Bread of Life: A Tomorrow 9-2-18

Bread of Life: A Tomorrow

Rev. Leta Arndt Behrens

Sermon Scripture: JOHN 6:60-6960When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Video: Thad Story Youth in Global Mission
Sermon Text:
Our ELCA story today opens with an acknowledgment and the deep truth that the young adults who go into global mission know they can’t change the world… but they really want to change the world anyway. And isn’t that beautiful? And isn’t that the story of hope and the story of the heart of faith as well? We come to these scriptures, to this promise from God that there is bread for all, that there is life for all, and we know that what we see doesn’t always match this promise, AND that the promise for tomorrow is still there and the spirit is still calling.
Back in the day, I had a seminary professor, Peter Kjesth. There is a special place in my heart for this professor. On the first day of class he made it a point to state that I was his first student who was of the age of his grandchildren instead of his children-and he said it not with reluctance or grief but with joy and pride. He was a man who taught, who led mission trips to Namibia for 40 years, who got into the depths of suffering, the dirt of injustice to the poor and into the grace of living each day with the knowledge of the grit of the world and the hope of the promise of this grace in the bread of life from Jesus. I learned a lot from Peter, from his classes and from traveling with him and the thing that I learned from that repeats in my head almost daily and most certainly every time I encounter the gospel and attempt to put it in relatable words to you is how he started and ended each class. At the start of any class with Peter, we would begin with singing dona nobis pacem–which means, grant us peace. Then we dive into any number of theological topics, questions, and discussions on how these ideas get lived in the real world. Then at the end of every class he would step back, take a deep bow from the waist and say-”and now my friends, we have come to the place where we must simply bow to the mystery of God and go forth in peace”
In these final words from Jesus on the bread of life and throughout this chapter of John’s gospel, there is frankly, a lot of mystery. Jesus doesn’t actually make complete sense throughout this discourse–not to our ears and not to the ears of the disciples either.  and this comes to a head here in these last verses where Jesus is turning not towards the past and not towards the present but facing the disciples firmly into the future, into a tomorrow they cannot see and that they cannot comprehend. Some of the followers have given up. Some are probably staring, lost in confusion. Some followers only hear words of death not life and they turn towards disbelief. And yet, there is still Jesus, promising that there is more to the spirit of God than we can see or hold and there are words of confession even in the middle of that mystery– Yes, Jesus, we know you are God, we come to this mystery by faith.
Thad described trying to avoid faith–keep that talk at a distance from what he was encountering in his mind and his heart throughout the experience. And then he says, that faith came and punched him in the gut. Sometimes it happens that way. Sometimes avoidance leads to an abrupt change of reality and perspective and realizing you don’t know what you don’t know but that you have the chance to pay attention and to be led by something beyond yourself. That is the spirit of God. And as he practiced faith and as he kept walking with the people — in their joys and in their suffering–he saw more than his own experience and saw into the community of the body of the Christ, which is where Jesus says the promise lies.
This is where Pastor Miriam Schmidt’s words bear repeating, “We are all living lives that face suffering and are in communities with suffering and somehow in the middle of all that Christ comes and raises us up to new life and that is how we keep moving forward.”
The bread of life is a sign, a necessity, a connection, and a sacrifice. And, perhaps even most of all, the bread of life–God creator, God in Jesus, God as spirit, is a tomorrow. This promises of grace and life, even when we can’t accept it, even when we can’t hear it or taste it or see it or feel it is still there. We can analyze every word and we can dissect every nuance in the language of scripture and in the meaning for the people of John’s time and the meaning for us today and still we come to this promise-that God comes to us in every place of brokenness and in every place of peace and gives us a story to claim as our own–that we are God’s children and we are promised to be a part of this bread of life from the beginning of time and creation to the end of the tomorrows we cannot see or fathom. In all that we hope for and in all the places where we long to change the world, we will, step by step in hope come to the table, gather at the font and hear again and again the promise that Jesus will raise us up to new life and in that my friends, we lean forward into all the spirit promises and calls us to .. and take a deep bow into the mystery as we go forth with the assurance of peace.