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North Main Sermon August 1, 2021

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost… Communion Sunday

Ephesians 4:1-7

Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 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. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it[a] says: “When he ascended on high,     he took many captives   and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

John 6:24-35

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, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed 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. For 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 sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[a]32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, 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 the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. The word of God. 

 

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, then goes into a beautiful description of the unity that is found in the work of God. Look at verses 4-6. He says, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling -  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”

There is only one Lord and His name is Jesus; there is only faith and it is found by being in Christ; there is only one baptism and it is in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; there is only God and He is, indeed, Father of all, above all, through all, and in all. 

We already share all of these things listed in verses; therefore, we should also share unity together. The way of God is oneness and unity, and we can model that unity in the way that we, the church, live our lives. 

 

Today is Communion Sunday and there are four things we, as United Methodists, believe about Communion.

1. Methodists believe Communion is God’s gift, not the church’s gift. 2. Methodists believe that in Communion God folds the past and future into the present. When we celebrate Communion, we celebrate with all the saints who have gone before us in death and also await God’s restoration of all things. Your family members who have passed on in death are present in the Communion moment. This also means that Communion makes us present to other believers who are also presently alive and receiving Communion 3. Methodists believe the Table is open to everyone. Our language is that we have “an Open Table.” No one is restricted from the Table. No one is too unworthy 4. Methodists believe Communion even works grace into the lives of non-Christians. Even non-Christians can participate in the Communion moment.

 As followers of Jesus, we believe the ultimate outworking of the Spirit’s power is love. This love is a different kind of power—relational power—faithful presence—whitness. A power nowhere more gloriously displayed than in the passion of Jesus. 

This is also a love that goes first before we even realize it. God’s love is already at work on the scene before we get there. We can’t “take back the community for Jesus,” because by the power of the Spirit the community already belongs to Jesus. The Spirit always goes ahead of us and is already intimately involved in the life of every person we encounter. John Wesley became aware of this in a field outside Bristol, England.  He found the Spirit at work in the lives of people beyond the church walls, inviting him to join what God was already up to. 

Methodists continue to emphasize a personal experience of the seeking and sending trinitarian God, whose primary characteristic is relentless love. We experience the missional love of God through “waves of grace” (prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying) and “means of grace” (prayer, searching scripture, communion, fasting, and holy conversation). The discipleship process is connected to these means of grace and waves of grace—the profuse outflow of God’s unconditional love.

We have to wonder about the people who were in the group of 5,000 as our Gospel of John continues today. When the multitude  saw that Jesus wasn’t there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus” . Surely only a few of the five thousand people actually cross the sea in their small boats. This verse doesn’t tell us why the crowd is seeking Jesus, but the last time we saw them, they were trying to make Jesus king (v. 15).

Finding Jesus, they ask, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” (Much of this Gospel can be understood on two levels. The crowd means to ask only about the manner by which Jesus transported himself to Capernaum, but we learned in verses 22-23 that the crowd had noticed that there was only one boat and that Jesus had not gotten into it. So how did Jesus get there. Jesus ignores their question and rebukes them for their superficial interest. “Most certainly I tell you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.  At the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus satisfied their physical hunger, and now they are looking for more of the same. The meeting of physical needs (food, clothing, shelter, money) never loses its appeal.  Spiritual gifts, however, are a different story.  They tend not to stir the same excitement in people. Jesus is not saying that physical needs are unimportant. Much of Jesus’ earthly ministry is focused on healing people’s physical ills. But now he calls the crowd to acknowledge their need for “food that endures for eternal life”—promising that the Son of Man will give them that food. .Now he challenges the crowd to join him on his spiritual journey. The people addressed Jesus as rabbi, but he refers to himself as “the Son of Man”. He could refer to himself as messiah, but that word would raise expectations that he has no intention of fulfilling. People expect the messiah to drive out the Romans and to make Israel great once again, but that is not the focus of Jesus’ ministry. Then they said to him, “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work  of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” While the crowd seemed confident that they could perform whatever works that Jesus might identify as critical, the fact is that obedience to the law is fraught with failure.  As Paul put it, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” ..Sometimes Our spirits are willing, but our flesh is weak. By inviting the crowd to believe in him, Jesus provides an achievable alternative to the hopelessly difficult task of law-keeping.  They have to do only one thing—believe in the one whom God has sent.  Paul stated much the same idea in these words: “We maintain therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”. This crowd recognizes the radical nature of Jesus’ invitation and demands assurance that he has authority to advocate such a sweeping departure from their traditional religious practice. They had obeyed the law only for centuries.. They want a sign to authenticate him as God’s prophet. They want a sign to make them turn for the law they knew.

Now this thirty-something-year-old uncredentialed product of an undistinguished father and an even less distinguished town is suggesting that they abandon their long-held allegiance to the law and stake their lives on him. No wonder they want to authenticate his authority in some unmistakable, compelling way! To follow him otherwise would be the height of recklessness. However, the crowd seems to have lost sight of the fact that Jesus has just now authenticated his Godly connection by feeding five thousand people with a boy’s lunch! Their demand represents the response of ordinary people faced with a new situation.  Jesus has thrown them off-center, and they are struggling to regain their balance. The crowd has seen Jesus perform a miracle and they are still not certain.  So they establish the criterion that Jesus must meet if they are to believe.  If Jesus will give them a sign, then they will be able to decide whether or not to believe in him.  Wonderful things happen in our presence every day, but we, like the 5000, fail to see them or take them for granted.    Sometimes we  too, say, “Give us a sign, Jesus. Do something spectacular, so we can believe in you.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

The crowd failed to understand when Jesus spoke of “the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” , so Jesus makes his meaning clear. “I am the bread of life,” 

Today we will partake of Communion… Jesus is saying to us today also “ I am the bread of Life..He who comes to me will not be hungry,,,We as Methodist believe that Communion is a gift from God, a gift to be shared that we do not need to establish any criteria for Communion..The table is open to everyone…We may not have thousands but the sharing has the same meaning now as then..