Give Me Jesus - Sam Buehrer - Sylvania UCC - Aug192018

August 19, 2018


No audio available for this sermon.  Text provided below.

 

Sermon                 “Give Me Jesus”                                August 19, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

Leviticus 17:10-14 (NRSV)

Eating Blood Prohibited

 

10 If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel: No person among you shall eat blood, nor shall any alien who resides among you eat blood. 13 And anyone of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside among them, who hunts down an animal or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth.

14 For the life of every creature—its blood is its life; therefore I have said to the people of Israel: You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.

 

John 6:51-58

51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day;55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

 

 

Sermon                 “Give Me Jesus”                      August 19, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

Today’s sermon marks the 3rd now in a series where we have read from the sixth chapter of John where the subject matter is what Jesus called the “bread of life.”  If you were here last Sunday or listened to the sermon on-line, you learned that for John, the key story to the gospel is the one that begins this chapter.  That story is of the feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish offered up by a child (a child shall lead them).  For John the good news that Jesus offered can be summed up by what happened in that story. When Jesus took what the little boy offered and fed all those people on that hillside, he was showing the people a new way.  He was creating the beloved community before their very eyes and in that beloved community everyone was welcome at the table and everyone ate their fill.

Today I build on what I shared last week.  In today’s text, Jesus says, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh….Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.” These words would have been very startling to those in the crowd who tended to interpret scripture from a literal standpoint. Clearly there were many in the crowd that were literalists for the literalists responded to his statement by asking the question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  Because of their literalist way of thinking many of them turned away from Jesus and his teaching for they found it too hard to follow and to understand.  But if literalism didn’t turn them away, it was his teaching about drinking his blood that turned them away.  For centuries the Jewish people followed the religious laws, and there was a very clear prohibition in Leviticus against drinking the blood of an animal or bird that one kills for food.  The prohibition reads, “If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I (God) will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement.” There were many rituals around the handling of blood especially when it came to the ritual sacrifices in the temple. Any good self-respecting Jew knew that not only did you not eat the blood but that even touching the blood of an animal would make one unclean in God’s sight.  So again, the literalists in the room upon hearing Jesus tell them to drink his blood, would have gone running from the room for it was clear to them that this teaching was over-the-top in their eyes. No self-respecting rabbi would say such a thing let alone teach it as a commandment.

With the literalists gone, Jesus was left with those who understood his teaching in metaphorical ways.  According to the Hebrew scholar Father Ray Brown, to take in someone's "body and blood," could in Hebrew understanding, mean something as simple, and uncontroversial, as accepting the whole person.1 In Hebrew, the expression "flesh and blood" means the whole person.  It is something like our expression "body and soul."  If I say, "I love you body and soul," it means, "I love you with my entire being."  In Hebrew, the idiom "flesh and blood" means something like that--the whole person.  To receive the whole Jesus entails receiving his flesh and blood.2 although it may sound simple, the disciples were finding out that his teachings were hard and challenging in many ways.  We too continue to find his teachings hard so we look for ways to soften them or to distract us from the hard parts.  One distraction that even the church has fallen prey to is to interpret today’s text, not as “accepting the whole person” but as a text that explains the ritual of how we use the bread and the wine in communion.  Almost every sermon that I came across on this text treats it as a discourse on the communion ritual.  It makes me wonder how many sermons that I have preached on this text over the years where I also focused on the “bread of life” and its relationship to communion. I am afraid to look. You see, when we preachers do this, we bring something to the text that is not there.  For if we are truly looking for the truth in this story and we think that it has to do with communion or the last supper, then it behooves us to look at what John has to say about the last supper.  What is most interesting about the Gospel of John is that John’s Gospel does not include a story of the last supper as we think of it.  When John writes about the feast of Pentecost his story goes into detail about Jesus becoming like a servant and washes the feet of the disciples.  The last supper never gets mentioned in terms of bread and wine.  So to use the Gospel of John to talk about the meaning of communion does a great disservice to the gospel message.  It just is not there.  So what truth then is Jesus addressing when he says, I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh….Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Since it is not about the last supper, then we must conclude it is about his life and his encouragement for us to accept his whole being and to take on his whole teaching as our own.

So what is it about his life that he is calling us to accept?  As I read the gospel, his life was all about giving the poor what they needed to experience the fullness of life.  So he fed them when they were hungry.  He healed them when they needed healing.  He gave them life when they had no life.  When they were foreigners and treated as less then human, he treated them as sisters and brothers and challenged those in power to do the same.  When he saw women and children being treated as less than human, he treated them as equals to the chagrin of those in power.  Whenever he saw the rich taking advantage of the poor, he called the rich out on their actions and made it clear that what they were doing was not according to God. 

This Jesus that we have come to know invites us to let go of what binds us to the past so that we too can become part of that beloved community for which he lived and died.  His hope for us is that we would choose to accept his whole person and begin to live as he lived, loving the unlovable and bringing life where there is no life.  His hope is that we would take his life and make it part of our lives, from beginning to end, from morning to night.

In that spirit, I offer you this song, “Give Me Jesus”, a song that gives voice to one who chooses to take in Jesus whole being from morning to night.

In the morning, when I rise…Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus….You can have all this world, give me Jesus

 

When I am alone …Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus….You can have all this world, give me Jesus

 

When I come to die…Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus….You can have all this world, give me Jesus

 

 

1Lectionary Blogging, John Petty, Progressive Involvement, 2012.

2"Eating Jesus," the Rev. Martin Copenhaver, Day 1, 2012.

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