God gives us Angel Food and Growing into the Full Stature of Christ, Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 2, 2015
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost –Hymn-sing- August 2, 2015
Exodus 16:2-4; 9-15 Psalm 78:23-29 Ephesians 4:1-16 John 6:24-35
God gives us Angel Food to Eat and We Grow and
Mature into the Full Stature of Christ
It is a hymn-sing Sunday and we are singing hymns today of your own choosing. Out there on the East Coast I received a text message: “Do you want to preach?” I answered, “Sure,” because I love to preach. But I will just touch each lesson briefly:
First I will touch upon the theme of bread. God provides angel food, (like the communion wafers we receive) even to the rebellious Hebrews in the wilderness, even to us sinners. Then I will touch upon our becoming Christs to one another and growing up into the full stature of Christ.
God feeds the children of Israel bread from heaven – Manna – what is it? – a kind of dew which settled on branches that could be eaten like bread. God gave them this angel food even though they said, “If only we had died in Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill!” They conveniently forgot their slavery and had lost their faith and yearning for the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey. (So let’s not forget the vision and mission of our church!)
How did all these quail flop down on them for them to cook and eat? When quail migrate flying over the Mediterranean Sea they finally reach land in the Sinai. They land completely exhausted and the people could easily catch them.
If you look at the Psalm, it says, “God gave them what they craved,” but because they chose bread and meat and eating their fill over their faith in God, they had to contend with an angry God and then things did not go well for them. Look at Russia. The people chose prosperity over the value of a democratic government. They have been left with a thug called Putin ruling them. Now they are sorry. Jesus also reproaches the crowds for whom he multiplied the loaves and the fishes. Don’t just follow me because you want to eat your fill. You need the bread of heaven; Jesus said, believe in me for I am heaven sent to show you the way of life. Seek ye first of the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all these things, like prosperity, will be added unto you. Seek money and material possessions first and all these things will be subtracted from you. If we put Jesus, the great I am, first, then we will never be hungry and we will never thirst. That’s the way it works. (We should not understand this in terms of getting rich, but in terms of the quality of our relationships and all our needs being met.)
The Ephesians lesson is filled with sermons. It would be well worth meditating on, when you get the chance. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called:” integrity is its own reward, building us up. Almost every sentence of this lesson is so rich it could be a sermon title: “Bear with One another in Love” and “Speak the Truth in Love” and “Have the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.” This unity is explained by the wonderful sentence: “one body, one spirit, one hope and one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all and through all in all.” That is also the sacred space through which Christ ascends and descends to get to the source of life and love and all God’s gifts for us.
“Taking captivity captive” means that Christ sets us free, gives us freedom. In one of his Galatian commentaries, Luther calls this way of speaking “delicious language.” He says that Christ put death to death to give us life, told hell to go there to open heaven, sinned against sin to make us righteous. Thus when Christ takes captivity captive, he becomes the source of our freedom and the source of all our gifts. We receive them in different magnitudes and capacities becoming apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. It’s in this way that Christ equips you saints at CLC for the work of ministry, building up the body of Christ.
So it is not enough to call ourselves Christians. We grow in the knowledge of the Son of God measure by measure, maturing to the full stature of Christ. Like in football every play is a potential touchdown, every one of us who are baptized need to run with our lives into the end zone for a touchdown and become a Christ to our neighbor.
We grow up in every way into our head, Jesus Christ, for the growth of the body of Christ, which is not only our congregation, but the synod-wide and church-wide expressions of that body as well as the world-wide procession that leads to the promised kingdom of heaven. Amen. But let’s not stop singing.