Sermon – Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012
Zion Lutheran Church – Hoople, ND
In John’s gospel today Jesus uses the word abide. It’s not a word we use very often. Abide – to stay, to remain, – to dwell or make a home in. What does Jesus mean when he says “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me?” I think what Jesus is saying here is that he wants us to become a part of him. He wants us to be in relationship with him. Jesus wants us to be one with him just as he, the Father and the Holy Spirit are one in each other. The question is how does that happen?
We know that it is not something we ourselves can do. On our own we do not come to know Christ. It is only through the revelation of the Holy Spirit that we are brought to Christ. And so through our baptism we first become part of the Body of Christ. We become one with the whole universal or catholic church as we say in the Apostles Creed. Through the sacrament of baptism we know who and whose we are – beloved children of God.
We also abide in Christ through the sacrament of Holy Communion. As Lutherans we believe that in the Lord’s Supper we receive the real presence of the body and blood of Christ who is present in, with and under the elements of bread and wine. It is not just a symbol. In that Holy Meal we receive Christ into ourselves and we become a part of him. We abide in Christ and Christ abides in us. The Word Made Flesh dwells not only among us but through his body and blood – the bread and the wine – he dwells within us. He makes his home in us.
His flesh and our flesh are joined together. The human and divine are united. To abide in Christ means not to separate our flesh and spirit from each other. Jesus was fully human (flesh) and yet he was also fully divine (Spirit). He walked among us, breathed, ate, slept, wept, bled, and died. Jesus was fully human. Yet he was also fully divine and the Spirit of God dwelled (abided in him) and raised him from the dead. Through baptism and Communion we too are more than just flesh; the Spirit of the living God lives (abides) in us too.
Yet, abiding takes time. One cannot abide with something or someone right away. One must become part of it. Like those of you who work the farms here in the Red River Valley, you work with the land. You till and seed, plant and harvest. It is hard work and yet through your daily work with the land you become part of that land. You become part of that harvest which you produce. You abide with it.
I’ve never seen such vast farmland back East. And – unless you have a garden – it’s easy to go to a grocery store and buy the produce without realizing what hard work went into getting it there. The long hours, the reliance on the weather to sustain the crops, the hands that planted and the hands that harvest – these are the ordinary human things that God works through to reveal the divine. One can go to a store and eat of the harvest, but when you work the fields, when you pour your blood, sweat and tears into it – you abide in the earth. Through our baptism and through the regular partaking of Communion, we too become part of the blood, sweat and tears that Jesus endured on our behalf. We become part of his life, death and resurrection and we abide in Christ and Christ abides in us.
For those of you who work with children – whether teachers, parents, grandparents, or mentors – you know the hard work that goes into helping them to learn and grow. The lessons aren’t learned overnight. It takes time. And sometimes the lessons are met with opposition, but you keep on trying. You aren’t just teaching them something out of a book; you are a part of their lives and they are a part of yours. You are abiding with them.
When the disciples responded to Jesus by saying, “This teaching is difficult, who can accept it?” they responded for all of us because this teaching is difficult. When Christ abides in us we are no longer the same. Our lives are no longer the same. We abide in Christ when we share what we have with others. We abide in Christ when we forgive one another for those hurts we inflict on each other. We abide in Christ when we see those who look or act differently through the eyes of God, as beloved children of God and not as strangers to be avoided or judged. We abide in Christ when we take time each day in prayer to listen to the still small voice of God that calls us to love one another and abide in Christ. We abide in Christ when we acknowledge that Christ is our life, the place where we have safety and security. A place where there is no fear, but rather a place of love and peace. Christ is our home.
This week let us abide in Christ. Let him be our refuge in the storms, a place of security, and the center of our lives from where all grace flows. As Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Indeed, we have this blessed assurance. Let us abide in it. Amen.