jesus, God alive, God in flesh means vibrant life in this world. This is the place where God meets us face to face. Incarnation means that we must get up, come forward, gratefully hold out empty hands, sip juice, and savor the bread. This is one wonderful way we can know Jesus as we sit here in the pews, passing the same bread and juice among friends.
The closer to we get to Jesus, the better — to take him in — in spirit and in faith. Every act of worship and communion creates a place for us to know Jesus better and better to take him in for our very selves. For Jesus to touch us.
Recently I visited with a friend having health and life challenges. I brought communion along and invited her to share it. She said, “I can’t, John, I’m not worthy.” I was stunned and concerned. Honestly, I felt sympathetic to her struggle. I said, “I’m sorry you feel that way. In the best way I can, I want to assure you that Jesus wants you to join him in this meal. You are a child of God and a sister of Jesus. There’s nothing you need to do to meet Jesus at this table. Will you join me in communion so we can both be closer to Jesus?” She did, in a wonderfully gentle and graceful way. I will definitely visit her again.
Sometimes it seems that the Christian faith might be easier if it were just a matter of mere belief or intellectual discussion. No, my friends, Jesus intends to have all of us – mind, body and soul. His truth wants to burrow deep in us, to consume us as we consume Him, to flow through our veins, to be digested, to nourish every nook and cranny of our being. It often requires some wisdom on our part to see and absorb the all of Jesus.
I have to admit a bias I have for Proverbs in the Bible. I love to read of the lady of wisdom and how she acts with God, just as Jesus welcomed all to the table of life in him. Wisdom offers us a sparkling invitation to a full, blessed life in God’s creation. Our lives are not intended for drudgery or pain, but for great satisfaction and happiness. God intends an abundant life for us. Wisdom reminds me of the gentle, yet powerful faith and love of my mother
The wine at wisdom’s party is for enjoying, just like the new, improved wine Jesus provides when prompted by his mother Mary – another wise woman – at the wedding at Cana. I have used that text in weddings to talk about the way weare becoming the new wine in life. Jesus took water and turned it into new wine for the wedding. Jesus can take us and turn us into the new wine for life to as well.
We are fast approaching our Labor Day weekend and – hopefully – time of relaxation. We might take a moment and ask ourselves an important question: Am I, are we, pursuing a life of gentle wisdom, or am I, are we, pursuing things in our lives that do not satisfy?
Or, here in our church, we might ask ourselves if we are living a life of full faith, or have we settled for less than we are intended to be? Wisdom calls us to “lay aside immaturity and walk in the way of the light.”
What choices will we as individuals in our Congregational community make in step with God’s plan? Are we walking in the way of Insight…wisdom…vision?
As each of us in our personal lives anticipate the beginning of a new year of school, work, sports, college, grad school, and more, we are doing the same thing here at Pilgrim Church, our home away from home.
This year, this coming month, we welcome our new pastor, Senior Minister, the Rev. Bill Ferguson and his wife, Maureen and their family. We welcome you and look forward to the year ahead. We as a congregation, ask Pastor Bill lovingly, “how can we help you?”
The new program year will soon begin again, with so much to plan, implement, and deliver through the year. In these waning days of summer, we can prayerfully take some time for self-assessment and recommitment to wise living and acting in step with Jesus Christ, as our guide and assurance along the way of life. Here we choose to accept wisdom’s invitation to her wonderful home to feast at her rich table. For the nourishment of wisdom is for a full life, just as Jesus offers us the Bread of life through Him.
The gospel of John contains Jesus’ promise of eternal life for those who partake of his flesh, the living God among us. Wisdom’s feast echoes that promise, making it clear that eternal life is about much more than life after death. Wisdom’s banquet is happening now, in many ways and most beautifully in the time we share in communion together.
To be honest, I struggled at times in seminary, trying to absorb some of the theologians and their perspectives. One was Jorgen Moltmann. Among many things, he said, “Eternal life has nothing to do with timelessness and death, but it is fulfilled life here on earth.” Moltmann seems to be saying that we can have eternity now. Living life to the fullest as disciples brings joy in the present and a hope for the future. Doing so means different things for different people. Not all of us will be Tom Brady or Beyoncé, but we are offered the way to our own eternal life in Jesus Christ.
Building on Moltmann’s perspectives, another wonderful theologian, William Sloane Coffin, said in his book “Credo,” “we are on the road to heaven now if today we walk with God. Eternal Life is not a possession conferred at death; it is a present endowment. We live it now, and continue it through death.” Finally, respectfully and gratefully, I can fully embrace Moltmann’s philosophy. I hold the view of William Sloane Coffin, too, I trust you do as well. I am happy to discuss these perspectives with you, if you wish. Let me know.
Friends, we are created in God’s Image. And that sacred nature is never lost, even though we might deny it, or stray from it. The good news is that Jesus graciously seeks all of us who resist and all of us who stray in order to embrace us, welcoming us to the feast, the bread of life that helps keep us close to God’s Intention for us. We live by way of the Grace of God.
One of my favorite writers, Annie Lamott, in her book “Tender Mercies”wrote, “I do not understand the mystery of grace … only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us.”
We are gathered here this morning because in some way, Jesus has come to us, spoken to us, and called and welcomed us to be his disciples. Just like in today’s scripture from John, Jesus keeps talking to his disciples — that’s us — keeps working with his disciples — that’s us — and keeps speaking and revealing even when they – we — don’t understand Him.
Understanding is not really the issue, friends. The issue is to keep trying to love Jesus, to follow Jesus, to feed on Him, and to embrace Him as if we were feeding on the Bread of Life.
Let us pray.
We pray, giving God, for a portion of your wisdom, which is more than we can imagine. May we taste the peace that passes understanding. God, the true center, the source of life and love, hope faith and wisdom, we present our lives to you to live eternally in your love. Amen