“Getting Personal”

John 6:35, 41-51

13 August 2006

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

John 6:35, 41-51 (NRSV)

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I 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.”

| Centering Prayer |

What makes you … you?

What is it about yourself that makes you uniquely you?

Is it your body-

– composed of gender and gene, size and shape,

color and complexion,

ethnicity and national origin,

age and energy,

illness or disease?

If the occasion was your funeral and I was the preacher, and

I asked the assembled family, friends, and loved ones

“in a word or two,

how would you describe the deceased?”

what would be the response?

“Oh, she was a little old lady who lit up every room she entered,” one may say.

Another might remark, “She was the one who emigrated from Poland in her youth.”

Or, “he was the string bean who never understood the word ‘rest.’ He worked seven days a week and never took a vacation or a day off.”

Perhaps we are more than just a body, a mannequin upon which we simply hang our cloths,

a moving hat rack upon which we rest our cap.

Is what makes you uniquely you the fact that we are the summation of all our earthly experiences?

Is it our achievements and awards,

the places we’ve visited and the sights we’ve seen,

the degrees we’ve earned and the jobs we’ve held,

the credentials we so proudly post after our name,

the schedules we’ve balanced, and

the ceremonies we’ve attended?

“Oh, yes, I know her. She is the one who raised 5 children, went back to school,

Earned her degree, and

Landed a great job.”

Or, “he is that guy who drank too much, got sober, stayed sober, and turned his life around.”

I know that I am more than just a pastor, a seminary graduate, in my fifth appointment

Over the past 36 years.

It appears there is still something missing. We are more than people of experience, of memories, and reputation.

These may be important pieces of the puzzle, but they fail to paint a complete mosaic that adequately describes the person.

Perhaps one of the characteristics that makes you uniquely you

is the company you keep;

the people you’ve met and associate with,

the friends you hold dear and enjoy being around,

the partner or spouse you love,

the children you are raising or have raised,

the mentors whom God has graciously sent your way.

For example, to know me is to know that I am the son of Buckey and Alice,

brother of Steve, Cindy, and Bryan,

husband of Cynthia and father of Nicholas and Christian.

To also know me is to know Herb Larson, my Sunday school teacher,

Dr. Radigan, my high school physics teacher,

Si Meyers, the mathematics professor who taught me non-linear geometry.

To know me is to know that there was a man by the name of Fred Owens, a resident of the hospital and nursing home where I worked as a teenager, who greatly influenced by life.

Another was Tom and Anna Riddler, members of my father’s parish.

To know me is to know that I learned the essential tools of theology at the feet of Tyron Inbody,

crisis intervention and psychiatric assessments from Thomas Rueth,

how to do a funeral from Jack Armstrong, and

how to preach from Kendal Kane McCabe.

To know me is to know that my life intersects with blessed people here in Rush and with a few people from former parishes, like Trixie, Sharon, and Ray. In short, to know me is to know the company I keep.

Our person, our experiences, our company;

all lend themselves to the richness of life,

to the quality of life that we are privileged to lead.

But there is one last thing missing.

The clue;

the evidence of that last remaining piece of the pie can be found in our Gospel lesson for this morning.

“I am the bread of life.” Jesus begins,

“Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

He continues,

“This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Perhaps the final component of what makes you uniquely you is

a personal relationship with God,

and in our case, as Christians,

a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Listen to the language-

Jesus is the bread, which we eat.

We consume, and in the process,

we assume the Body,

we become the Body of Christ,

at work, fulfilling God’s Will,

in the world today.

Many Christians today place unwarranted emphasis on fear, judgement, and damnation,

Even though Jesus assures his disciples that he did not come to condemn the world,

but that the world might be saved through him. (3:17)

Some Christian also place far too much attention on the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself tells us directly –

– his mouth to our ears –

that none of us know the day or hour when this will take place.

Not one of us is given inside knowledge.

God isn’t known to play inside baseball.

There is no secret code in Ezekiel, Daniel, or the Book of Revelation.

Yes, we should always be prepared for the Savior’s eminent return;

But, we shouldn’t lose sleep because of Christ’s promised return.

When there is a disproportionate amount of attention on the second coming, rapture, apocalypse, or end of the world,

It is easy to overlook the Jesus who is in our midst.

The indictment is found in Matthew 25: 44-45,

“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ begins with outreach and mission,

taking care of the least, the lost, the most vulnerable members of society;

because that is where we meet Jesus.

The bread and cup of Holy Communion are powerful symbols of Christ.

Yet, to meet Jesus, know him, and abide in him

we must faithfully follow his example with our words and deeds;

to act with a compassionate heart and passion for others;

to actively express and work for

an end to injustice and oppression,

challenging the powers and powerful of this world,

sometimes even in confrontational ways.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to turn over a few tables and disrupt moneychangers …

And neither should we.

Christ is found in our relationship with others, when all things are working for good through Him.

Likewise, Christ is absent in those relationships that are built on all things sinful or evil;

the lies of deception,

the dis-ingenious smile and a knife in the back,

the exploitation of others,

the self-absorption and wanton consumption of resources,

the ascension to the top by treading on the dead bodies of those you’ve conquered,

burning every bridge you’ve ever crossed.

Christ is found in our relationship with others, when all things are working for good through Him, as the apostle Paul so correctly observes.

Our daily bread serves as a gentle reminder of the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is not academic, philosophical, or even emotional.

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is very real, fresh,

visceral even.

A life with Christ is alive and aware,

Knowing that the Church is …

… we are …

the Body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.

Dearly beloved, take with you this day, a new and greater awareness of the relationships you keep in your life,

how you might be known in the larger community, and

the presence (or absence) of Jesus Christ in your life.

Take time this coming week to make an assessment of your relationship with Jesus.

Where is it that you are at, and where is it that Christ is calling you to go?

Amen.

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