+ A sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Year B) / Proper 14B / Ordinary 19B at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Bellevue, WA on August 12, 2018 +
Texts: John 6:35[36-40]41-51
Grace to you and peace from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It’s been 50 years since a television show called Mister Roger’s Neighborhood debuted to a national audience and for more than three decades, children watched and listened as Fred Rogers talked to them.
He inspired imagination, taught lessons like the importance of kindness and emotions, and addressed challenging issues of the day.
And perhaps one of his most lasting lessons is that each child – each person – is special.
That each person has intrinsic value and should have endless possibilities.
Mr. Rogers once said, “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time.”
It’s an important lesson to be sure.
But for some reason this lesson seems to get dropped when children reach a certain age.
At some point this idea is dismissed as childish and naïve.
At some point the narrative that each person is special gets replaced with the realities of a world that demands excellence to achieve success.
Of a society that compares us to some unattainable set of supposed ideals.
Before too long, we are told that we are not good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, thin enough, rich enough, powerful enough.
That we are never enough.
That we are just another person, that we’re not special, just another cog in the machine, that we are just…ordinary.
And we are told that ordinary people produce ordinary things, live ordinary lives.
And when we try to buck this narrative, when we try to be more than society allows us to be, it can be easy to be deflated, put back into “our place.”
I wonder if that’s what is happening in today’s gospel reading.
Remember, two weeks ago we heard how Jesus fed 5,000 people using five loaves of bread and two fish – a truly extraordinary sign – and now we are in the second week of what is for us a four-week explanation by Jesus explaining to the same crowd what this sign means.
And today we hear him double down on what may be one of the most extraordinary parts of this explanation – that Jesus is the Bread of Life that has come down from heaven.
That like the manna in the wilderness, he has come from God to bring life to the people.
But unlike the manna, unlike the bread that he just multiplied to feed the masses, whoever eats this bread will have eternal life.
And we listen as the religious leaders at the time grumble and complain when Jesus says this.
‘How can this be?’ they wonder.
They’ve known Jesus since he was a little kid – they know his parents, Joseph and Mary – they know that he’s just another ordinary guy.
‘How could he possibly claim that he has come from God? How can he possibly claim that he’s the bread of heaven – the source of life? Who does he think he is?’
It’s as if they allow what they know to prevent them from seeing the real truth.
It’s as if they were so focused on how this ordinary kid from Nazareth could possibly claim to be more than he is that they missed the incarnate God standing right in front of them.
But I wonder if we are so different ourselves.
I bet we could all name our own limitations, our own failings.
It bet that we each have a past that we’re not always proud of.
I bet we could each list all the ways that we are just ordinary people – unworthy of extraordinary things, extraordinary gifts, extraordinary love.
We buy into the lies this world tells us, that we’re not enough, not special, not deserving.
We may dream of extraordinary things, extraordinary lives; we may watch the lives of the rich and famous and crave what they have, but we know deep inside that will never be our lives.
And yet, Christ stands before us and offers to each of us the bread of life.
He sees our hunger and comes to feed us with himself.
He tells us that God has chosen to draw us – us closer to God!
And not just draw us, but drag us – that’s a better translation of the Greek here – drag us to be in relationship with God.
Drag us like a net full of fish.
Drag us into a place we wouldn’t be able to go by ourselves.
Because the same God who created the universe molded and you together in your mother’s womb, the same God who holds creation together and who knows the number of hairs on your head, the same God who knows your whole life, your whole past, your whole sin, has chosen to overlook our unworthiness, our undeserved-ness, our ordinariness, and drag us to be in relationship with God.
Drag ordinary, unworthy, us.
Drag us to be closer to God and invite us to be in relationship with God.
Not necessarily for an extraordinary life as this world defines it, but to live into the extraordinary life that God has already given for us.
A life filled with the love that God lavishes upon us.
A life bursting with grace and mercy.
A life where we will not have to hunger for fulfillment but where we are filled with God’s abundance.
God asks us to trust, to believe that we are actually worthy, that we are actually more than what the world tells us that we are, that we actually are as special and extraordinary as God knows us to be, that we can embrace the abundant and eternal life that God is sharing with us.
And this belief, this trust in what God is doing in the world and doing in us allows us to live into the life God intends us to live here and now – a life of love and service.
This gift, this bread of life that Christ is giving us, recreates us – it recreates our past, it recreates our lives, it recreates the narrative and reminds us that we are not worthless, but are beloved children of God.
And that God does not look to our past, God does not listen to the voices that say we’re not enough, God does not dismiss us as ordinary, but declares us extraordinary, declares us beloved, declares us worthy of this gift.
This life is not what the world can provide, it is not one where we are dismissed as worthless but one where each person is loved, each person has inherent worth, each person is special in God’s eyes.
Because, unlike the world that dismisses the ordinary, God routinely utilizes ordinary things, chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
Like how God chose the disgraced shepherd Moses to lead the Israelites from slavery into freedom.
Like how God chose a poor young girl named Mary to become the Mother of God.
Like how God chose to be incarnate as an ordinary baby boy whose home was a backwater town in Galilee.
Like how Jesus chose fishermen to be his first disciples.
Like how Jesus spent his ministry among the poor and outcast.
Or like how God uses ordinary water to claim each one of us as beloved children of God.
And how ordinary bread becomes the fullness of God that we hold in our hands, that we take into our bodies.
And when we leave this place, God will use ordinary you and ordinary me to bear God’s love into the world, to embody Christ to all we meet, and to bring life to our community.
Even when we don’t think we are worthy of this gift, Christ calls us again to this table.
Even when we feel broken, God lavishes us with the gifts of life, of grace and wholeness.
Even when we grumble with disbelief and distrust, falling back into that other narrative, Jesus comes to us again this morning as the bread of life as he did to the grumbling crowds in Galilee and opens our minds to new visions and new possibilities.
We all are hungry for something, we all yearn for something we cannot get on our own – and for that hunger, for that yearning, Christ comes to offer his very body, his very life, to fill us with his love.
So come, come to the table with your ordinary bodies, your ordinary skills, your ordinary lives and experience the extraordinary God who will use all these ordinary things to change your life, to heal your brokenness, to transform the world through you.
Taste and see the God who fills you with extraordinary love, who will inspire extraordinary hopes, and who will share in an extraordinary life.
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