Based on John 6:56-69
By Reverend Kristina Russell
Today’s scripture is just a part of one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. It was controversial the day Christ uttered it, as indicated by the crowd that left him in the story, and it is controversial today. There are seminary classes dedicated to this verse and entire congregations of monks have part of this verse as their motto. If we were Roman Catholic this verse would be the defining apologetic of the theory of real presence at communion or transubstantiation. This is the idea that Christ is present body, blood, soul and divinity in the symbols of bread and wine. If we were Jehovah’s Witnesses this would be one of the verses we’d use to support our ban of blood transfusions. Discussed, written about, debated, theorized and picked to pieces, this verse is deep and unsettling. But this verse isn’t the crux of the whole reading. I think Jesus used this verse to get the attention of the listeners, even going so far as losing disciples to get their attention. I also think that Jesus was trying to explain something about God by going this deep with his metaphor. This is how intimately God loves and knows us. This is how close the Creator desires to be with us. God is madly in love with us and this is how Christ defined that love this day. As close as bodily functions, as necessary and universal as eating, as intimate as digestion and breathing, deep within, nourishing and fulfilling becoming part of us within our very cells.
While a part of the verse is the “in your face” description that gets our attention the rest of the passage is also quite beautiful. When the crowd leaves him, Jesus asks his inner circle of twelve if they too would leave him. And our dear leader, Peter, Peter of the Rock and Peter of the denial, states the obvious; “where would we go? You have the words of eternal life” Peter further identifies Jesus as the Holy One of God. But let’s get back to those words of Spirit and Power, those words of eternal life.
John’s gospel opens with the ultimate word, the creative word, the eternal I AM that Don spoke of last week. The word that hovered over the waters and brought everything into being. The word that exploded with the big bang and evolved with us over the eons. John then goes on to state the most improbable thing imaginable; the word became us. The word became a person and made love and I AM incarnate. Words! As Hamlet said, “words, words, words!”
Words, words of life and living, words imbued with Spirit and Power. Words that transform and empower, confirm and bless. Sacred words. Words that say something to us today and that give us tools as we evangelize and live out radical love in today’s world.
Again, last week Don reminded us and had us read aloud that we are part of the eternal I am. I hope you took that in and owned it. That reality is an essential part of my Spiritual path. I hope it becomes an essential part of yours. We are part of creation, a glorious result of those empowering words of life.
This brings us to the practical part of this lesson. If we are so intimately bound to these precious words of life, how do we use words in our daily dealings? If you doubt the power of more mundane words, consider these. It’s cancer. You’re fired, she’s gone, I’m leaving. It’s a girl, I love you, you’re forgiven, welcome home. Words are powerful and we wield a bit of that creative power when we use words.
The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom about words and their consequences. I urge you to take a look at some of those. Before we close today let’s talk a little bit about the impact and intention of words. I have two ideas I want to present.
First, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself, “did I say that out loud?” I’ve misused words a lot in my lifetime. In my defense much of that was when I was in much worse condition than I am now and I was in complete survival mode but still, I often speak before I think. My minister in Sacramento, the reverend Michael Moran gave me a tool to use before I spoke. When I want to say something to someone, I must first ask myself, is it kind, is it important, is it helpful, is it true? If what I’m saying doesn’t pass all those tests, it probably doesn’t need to be said. Just imagine what our world would be like if we strove to only speak things that were kind, important, helpful and true. This is what we as Christians are called to do throughout the scriptures. Paul states many times that we are to encourage other believers, new believers, non believers and strangers. What words are we using with each other? What intention do we set with our statements? Are they statements of renewal and respect or something else? Let’s try to keep our statements kind, important, helpful and true.
Finally, I’d like to close with my favorite analogy, the AA coffee cup. A sponsor is someone in AA, usually sober longer than you, that kind of guides you and helps you. I like to refer to them as the one who holds the flashlight. One of my sponsors told me that since coffee was the official beverage of AA that I could use the coffee cup as my barometer for how I’m carrying those AA principals into my life. When a coffee cup is full of coffee and cream and sugar and it gets jostled in its environment, its contents spill out. Sometimes it splashes on the person holding the cup and burns them, sometimes it splashes onto others in the vicinity.
What do I fill myself up with? If I get jostled around by life and circumstance, what is going to spill out onto people around me? If I fill myself with negative words, angry thoughts, unforgiveness and stress, some not very nice contents are going to be spilling from me when I get jostled. And I will get jostled! Life is lifing all the time! But if I align my thoughts and words with those wonderful words of life, fill my mind with scripture, prayer, positive thought, kindness and love, what spills out of me is the same. That’s what spills out onto my world.
We live in a time of very angry words. Social media is full of duels and debates. The news is full of negative stories, even our government, at the highest levels, makes mean and divisive statements almost on a daily basis. The world needs kinder words. It needs the soothing touch of encouragement and empowerment. Let us, as followers of the radical rabbi Yeshua, be the salve that brings those words to our world. We were created with those words and our master is the embodiment of those words, we are the heirs of those words. Those wonderful words of life. Let us preach the good word of God’s love my friends. It is as close to us as breathing.
Credit: The Skit Guys
Text by Gordon Barbosa, Lay Leader
Based on Hebrews 12:1-11
As Christians, our faith journey should always be one of reflection and discernment in ways that we can improve our walk with Jesus in what early Christians called “The Way.”
Some of today’s drama is based on the Book of Hebrews which addresses people similar to our modern society – people who have been Christians for some time, but who find that their earlier enthusiasm has faded and their faith commitment is on the wane. Many have stopped attending the Christian assembly altogether. Sound familiar?
In Hebrews, we learn that God expects those who follow Jesus to look more and more like him from the inside out. When a person is given new life in Jesus, that person has taken the first step toward a lifetime of change, which at times can seem pretty painful. It can seem as though God uses a chisel and hammer to chip away at and shape our lives so we can become the people God longs for—true followers of Jesus. This is known as the process of sanctification – a process in which God purifies us to make us holy in order for us to do sacred things.
The greatest gift God gives us is his son Jesus Christ – who showed us a way to salvation. But God doesn’t want us to live a life as we do today – corrupted by hate, lust, greed or envy. God expects salvation to be worked out in us for the rest of our days. The longer we live the way of Jesus, the more our lives should look like his because of God’s work in us and through us.
Sometimes this process of becoming more and more like Jesus in every area of our lives can be challenging…and painful. Christians still struggle with issues such as pride, jealousy, and bitterness. While those sins are forgiven, the effects and consequences of those sins remain. That’s why God desires that we deal with them constructively.
At the beginning of the video, Tommy’s character prays and asks God to do whatever it takes to make him into the image of Jesus. That type of honest prayer is one of the most dangerous a Christian can utter. What Tommy prays sounds a lot like Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, “May your will be done.” Opening our lives to God in such a manner won’t leave us the same as we were before we prayed.
The idea of God with a chisel and hammer chipping away at our lives does not sound like a lot of fun, but such painstaking work is exactly what must take place for us to become the people God desires.
So, as we continue on our journey – let us pray together the prayer of Columbanus …
“O Lord God, destroy and root out whatever the adversary plants in me, that with my sins destroyed you may sow understanding and good work in my mouth and heart; so that in act and in truth I may serve only you and know how to fulfill the commandments of Christ and to seek yourself. Give me love, give me chastity, give me faith, give me all things which you know belong to the profit of my soul. O Lord, work good in me, and provide me with what you know that I need.” —Columbanus, 550-615
Diana Hunter is our Senior Pastor;