Saturday, August 26, 2006

B, Pent 12 Proper 16 - John 6:56-69 "Life, be in it! Let it be in you" (Part 5 of 5)

Life! Be in it! The Christian Life; be in it! Let Christ’s being, which gives eternal life, be in you!

Today we hear the final sermon in the series from John chapter six. For the fifth time we hear about Christ’s being and our call to be in him and trust his being in us. We have been called to let Jesus Christ, the perfect wisdom and the spotless love of God, be our bread from heaven, our bread of life, which came to us only because of the Father’s action through the Holy Spirit. Today, as everyday, God calls us to this life, to be in eternal life, to let it be in you, so that eternal death will never be a part of your being.

Jesus says, 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:56-69)

Earlier in John 6 Jesus tells us what the work is that God calls us to do. The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. (John 6:29) And now in this text the difficulty of doing this one simple thing comes to the fore. To remain in faith, being in a state of willingness to feed on Christ and nothing else, proves to be more difficult than many think, once the sinful rational mind kicks in, seeking to justify our deeds, personal thoughts and emotions. So many disciples grumble then turn away from believing Jesus and his hard teaching.

Those of us who were around in the 70’s and 80’s were accustomed to the television character, Norm — the great Australian sportsman. He watched every sport that came on television. He was undisciplined to such a degree, he didn’t even get exercise getting out of his armchair to change the channel, the remote control saw to that. As we watched him, with a beer in his hand resting on his stomach, he’d lay back and watch every sport conceivable, without being a part of life. For Norm, “Life! Be in it!”, could be rationalised so to justify his armchair deeds, lazy thoughts, and his self-centred sorry emotions.

Life! Be in it! The Father enables us to be in life, by sending his Son to us, to be our bread of life. Jesus is the life of the world, his flesh was sent to give our flesh eternal life in peace with God. And now he calls us to be his disciples, by disciple-ing ourselves, by disciplining ourselves, in the doing which God has set in advance for us to do. And that is: to believe in the one God has sent. And that is not an easy thing to do, when things appear to be going so wrong in the church today.

Droves walk away from the “one” true faith, because apparently it’s not enough just to be in Christ and trust his word anymore. The temptation is to go looking for a diet of gratification – continually searching for something that’s never found. Perhaps that something is power, prestige, popularity, protection in numbers, or personal fulfilment in enjoyment of some kind.

Just like Norm – The great Australian sportsman, many call themselves great Australian Christians without being in Christ, without participating in the Christian life to which we have been called, and reduce being a Christian into a justification of all the things that please the self. But Jesus says, The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.(John 6:63)

Perhaps you’re one of those who use Jesus to justify your deeds, or thoughts, or emotions, rather than let him call you to repentance because of your deeds, thoughts, and emotions! Maybe Jesus is just a legal warrant in your life, as if being a Christian is about using a few “Jesus phrases” on Sunday to justify what you think Christianity is; trusting works, or human understanding, and emotions; over against God’s word – from where we receive the true bread of life. Perhaps the Christian life for some of us is more about what one can do for Jesus, so that Jesus will do things to please the appetite of the sinful self.

The Holy Spirit gives life; our flesh counts for nothing! Eternal Life; be in it! The life of Jesus; let it be in you!

Like being a sportsman or woman, being a Christian or a disciple is about discipline. And the discipline to which all Christians are called is that of listening and being learners of Jesus. Our holy work is to put aside all the rationalities, of ourselves and the world—that tell us to put our works, understanding, and emotions first—and instead be in a state of willingness to be in Jesus.

And this discipline of discipleship calls us to let the Holy Spirit be, so he might give us life, in the simple, practical, physical things Christ brought to be, so we might continually receive the benefits of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, some two-thousand years after the fact. The Holy Spirit has been sent to coach you in Christ, and give you food for strength, Jesus Christ – the bread of life, so that in God you might be.

In the collect, the prayer of the day, we prayed for faith to follow Jesus because he is the way, the truth, and the life. So we prayed by the power of the Holy Spirit, that he would grant us the willingness to follow and walk in him alone, whose way leads to eternal life. This is the only way any of us are going to win the race of eternal life.

Picture a soldier on the battle field, without a weapon or armour, who thinks his own personal being is going to protect him from the onslaught of the enemy. Being a soldier without any armour, is like being a “so called” Christian without trusting in the very things Jesus gives us to keep us together in him. When our personal being, which is flawed with sin and evil, is confronted with the evil of others, seen and unseen, we quickly become allied with the forces of evil or the evil smothers us and kills us. The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.

If looking at our own lives is not confirmation of this reality, we only have to look at the disciples of Jesus to see their weakness at following Jesus and disciplining themselves under him. They saw what was happening to Jesus as he got closer and closer to the cross, and buoyed by their own understanding and emotions, and their failure to do any works to save Jesus from humanity’s sinfulness, they ran and were consumed by the evil around them. So Jesus died for them too. In the end their flesh counted for nothing, even Christ’s flesh didn’t save him, it was the Holy Spirit who gave Christ his life, it was the Holy Spirit who gave life to the disciples and their ministry, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives life to you. Life, be in it!

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. To whom shall we go for life? No one other than Jesus Christ! Not to our understanding of him, not to our dubious deeds, and definitely not to our emotions. We go to the great “I AM” not the “I am” of ourselves. In the Greek the word for “I” is “ego”, so we trust not our own ego but the ego of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We trust the life-giving being of God.

Just like a soldier who stands strong in his armour, shoulder to shoulder with others, disciplined as one. We Christians get our strength, not in numbers, but when we stand together as one, in the being of Christ. Like a soldier, being a Christian is not about having fun, especially on the battle line, but its all about life; the life of home, the lives of others, and the preservation of one’s own life. As Christians our being is all about living in eternity with God, and having our eternal life defended and our neighbour’s eternal life defended, with the being and strength of Jesus.

So Paul tells us, 10 … Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

As Christians, we survive only when we allow the Holy Spirit to dress us in the armour Christ. The armour of Christ is his word, the water and his word, his body and blood. Only with this armour can we help others put their armour on too. Our strength comes not from our self but from what the Holy Spirit seeks to dress us in — the being of Christ, the bread of life.

Life; be in it! Amen.

Friday, August 18, 2006

B, Pent 11 Proper 15 - John 6:51-58 "Love & Wisdom - Eternally Begotten Being" (Part 4 of 5)

Today is the fourth time we visit what it is to be in Christ, and we have been challenged in our faith as we have heard Jesus proclaim his being in the context of John chapter six. We are called to believe Jesus is, that he is the great “I AM” who was sent by God to save us. We are called to believe Jesus is the bread of heaven sent down to give us life. We are called to believe Jesus is still with us, feeding us. His being still prevails, just as he was, and has been, since he was raised from sight in the Ascension about two-thousand years ago. Our work is to continue believing by faith that he is with us, and we do this only by the power of the Holy Spirit sent by God after Jesus’ ascension. Jesus’ being gives us peace as we lie back in his eternal arms of salvation.

But before his body was broken and his blood was shed, Jesus speaks to the Jews and the five-thousand strong Capernaum crowd, which he had miraculously fed with five loaves of bread and two fish, saying…

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. (John 6:51-58)

As we have heard in previous weeks, the crowd was more interested in Jesus, the miracle worker. They were more concerned what he could do in the short term to satisfy their insatiable desires. They wanted Jesus’ doings, rather than his being. So too, we heard, the Jews didn’t believe in his being, which is that of the same “I AM” who spoke to Moses from the burning bush and led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

But we have an advantage over the Jews and the Capernaum crowd in John chapter six. They didn’t get it, they didn’t understand who Jesus was, nor did they see his true being — that he is God the Son sent from the Father to shed his blood for the sins of the world on the cross; that he would break bread and take the cup and command us to eat and drink, believing “this is my body – this is my blood”; that he would die on the cross innocent of sin but carrying humanity’s guilt of sin; and that he would be raised to life again and then be glorified at the right hand of the Father. They didn’t know or foresee these events, nor did they believe Jesus when he forecast them. They expected the Saviour of Israel would be a doer, a mighty warrior like King David.

However, even after the event, unbelief still plays a big part in our lives as Jesus claims us for himself and calls us to persist in his being. But despite our unbelief, which is made plain by our continual deeds of the old Adam living inside each of us, we have a God who has crushed the deadly effects of our sinful nature. Now we can live in justified peace with the Father, as we receive the benefits of the Son’s death and resurrection, through the waking efforts of the Holy Spirit who continually brings us out of our sinful slumber into the unseen reality of Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ being. But this has to be ongoing, because our sinful nature is continually moving us to sin.

The ultimate work Jesus did on the cross happened as a result of Jesus’ nature, which he receives from God the Father. We Christians don’t believe by our own power or strength and nor does Christ operate by his own strength. Jesus himself tells us just this in verse 57 of John 6, “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

Therefore, we confess the reality of God’s being in the creed. We confess Jesus Christ is “eternally begotten” of the Father; that is, his being — has been forever, is forever, and will be forever being born of the Father. We also confess that the Holy Spirit, proceeds from the Father and the Son who together with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified.

To put it another way, Jesus solely exists because of his perfect willingness to be in the Father. Jesus bears the nature of God the Father. He was completely obedient and trusting to be who God the Father sent him to be. And that was: to be the sinless offering for sinful humanity.

So in Jesus Christ there is no unbelief. However, although he was sent from God, he was also born of Mary. Therefore, he was born the same as us, born with the all the abilities to sin, but he remained without sin.

Jesus’ coming actually replaced all doing. This is why the Jews hated him so much, and it’s also why the Jews no longer have a temple today. Jesus did once and for all what the Law and the practise of it in the temple could never do. The Jewish priests and people practised the Law. The Law is the wisdom of God and doing it called for a love of God that was second to none. The problem was and still is — no one could do it other than the one whose being is completely willing in wisdom and love.

This is the nature of Christ. He is the wisdom of God and he is the love of God. His wisdom and love fulfils the Law and all its requirements. And these requirements meant that Jesus was sent to love us in sacrificial death out of complete and willing love for the Father. This is a wisdom that confounds even the wisest person but is given to and believed by the youngest of children and the simplest of people.

Now that we have been baptised into Christ and his being is our inner being, we too have this wisdom and love within us. And it hits head on with the sinful nature that wants us live a deceptive life of disbelief, leading into eternal death. All the powers of evil, work constantly to keep us focused on the doings of our sinful nature, and therefore, not trusting in Christ’s being that will feed us unto eternal life. Our own personal sinful nature always seeks to lead us to believe that Christ is not the real food which gives us eternal life.

Although Jesus carries the nature of God without spot and he carries wisdom and love in all its perfection, he knows that we cannot do it. God didn’t send Jesus to give us a template of works to earn eternal life, nor did he want to crush us with Jesus’ example. Yes! He does call us to imitate the love of Christ, but Jesus is much more than another prophet giving us new laws unable to be followed.

Jesus Christ is more than a messenger or a deliverer of divine food; he is the Divine Food and the Message. He is the good message, or the Good News, sent from heaven to be the real food that gives life to the world. He calls us to trust he is the real food of eternal life and he calls us to rest in the means of receiving his atoning blood and life giving body in his word, “This is my body, this is my blood”.

In the Old Testament reading we heard in Proverbs 9:1-6 that, ‘Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. “Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment. “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.

Now hear this passage again as Christ has fulfilled the wisdom of the Old Testament Law and is the living wisdom and love fed to us, giving us his being in our inner beings. Be strengthened in faith, and despite your sin, be led deeper and deeper into trusting the perfect wisdom and love of Jesus Christ, Son of God, our bread of heaven…

Jesus has built his house; with the Holy Spirit he has cut out its seven pillars. He has prepared his meat and mixed his wine; he has also set his table. He has sent out the servants of his word, and he calls from the highest point of the city. “Let all who are simple come in here!” he says to those who lack judgment. “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of my understanding, my forgiveness, my wisdom, my love, and my peace.

Jesus is the bread of heaven. His body is real food, his blood is real food. Feast on his love, feast on his wisdom, and let the God of love and all wisdom be in us and give life to our being. Amen.

Friday, August 11, 2006

B, Pent 10 Proper 14 - John 6:35, 41-51 "Bread from Heaven - A Unique Being" (Part 3 of 5)

Text: John 6:35, 41-51

35 …Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”


So we might have a repentant, forgiven, and forgiving inner being, we allow ourselves to be kept in state of willingness to believe that the Son of God’s being is the bread of present life and eternal life in our being.

Today is the third sermon in the five part series focusing on Jesus’ being, being revealed to us in John 6! We have also examined our being and the state of our contentedness to remain in the being of Christ! And if forced to compress the first two sermons into one sentence it would sound something like what I have just read…

So we might have a repentant, forgiven, and forgiving inner being, we allow ourselves to be kept in state of willingness to believe that the Son of God’s being is the bread of present life and eternal life in our being.

Last week we focused on the fundamental work set out by God for us to do. And that is: to believe in the one he has sent. Now having been given this task we hear Jesus, the one God has sent, and hear of the uniqueness of the one he has sent, and hear how the Jews began to grumble in disbelief at Jesus’ claim of uniqueness as the “I AM”- the being of life.

Just as the Capernaum crowd saw Jesus only as a man and rejected him as God, so too did the Jews who were present. They didn’t believe he was in any way equal to God who spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3) and gave himself the name “I AM who I AM” or “I will BE what I will BE”. In fact to claim the name “I AM”, which is from where the holy name “Yahweh” is derived, is blaspheme to the Jews. They don’t say the name for fear of desecrating God’s holiness, even today, let alone claim to be Yahweh!

Yet even amongst such disbelief Jesus proclaims the truth, that he is divinely “I AM”, by saying, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. …I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

We are called to believe Jesus is the bread of life and this bread gives us everlasting life – now and forever. We are called to believe its uniqueness; that it is beyond compare and second to none! This living bread is food that will save us, and our work is to believe, trust, and have faith, in this living bread who is sent to us from God in heaven.

Just like the Jews and the Capernaum crowd, we struggle to believe in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ – our bread from heaven. Therefore we each confess: I believe I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith. (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Third Article’s Explanation)

The work of believing in Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit who makes us holy through the gift of faith, giving us the ability to believe in the life Jesus gives to the world through his death on the cross. And in believing, the Holy Spirit works to keep us united with Jesus Christ.

So, does that mean we have no work to do if the Holy Spirit does the work? Certainly not! We keep believing; we endure in being, allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work in our inner being creating faith, so that we believe and trust the effectiveness of the living bread which is giving us life. To put it another way, the Holy Spirit allows the living bread to be tasty and desirable in our sinful being which would much prefer to gorge itself on unhealthy food. Our work is to receive and enjoy this holy bread!

All this happens so that we might have a loving relationship with our Father in heaven. Jesus came down and continues to be present together with the Holy Spirit, so we might live before God in peace. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus Christ, so we might have access to God the Father. Jesus is, the Holy Spirit is, and the Father is. The Trinity is and will continue to be. The work of the Trinity is to be the “I AM” in our lives so we might believe in the one the Father has sent, so we might believe in the one who has come down from heaven, and so we might have our present life, our eternal life, in peace with God, in whose image we are created, and recreated in Jesus Christ daily by the Holy Spirit.

Some are led to believe we live in the realm of the Holy Spirit today. That God the Father was in the world, only in Old Testament times and has gone back to heaven. Then Jesus came along and did his thing for thirty-three years and is now back in heaven too. And since the first Pentecost we only have the Holy Spirit who transcends us into the holy of holies of heaven.

But in fact nothing could be further from the truth. We live in the being of him, Jesus Christ, who comes down from heaven to us. The Holy Spirit just helps us to faithfully know this so we can willingly be in a state of belief and in a state of justified restful peace before him who is God and Father of us all. Today we live in the realm of eternity, in the realm of the Trinity, who is hidden behind the veil of faith.

The story of Elijah in today’s Old Testament reading (1 Kings 19:4-8) clearly shows there is just no way we can get to God. In fact left to our own devices the best we can do is to lie down and die! We are no better that our fathers and mothers or any of our ancestors in either our biological or our church families.

The story of Elijah is also a prototype of the Trinity’s work of giving us loving peace, gracious salvation, and enduring powers to keep on keeping on for the duration of this life.

Just as the angel of the Lord woke Elijah up to the fact there was bread and water which needed to be consumed for the oncoming journey to Horeb - to Mt Sinai. The Holy Spirit kicks us into action, delivering us out of our sinful stupor, to eat and drink Jesus Christ and believe his word of salvation, so that we might make the “40 plus lifetime trek” in the wilderness of this seemingly Godless world. Why does he do this? So that we might come into the Triune God’s presence and have peace and rest in his being. So we can be, where the great “I AM” is!

We can’t see God—the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit—but we know the members of the Trinity are here by faith, because we feed on the one who is the Bread of Life. We feed on this food every time we hear his word, and eat his body in the bread, and drink his blood from the cup of salvation. The Holy Spirit works to make Jesus Christ known through these means so we might have peace with God.

But one day Jesus will be seen, he will be revealed to all. The veil will be removed from the unseen and we will see Jesus our Saviour just as he is coming in victory. He was sent by God to us from heaven and he will come again. Jesus was, is, and he will be!

Last week we heard the most popular line in literature from Hamlet – to be or not to be. But perhaps we can hear another popular line of literature from a more contemporary source, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said in one of his movies, “I’ll be back!” Jesus lives, and he will “be back” as the eternal judge to raise us up at the last day, despite our sin. So trust in him now and feed on the living bread of heaven, so when he does come back he will be your Saviour and not your terminator! Amen.

Next week we will look at the progression of belief: Jesus exists only because of his perfect willingness to be in the Father, and we exist into eternity when we trust in Jesus’ perfect willingness to be in the Father, and receive his perfect willingness when we take the real food that is his body and is his blood.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

B, Pent 9 Proper 13 - John 6:24-35 "To be or not to be" (Part 2 of 5)

“To be or not to be that is the question!” This phrase is one of the most famous lines in world literature. These words are the musings of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, in Shakespeare’s “Tragedy of Hamlet”, as he is tossed to and fro by the pros and cons of life and death.

To be or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing, end them. To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

Hamlet considers death. In fact, he considers suicide! Should he go on living or should he go about dying! It is similar for Christendom when it considers the same question, “To be or not to be?” Having been given salvation, by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, at baptism, the question maybe asked: Do I want to be in Christ, and if so, is that enough, just to be?

To be or not to be, maybe it is not just “to be” but “to do” as well! Many Christians grapple with the question of being, some of whom in their deliberations choose not to be, and commit spiritual suicide by rejecting salvation through the free gift of grace as they sin against the Holy Spirit, and reject the faith that leads them to the forgiveness won by Christ on the cross.

Others choose, in their questioning, to doubt the perfection of Christ’s being, but rather than “not to be”, they are led into the confusing and misleading world of doing things for their salvation. As if being in Jesus needs to be topped up with a little bit of our own doing to get us over the line of eternal life.

So just like Hamlet who gambles whether to be or not to be, those who reject the gift of God’s being and those who doubt the completeness of his being, end up walking on the slippery slope of spiritual suicide too.

To be or not to be – to be or to do – perhaps that is the question? Or perhaps even asking the question is a danger sign for us, as our minds are tempted to look for something else rather than just be content to be – to rest in the arms of Jesus like a child does in its mother’s arms.

Today we look at John 6 — Jesus’ being and how the crowd was focused more on his doing for their own selfish gains. And in doing so, we can reflect on how humanity continues in the traditions of the old Adam. We can let the light of Christ shine on our struggles to just accept his being with us. We can be honest about our falling to the temptation to look for miraculous signs to please the desires of our sinful nature. But even so, we are called to hear that although we struggle with our carnal desires, Jesus still comes to us – he still wants to be with us, and he works to refocus our desires “to do” back to a desire just “to be”.

24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:24-35 NIV)

The crowd looked for Jesus; they wanted to be with him, that’s for sure — but not for the sake of his being. They didn’t want the Holy Son of God, they didn’t want the second member of the Holy Trinity, they didn’t want Jesus Christ their Saviour from sin! No, they wanted a magician, one who could snap his finger and please them; one who could break the bread and divide the fish so their bellies would be full. In the spirit of the Old Adam, the crowd’s insatiable appetite gives them no peace as they hunt for Jesus. They work to find the miracle man who can give them what they want.

But Jesus, knowing the nature of the crowd, from which he had earlier escaped when they wanted to make him a king by force, answers their question, “What must we do to do the works God requires?Answers them, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. Jesus calls them to be with him, the Son of God, God the Son, sent from God the Father to be in the world and give life to people. Or to put it another way, to give being to those who were trapped in the deathly grips of doing, but failing.

However, as soon as Jesus says this to them, after having had their fill of miraculous bread and fish, they once again demand a sign to believe. They wanted Jesus to do something again. No doubt, do something to appease their fleshy desires once again. To be or not to be, their sinful desires allowed them not to see, they chose not to believe in the one God had sent. Instead they saw his being as a means to a quick but temporary fix.

To be or not to be, “eternally”, this is the real question! To be in a state of willingness or gladness to be in Christ is in fact not the question, but rather is the answer. And Jesus says just that: I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will “never” go hungry, and he who believes in me will “never” be thirsty. What Jesus says is this: My being is your food for life. You who are content to be in me will “never” “ever” be hungry or thirsty. In fact, Jesus wants us to believe, when your allow him to be in you, trusting in him, you will be in a state of eternal peace.

Jesus goes on to say to the crowd, “…as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:36-40)

Jesus comes not to do but to be who the Father has called him to be and that is: to be the Saviour of you and me. And the crowd who came to Jesus with such misguided intentions came only because the Father allowed them to come. And so too with us. We come to Jesus, even with our sinful intentions, not of our own volition, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit whom God has placed in us at baptism, and in us every time we hear the true and pure gospel.

So to be or not to be, is not the question at all! Rather it’s just “to be”! Our work as Christians is to be in a state of willingness, to let Jesus make us who God has originally created us to be. When we get caught up in the unbalances of asking the doubtful question “Should we not to be?” we quickly find ourselves on the slippery slope of spiritual suicide.

We are called to believe with the ears of faith, to hear Jesus say, “I AM”! Or to use incorrect English to make the point, we are called to hear Jesus say, “I be — I is!” This Jesus who claims “to be” is God. The Son of the same “I AM” who led and fed Moses and the Israelites after they were baptised into God’s being and presence in the Sinai wilderness after being cleansed from the tyranny of the Egyptians in the Red Sea.

Set you hearts on being with the One who is with you — Jesus, the great “I AM”, who is and will be forever. Be in his being; trust in his vicarious death and resurrection. Be willing to believe “all” your sins are forgiven. Be content to be nothing for that is what you are. But be joyful to be everything in the eternity of God’s grace for that is what God wants you to be. And trust in the way Jesus comes to you through physical means for your eternal physical and spiritual wellbeing.

To be is to be in Christ. Not to be is to not be in Christ. There is no question or decision to be made; the answer is to carry on in his being. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

There is much confusion in the church today, just like the five thousand with the unquenchable appetite for Jesus’ doing; many of us allow ourselves to be tossed to and fro because of our insatiable appetites and desires. Whipped into a frenzy, we are tempted to run after a Jesus to appease our desires for a quick and temporary fix. But it will spoil, and leave us in the same dangerous plight as Hamlet, entertaining the suicidal thought, to be or not to be.

Being in Christ brings maturity, and with maturity comes peace as we once again become content to lie back in the arms of our Saviour’s being! So be in the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching. Be in Jesus who says, “I am, I have been, and I will be! Be in me into eternity!”

Next week we will examine how we no longer need to feed on the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which has long since soured in bellies of our sinful desires. We will hear how the bread of life who has come down from heaven, is our tree of life in paradise, and how it’s God work to draw us to Jesus and raise us up at the last day. Amen.