Archive for the ‘Proverbs 9:1-10’ Category

Eat to Live!

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

12th Sunday in Pentecost B, August 5, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [John 6:54]

Have you ever heard the saying “Eat to live, don’t live to eat”?  It’s a common catch phrase that the nutrition industry has come up with in an  effort to help us reexamine our diets, and there is good reason for doing that.  Did you know that about 36 % of Americans are classified as  obese?  And did you know that if the current trend holds, which experts believe it will, by the year 2030 a whopping 42% of Americans may end  up obese?  But wait, it gets worse, of that 42%, experts feel that 11% of them could be severely obese, which is about 100 or more pounds over a  healthy weight.

So yes, there is reason to examine just what it is we are eating and why we are eating it.  If we are living to eat, that is living for the enjoyment of  eating, the statistics are warning us that we could be in for big trouble.  And that is the message from God for us today.  It’s a message about  eating and drinking, but it isn’t talking about our physical diet so much as our spiritual diet!

Our first reading sets the table so to speak for the spiritual banquet that God has prepared for us this morning, listen: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”  To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.  Leave your simple ways, and live and walk in the way of insight.”

The Bible seems to always be reminding us that there’s two different kinds of eating, physical and spiritual, and that the spiritual food is a lot more important than the physical food: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” [Deuteronomy 8:3]

This morning, wisdom is inviting us to feast on God’s Word; to continue developing the practice of going to church, attending Bible study, reading and sharing the Word of God at home and with friends and neighbors.  Wisdom of course is the presence and Word of God.  So really, the invitation to come to the banquet is an invitation to get to know God.  But before we will accept wisdom’s invitation, we have to first admit that we need it; we have to admit that we need God.  We have to admit that we are simple and lost sinners, lost in darkness and lacking judgment.  That is, on our own, we can only think of physical eating and drinking; we live to eat.  We must admit that there’s a greater kind of eating and drinking, a spiritual one that we can’t understand or see the need for unless God intervenes!

This morning, God is doing just that; He is intervening in a mysterious and powerful way.  This morning God wants you to see that everything you consume physically is dead.  Your meat is dead, your grain is dead, your fruits are dead, and your vegetables are dead.  Once you start munching them down they are dead.  We are simply dead people munching on dead things, unless… unless God intervenes.

In our gospel reading (John 6:51-69), God does just that.  This morning God comes to you by faith in the real presence of His Son Jesus Christ and says: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” [Vs. 51]  Does that offend you?  Does it confuse you?  It may, if you simply hear those Words and stop listening.  You may be confused if you are thinking about living to eat and not eating to live!

Standing before our eyes of faith this morning is Jesus Christ, the son of Mary but also the true Son of God.  Like the people in last week’s gospel, we might be tempted to grumble to ourselves and even out loud that this is only Jesus who was born of a woman named Mary.  He was a man like us in every way, wasn’t He?  So how can He say He will give us anything that will make us live forever?  Well the answer is in the origin of Jesus.  As the Living Bread, He is the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.  In other words, Jesus is reminding us that while He was born into our human existence as one of us, His origin is not from among us; He has come from heaven.  Before His birth Jesus would tell you that He was with us, and after His death, He tells us that He always shall be.

Who is Jesus?  He is the voice of wisdom calling out to the simpletons and sinners; He is calling out to you and me.  He calls us to come, eat of His bread and drink of His wine; a banquet meal that He and He alone has prepared for you.  This morning Jesus tells us that we can’t settle for any other diet.  It must be His bread, His body given for us.

But Jesus, ever the gracious host, offers you more than just food, He offers you a refreshing and life giving drink as well.  ““Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [Vs. 54-55]

Now this is the point where the grumblers try to turn Jesus’ Words into something a bit more palatable (pun intended)!  They say, “Ok, surely He doesn’t mean we can eat His body and drink His blood.  That would be cannibalism.  So this must be one of those wise philosophical sayings that says one thing but means another.”  So the grumblers keep on listening and keep on looking for ways to twist His Words.  But Jesus isn’t done; not by a long shot!

“Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. [Vs. 56, 57]  Now the grumblers are really becoming uncomfortable.  Jesus is still insisting that we eat His flesh and drink His blood, but instead of giving us the meaning of this saying, He makes the assertion that if we want to live forever, we really need to feed on Him, because that’s what God sent Him for!

What is causing the confusion?  What is causing the offense?  Is it Jesus or those that listen to His Words?  It is those who are listening.  They are still living to eat and do not understand the need to eat to live.  So Jesus will give the grumbling munchers one more bit of wisdom in the form of a question.

“Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” [Vs. 61b]  Do you take offense at that?  Do you see only the meal that is spread before you and fail to see the host who offers it?  Jesus is the son of Mary, but He is also the Son of God.  His flesh and blood are not simply like any flesh and blood; they are divine.  They have now somehow in a mysterious way become God’s flesh and blood.  The host has become the meal!  He who is Spirit has taken on flesh, and now He has become a new kind of flesh and blood; it is the flesh and blood of the God man Jesus Christ that you are offered to feed upon today.

In His Word He offers you real food; He shows you your sins and if you will see them, if you will eat that bitter herb, He quickly offers you the sweet delicacies of the gospel; He offers you forgiveness and peace with God your creator.  In your baptism He assigned you a permanent seat at His banquet table.  It is your place that He prepared for you at the beginning of creation.  Only you may sit there… only you!  And at that seat He prepared you for, He also dresses you like a prince, because that is what He has made you to be!  And in His Word, at His heavenly banquet He says, read, listen, and receive my Word, my flesh and blood.  Take and eat, this is MY body, which is given for you.  Here is the cup of thanksgiving; take and drink of it all of you; this cup is the new testament in MY blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

Do you hear the Words MY body, MY blood repeated over and over again.  It is truly His flesh and blood that He gives to us in His Word, in His Washing, and in His Holy Meal.  This morning Jesus wants you to see that by receiving His Holy Food, you are receiving Him. You receive His life and His death.

What the disciples who grumbled and complained could not see, and what many of those who live to eat today can’t see is that unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus the son of Mary and the Son of God, you can’t have life.  Instead of eating to live, you will be living to eat.  What many can’t see is that in the heavenly food that Jesus gives is true life that comes from true sacrifice.  Upon the cross, the Son of God allowed men to take His life from Him.  He who is eternal, who can’t die died; He died because He became one of us for us.  He died because He gave His body and shed His blood for the sins of the world.  He died for you!

When Jesus says take and eat, take and drink, He is giving to you real food and real drink.  He is giving to you Himself; His life and death for the forgiveness of sins… your sins!  Will you eat to live, or will you continue to live to eat?  Do you see your great need for this mysterious eating and drinking or will you simply turn away as another grumbling muncher?

As for me, I will answer with St. Peter, “Alleluia, Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the Words of eternal life”.  Alleluia, alleluia!

Are You Offended By This?

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

11th Sunday After Pentecost, August 9, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Introduction: This morning Wisdom calls out to us… Listen: Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!  To him who lacks sense, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.  Leave your simple ways and live and walk in the way of (faith).” [Proverbs 9]  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world (FOR YOU!), is my flesh. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him (them) up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in (them).  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” [Jn. 6: 51-9].


Now that you have heard and received God’s wisdom, then hear His warning: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, through a different teaching.  (Because of this different teaching people refuse to hear and believe that I AM the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.  And because they refuse to believe), the wrath of God (has) come upon them.”  Therefore dear friends, be wise and ensure you’re not found lacking this Bread of Heaven.  Do you take offense at this?


I. Are you trusting in Jesus Christ alone?  Better put, are you trusting in the real Jesus Christ?  The real Jesus is God the Son who was sent on a mission by God the Father to come down out of heaven and save a world enslaved by sin, death, and the devil; His mission is to save you from this captivity through His sacrificial death.  He does this through His flesh!  Listen to Jesus’ own Words: “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”  Let these words hit you as they are intended; Jesus is saying, “I will save you with MY FLESH.  MY FLESH and no other!   


But how can flesh, human flesh do this?  This was the question of the Jews in Capernaum and it’s still the question of many today!  Of course we’re not talking about just any flesh.  My flesh can’t save you and neither can any other human flesh.  Only God can save us from sin, death, and the devil, and only He can promise us everlasting life.  If we were to follow the thinking of the Jews, that Jesus is a mere man, then the eating of His flesh would of course be preposterous—it would be an outrageous!  No, if we’re to eat Jesus’ flesh in order to have eternal life, then we need to find out what kind of eating Jesus is talking about.  If you are looking for a rational, scientific explanation for this eating and drinking then you will be disappointed, but if your soul is really hungering and thirsting for eternal life and salvation then Jesus won’t disappoint you.


When Jesus said that you must eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, He’s already given you the answer to this question.  Certainly if He were “just” a man, He couldn’t give us His flesh and blood to consume; but as the Son of man, He is the God-man, who was sent from Heaven as the Savior of our world.  Because He is the Living Bread of Heaven, He can give us His flesh and blood, and we can believe that it is exactly what He says that it is…life for the world!  By pointing us to HIS flesh and blood, Jesus is also pointing us to His death for us upon the cross as a man, but Jesus also says, “As (His) living Father sent Him, and (since) He lives because of the Father sending (His flesh), so (too) whoever feeds on Him; that person will also live because of Him.”  [Vs. 57]  In these words, Jesus assures you that the same God the Father who sent Him to save you, has also drawn you to Himself to receive the life giving flesh of Jesus, so that you too may believe and have life!  This life that we received through faith friends can now be back tracked to its ultimate source, “the living Father,” who is the author of life.  When Jesus says that the living Father sent Him, He is describing His very mission amongst us: to give us perfect life and free us from the death penalty that our many sins deserve! Only Jesus can do this mighty act, because only He is both God and man! 


Friends,  Jesus is the only one who had both divine life and true perfect human life.  To offer you a crude illustration, let’s think of an electric stove.  The coil is made of iron.  Iron is cool to the touch, but if I turn on the electricity, the coil heats up and it becomes red hot—it becomes fire!  “But it is still iron!” we reply, yes but now it is so much more!  Jesus is indeed man, but because He is God in our human flesh, He alone is so much more… only He can free us from our captivity.  You see friends, if only the divine nature of Jesus had God’s perfect life and not His human nature, then He could not give us life by means of His sacrificial flesh and blood, which belong to His human nature.  No, to make His flesh and His blood the means for our salvation, perfect life had to be in them just as perfect life is in the divine nature of God the Son and the living Father who sent Him to us.  Because of the Father’s giving of His Son to us through His death upon the cross, we now have received eternal life through Jesus’ flesh and blood sacrifice for us. 


Now that we know who Jesus is, He encourages us with these Words, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” [vs. 56]  What is this abiding in Jesus?  It doesn’t mean that we simply accept that He exists, and that He suffered, died, and came back to life.  No, you must believe that He suffered, died, and rose from the dead for you!  You must eat this truth by faith and be nourished and brought back to life by this truth and only this truth!  You must chew on every morsel of the Living Word that you receive and guzzle His life giving blood as your only source of hope and salvation.  In short, we’re asked to close your eyes and ears to every other message of hope and by faith receive only the flesh and blood of Jesus.  Jesus is saying, “I alone am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come to the Father accept by eating and drinking my flesh and blood!” 


II. When many of Jesus’ own disciples heard (this teaching), they were greatly offended by it and said, “This is a hard (teaching), who can (accept) it?”  This morning friends, Jesus asks us, “Do you take offense at this teaching also?” [vs. 60,61]  Perhaps a better way to ask this question is, “Does this teaching entrap you?”  Has it caught you in unbelief like the angry jaws of a spring trap?  By now, you’ve probably realized like the disciples did, that Jesus is talking about His Words and His teaching when He says His flesh and blood?  How does this make you feel?  Maybe you too are angry because of the finality of this teaching, a teaching that clearly says there is no other saving truth outside of Jesus?  Maybe you’re thinking about loved ones who have rejected God’s only means of salvation and seem to be intent on dying without receiving everlasting life?  Does it seem unfair that there is no other way to please God?  Well this is how many of His disciple felt after this teaching.  Until that sermon, they were happy to tell everyone that Jesus was perhaps one of the best preachers that ever walked the land; but after this sermon… they found Him strange… preaching a stupid sermon!  He seemed too arrogant—“If He had just stayed with preaching about the 10 Commandments, He would have been the best who ever stepped into a pulpit, but this faith in Him alone business is just a bit too much!” 


Friends, its human nature to be offended by the gospel… it’s in our sinful nature to want to earn rewards from God for our good behavior.  But this is not God’s way… this is not the way of faith—a faith which must cling to Jesus alone.  It is by faith that we learn to shut our ears and eyes to all other teachings and simply say, “Let anyone who refuses to stand by faith fall, and let me dear Lord stand by faith in Jesus Christ alone through Your Word, which is the Living Bread!”


III. Friends, God knows about our struggle to believe in His Son alone, and that is why Jesus says, “it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no help at all.  The Words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” [vs. 64].  Just before these words, our Lord asked the doubters this question: “What if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” [62] Now this question must have made no sense to them at all, but it does to us!  Through the perspective of time, we know that with this question Jesus is pointing our thoughts up towards heaven and He is providing the great key that unlocks all of His teaching.  As the Bread of Life, the Son of God who descended from Heaven has now returned to where He came from.  Why is this important?  We’ll let Jesus own words which He spoke before He ascended into heave answer this: “I am going to him who sent me… I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [John 16]


Friends, through the work of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word gives us faith and eternal life!  Through the Holy Spirit, the Bread from Heaven is always feeding our souls and strengthening our faith.  He has been serving you this living bread since your baptism.  Each time you stumble in sin, you know through the Work of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word you are forgiven. Will you come to His table of mercy and feast on the body and blood of the Son of God?   Or do you want to go away as well?  I pray that you will stay and feast…in Jesus name….AMEN!