Sunday, August 16, 2009


Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 16, 2009
John 6:51-69

The life of faith is daily taking a plunge, often wondering if you’re going to drown, even though you know that through it you’ll be saved. Being a Christian is being submerged when the world and your own brain tell you that you’re done for. The life of faith begins with Baptism. One becomes a Christian when the waters rush over him and drowns the Old Man that was born in sin.

And while we have gathered for our retreat under the theme of “got water?” and are seeing how God saves us through the waters of Baptism, in seeing this we are seeing nothing less than the salvation God gives for a life of faith. Jesus preaches that life of faith in the Gospel reading. It could appear that Jesus’ words with all of its imagery of eating His flesh and drinking His blood have nothing to do with Baptism and being brought through the waters to salvation.

But Baptism doesn’t just concern water. It doesn’t just concern what happened to you that day when you were Baptized. It concerns your entire life. It has everything to do with your daily life. It is not only the entrance into eternal life but also at the heart of the daily life of faith.

Living the life of faith is as difficult for the Christian as believing in Christ is for the non-Christian. The people in the Gospel reading heard the words of Christ and couldn’t wrap their minds around an individual who would use such grotesque imagery for believing in Him as eating His flesh and drinking His blood. But is what happens in Baptism any less unnerving? Where one is actually drowned in the waters of Baptism? Where the sinful flesh is crucified with Christ?

Many on that day turned away from Christ. He turned to His twelve disciples and asked them if they would go too. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” was their response. “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God.” This is what we have. We have what our Lord gives to us and not a carefree existence in which we don’t have to think about what it means to believe in Jesus and live in the trust that He brings us through the waters even when they rise.

What Jesus says in the Gospel reading may have nothing to do with water but it has everything to do with the life of faith. He already laid the groundwork for this in John chapter 3 where He says that unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. The is where you are submerged. Daily you take the plunge and realize that the beginning of life begins with death. Death to the Old Man. The drowning of our sinful nature. The crucifixion of our sinful flesh. And the life of faith only brings you deeper and deeper into waters that seem increasingly to rise.

Your sinful flesh hangs on, not wishing to drown but to thrive. To get a hold of you and seek ways for that carefree existence. Where we can blame our difficulties on a God who obviously doesn’t care or evidently is not powerful enough to prevent problems and financial hardships and illnesses and doubts.

It’s no wonder so many people walked away. Who wants to hear about eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood when it can be a challenge to put food on the table? When it’s hard to get out of the cycle of eating each other up with our snide comments and impatient demands. When it seems that our time is consumed just keeping our head above water with all the demands on our time and energy in daily life.

It’s no surprise that those who left Him were also disciples. Jesus is preaching the life of faith, preaching Himself as the substance of faith, driving His point home with the reminder that “it is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Remember His words to Nicodemus in chapter 3?: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

If you are submerged at the beginning of this new life and throughout the life of faith and you feel like you’re barely able to keep your head above water, then know that it is your Lord who daily drowns you so that daily you may arise to new and eternal life. That when the waters rise it’s not a reason to give up hope but an opportunity to be washed anew and renewed through those trials.

The people of God at the Red Sea thought that they had come to an end but God brought them through those waters. The flood meant destruction for every person but in His mercy God brought eight people safely through those flood waters. In this same way Baptism saves you. As a Baptized child of God daily you eat of the flesh of Christ and drink of His blood as you recall your Baptism and repent of your sins; as you read and meditate on the word of God. A torrent of sins flooded Jesus on the cross, the mercy of God overflowing to you, that you may bathe in the promise that He will bring you through the waters that rise up in your life to bring you safely to the shore, where He will welcome you into the eternal rest of heaven. Amen.


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