1 August 2021

“Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:28-29

hen they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”
6:29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

At the end of the movie, Ferris Beuller’s Day off, he tells the audience, “You’re still here?  It’s over.  Go home.”  It is intended to be funny during the credits at the end of the movie.  Perhaps you are hosting a gathering and you think in your mind to guests who are overstaying their welcome: “You’re still here?  It’s over.  Go home.”  Today, as we celebrate the sacrament of communion, we will not be hearing these words.

Do you ever say the same thing to God?  After all that we have done, we do not even deserve to have God still watching over us.  We may tell God, “It’s over, I’m done for.  I can’t overcome this.”  We do not believe that God can forgive as many imperfections as we have.  We do not feel worthy of God’s love.  Have you ever felt that way?  Have you felt like you are at the end of the road, and that it is just time to give up and say, “I’ll never know God’s peace.  I’ll never know God’s will.  It’s hopeless.”  Perhaps we just feel that we have gone as far as we will ever go.  We keep making the same goals but we keep falling short and having to make them all over again.  Whatever happened to our resolutions to pray more?  Life happens and sometimes can crowd God out.  But God has other ideas.  We will still have to answer for everything that we do or do not do while we are here, but God wants us to keep seeking God.  Whatever our journey has been like, we cannot change the past and the effort – or lack of effort – that we may or may not have put in to finding God.  We do have a say on where we go from here.

Many of us have found God in wonderful ways this past year, through serving meals and each other, through reading the Bible together, and through our own prayers and services.  This is a testimony to God’s presence in all times and places of our lives.  Yet every one of us has had moments in our life this past year when God has not been in consideration, or when we have put God on the back burner due to other pressing concerns, or we have done something that God may not have approved of.  This is natural so it is not bad if we experience these moments, but how we come to God after them do make a difference.

David committed an infamous sin against God when he not only looked upon Bathsheeba, but acted on his temptation.  He probably was not thinking of God in that moment.  He also thought that he could get away with it if he took the necessary steps to have Uriah sleep with Bathsheeba, and then, when that didn’t work, to have him killed and to marry her himself.  But God sees everything and was not going to let him get away with it.  God ends up punishing David publicly.  David is ashamed and admits, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).  He did not throw in the towel, but he also admits accountability for what he had done.  He is known as the greatest king of Israel despite this blemish because he was able to move past it and still be in a relationship with God.  Whatever you are feeling today, or this week then, God has a fresh start for you too.  You may have to be accountable to your actions or non-actions, but as long as you are seeking God, you will be able to find God.  It is how we seek God that is the question that we all must answer.

One piece of advice that I received from a professor once was to get to your calendar before anyone else does.  Everyone who wants to live a good spiritual life needs time alone with God.  Perhaps it is time to pray for fifteen minutes a day.  It might be time with a book that makes you think about your spiritual life with God.  Whatever makes you feel closer to God is what you should do.  Then, time with friends and family should support that journey.  If we consider ourselves part of one church family, and do things as friends and family together in the church, we are able to support one another on our common journey.  It is our common journey to overcome our faults and shortcomings in our relationship to God and grow closer to God, fulfilling what we are called to do as Christians in our world that needs us.  By spending time with God, we are better able to make sense of this call.

The author of Ephesians begs the reader: “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-2).  He doesn’t ask us to make some effort.  He doesn’t tell us to make an effort on Sundays.  He asks us to make “every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  If we have done something to cause a division among us, it is our responsibility to try to right that division.  If someone does not want to talk to you right now, or you do not want to talk to someone right now, you are to make every effort to reunite that common bond of peace that you seek with one another.  That does not mean that you make one phone call, leave a voice message, and say that you tried.  God wants you to make every effort that you can to maintain the unity among one another that we are called to.  For if Christians have a war with other Christians, what are we?  Remember that a house divided cannot stand (Mark 3:25).  God makes every effort to reach out to you and maintain unity and peace with you.  When you refuse him once, he does not stop seeking you and calling your name.  God knows that sometimes the evil one has made you blind to these calls or deaf to the shouts of your name, and God does not hold that against you.  If God is patient with us, can we show our neighbor a little bit of God by being patient with them, even if they have done a wrong against us?  Can we lead a neighbor to God by being God for them?  All it takes is a little bit of love, patience, time, and effort.  It is the only effort that scores us points in Heaven.  If we are truly called as Christians, we are called more to living our lives and being friendly with our family.  We are called to share God with the world.  And if we are called to share God with the world, we must do what God would do and has done – even when our neighbor turns from us seventy times, we still turn toward them.  How many times did God do this when the Israelites turned from God?

Last week, I shared some stories of individuals who found hope when someone showed them that they had hope in them.  A drug addict who had no hope only embarked on a fresh start when a staff member from Back Bay Mission believed in her ability to do so.  A scout at my summer camp who came to me as the chaplain decided that he could face a problem he was dealing with at home after I showed him that I believed that he could do it.  I believed that I could be a pastor when people at my home church told me that I prepared a good sermon and preached well, and later when others told me that I had the people person qualities that a good minister should have.  For us to be anything, we need someone to believe in us.  This is where every success story begins.

I want to give you a challenge this week.  Tell someone that you believe in them.  Perhaps you have been encouraging a young person on their career choice, helping them to build the confidence that they can make a difference in this world with what they feel called to do.  Perhaps you can encourage an elderly person that they are still needed among us, that they have made a difference in you because of how they have inspired you and others to stay true to God and their calling.  We each need to build each other up.  As the author of Ephesians notes, we each have a different calling.  Some of us are teachers.  Some of us are preachers.  Some of us are evangelists.  But we are all called to build up the body of Christ wherever we find ourselves. 

Ephesians 4:7 assures us, “Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”  When David sinned, his sin did not go unpunished, but he still kept very close to God.  After David admitted that he had sinned, the prophet Nathan told him, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13b).  Though the child that was born from the sin died, the next son that Bathsheeba and David had was Solomon, who went on to live a good life and be the next king of Israel.  God gives each of us grace too.  Richard F. Ward, Professor of Preaching at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, notes something unique about Christ’s body: “Christ’s body is that place at the intersection of divine and human life where sovereignty, brokenness, and communion are held together in God’s grace” (FW B.3.307).  Bring your praises.  Bring your imperfections.  Without both, we are not ready to celebrate communion together and build one another up.  Without our knowledge that God is still good and our knowledge that we are broken people, we are pretending to be someone we are not.  God has come to save us because we are broken, not because we are perfect.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).  Through communion, we are showing that we trust in the salvation of Jesus.  We are showing that we want to participate in the body of Christ, which is helping to build up one another, and that we want to have a part in this new life that springs us up out of our brokenness.  Jesus believes in us.  Even if we said long ago, “It’s over,” God said, “I’ll wait.”  Yermin Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox tweeted last week, “It’s over.”  He was sent down one level from the Major Leagues to Triple A this month.  When questioned, manger Tony La Russa said that Mercedes still would be very useful to the team in the future.  This is what God is telling us now.  It is just the start of something new.  God believes in us.  How can you help build the body of Christ?  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Scripture Readings:

2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
11:26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him.
11:27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD,
12:1 and the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.
12:2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds;
12:3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.
12:4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.”
12:5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die;
12:6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
12:7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul;
12:8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more.
12:9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
12:10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.
12:11 Thus says the LORD: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun
12:12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”
12:13a David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Psalm 51:1-12
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
51:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
51:4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
51:5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
51:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
51:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
51:11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Ephesians 4:1-16
4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
4:3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,
4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
4:6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
4:7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
4:8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”
4:9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?
4:10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)
4:11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
4:13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
4:14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.
4:15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

John 6:24-35
6:24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
6:25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”
6:26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”
6:29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
6:30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?
6:31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”
6:32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
6:33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
6:34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

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