Sunday, August 2, 2009

This Is the Work of God

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2009
John 6:22-35

Are you weary? Then be renewed in the grace and mercy of Christ. This is the work of God.

Are you hurting? Then receive the healing balm of Christ. This is God’s work He does for you.

Are you weak? Then be strengthened by the power of Christ. God is at work for you.

You are in need and yet you continue to labor in vain. The work of God is to bring about what it is you need. What you need is faith. So believe in God. Trust in Him. Rely solely on His grace, mercy, and power.

Take comfort in this, that it is not of you or from you. It is you doing it because God is at work in you. What He requires of you He accomplishes in you and for you because of and in His Son Jesus Christ.

The people in the Gospel reading couldn’t wrap their minds around this kind of religion. What kind of religion—what kind of God—tells you that you don’t work to gain the favor of God? To get yourself out of the trouble you’re in. To get what it is you need. Doesn’t God want us to work hard rather than let Him do all the work for us?

This is why we have such a skewed view of our Christian lives. Do we think of ourselves primarily as Christians, or merely as people like everybody else but who happen to be Christians? God is the only source for our lives. Do we think of ourselves as people who deserve more from God or as people who are endlessly blessed by a God who for all we know could have better things to do than help us out in our own little world?

The simple truth is the God of heaven and earth loves you. The eternal God helps you out in your day to day affairs. He heals you, is compassionate to you, strengthens you, and is with you.

How does He do this? Jesus. What does Jesus say in our Gospel reading? God gives us the eternal blessings we need by giving us “the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Everything we need is given us in the man Jesus. Because Jesus is God in the flesh. All we could ever ask for is answered in the work that He accomplishes. Because all the power of God is concentrated in what Jesus has done and does.

But we live in the real world, don’t we? We don’t think of the spiritual realm as being as real as the physical world we live in. But it’s very real. In a sense it’s even more real in that it will last, whereas this world will not. But this world we live in is the one we tend to set our sights on for what we need in this life. Not that that doesn’t necessarily make sense. It’s just shortsighted if that’s all we want. God wants to take us to heaven. He wants to give us those blessings that last forever.

The people in the Gospel reading had been fed by Jesus in the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Wouldn’t it be great if He kept it up? That’s what, after all, God did for the Israelites in the wilderness as they wandered around for forty years. But is that why Christ came? To feed people bread?

No, He came to bring life. He came to feed people with the Bread of Life. To give Himself to people. Yes, the manna was bread from heaven—God was the one who gave them the bread. But Christ is truly Bread from heaven—heaven is His dwelling place and He came down from heaven to bring to people on this earth true life.

Have you ever thought about what a person who is dying needs? One who perhaps is slipping into an unconscious state and cannot rationally understand what is being said when the Gospel is proclaimed to him or her? If that person’s salvation depended upon them doing something to show evidence of their faith how could we be sure that they have any?

That’s where the work of God comes in. He accomplishes the faith in that person. We speak to that person of their Baptism. What God accomplished in that person when the refreshing waters flowed over him. When their sinful flesh joined in Christ’s death only to be raised up to eternal life. We speak to that person the Gospel, which sustains them in faith.

Let this be our comfort, that there is a purpose in any adversity we may face, whether we be weary, or hurting, or weak. Such adversity must cause us to look even more so to the Gospel. This is the work of God, that even in those times we are spiritually depleted, or physically, or emotionally, that God is at work. That it is in our weakness He is most powerful. That when our flesh and blood is not enough we may eat and drink of His flesh and blood. That we may draw deeply from the well of everlasting life and be refreshed in His abundant mercy. His forgiveness and His comfort. His strength and His power.

There’s plenty of room for us to work. We will help others. We will be there for them, serve them, and comfort them. But we will do this because it is the work of God at work in us. This is what Paul means when he exhorts us in Philippians to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.” He goes on to say: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

Otherwise we simply labor in vain. What Christ rather wants is for us to draw deeply from His well, to feast sumptuously on Heavenly Bread, Christ Himself. He delights in working for us, helping us in our need. It was joy that brought Him to suffering at the hands of sinners as we are. Joy that drew Him to the cross to suffer on behalf of the world. Because this is the work of God, in Christ, for us. Amen.



Peter said...

Simply wonderful. Thanks so much, Paul!

rev.will said...

Thanks! and you're welcome!