By Nelson Okanya Erb Mennonite Church, August 19, 2012
Hallelujah! I give thanks to GOD with everything I’ve got—
Wherever good people gather, and in the congregation.
God’s works are so great, worth A lifetime of study—endless enjoyment!
Splendor and beauty mark his craft; His generosity never gives out.
His miracles are his memorial— This GOD of Grace, this God of Love.
He gave food to those who fear him, He remembered to keep his ancient promise.
He proved to his people that he could do what he said:
Hand them the nations on a platter—a gift!
He manufactures truth and justice;
All his products are guaranteed to last—
Never out-of-date, never obsolete, rust-proof.
All that he makes and does is honest and true:
He paid the ransom for his people,
He ordered his Covenant kept forever.
He’s so personal and holy, worthy of our respect.
The good life begins in the fear of GOD—
Do that and you’ll know the blessing of GOD.
His Hallelujah lasts forever (Ps 111 (The Message) !
The Psalmist expresses joyful praise to God for God’s wondrous deeds and attributes. Among the wonders of God in this psalm are: freedom from slavery (the Exodus), God’s covenant faithfulness, provision in the wilderness and the gift of land. The attributes of the lord named here are faithfulness, righteousness, honor, graciousness, mercy and provision. In light of all these, the psalmist urges the worshippers to fear of the LORD for it is the beginning of wisdom and all who practice the fear of the Lord have a good understanding (Ps. 111:10). Fear of the Lord does not mean the instinctual response to potential danger, as we know it, it instead means “both the experience of awe and the irresistible attraction to the graciousness of God.” says Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad.
Who better embodies wisdom and understanding of God than Jesus our Lord! And to him we turn as he is portrayed in John chapter 6. But before I talk about Jesus, let me make a statement on my sermon title. Mennonites are known for their hospitality and wonderful potlucks. Jessica and I enjoy potlucks in fact we enjoy it so much that our wedding reception in Virginia was a potluck meal. There is something wonderful about enjoying a meal together. In fact God seem to relate with God’s people through meals; the Passover meal of deliverance from slavery, the communion meal that we practice as a remembrance of Jesus and the final promised kingdom banquet that all are invited to.
John 6 is a Passover setting and therefore the theme of bread is very appropriate. But before we go to that let us remember that John introduces Jesus as the word of God who became flesh and lived among us who was full of grace and truth (Jon. 1:14). He is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Jon. 1:29). Here in John 6, the bread theme dominates. Jesus feeds a multitude and then refers to himself as the bread of life. Bread was not a new thing for the people of God. In fact earlier in the chapter people challenged Jesus to perform a miracle and invoked Moses as the miracle worker who provided bread. But Jesus corrected them by telling them that it was actually not Moses who gave their ancestors bread in the wilderness but rather that it was God who did so although people who ate that bread died. At times in the church we can become comfortable and complacent and feel settled in our story and our traditions. But to walk in wisdom as Jesus did could mean a challenge to such a posture among God’s people. As Mennonites, we are known for our wonderful cooking and great potlucks as I said before already; the challenge today is who are you being hospitable to?
An example of Mennonite hospitality at Vision Columbia…..
God chose to be incarnated in human flesh (6:51). In what ways are you incarnating the gospel in your neighborhood? Jesus reminded his people that the bread of history was no longer simply a symbol of the past which they could talk gloriously about as the Psalmist did in Psalm 111. This bread was actually among them, God had come among them and this time the bread was no ordinary bread. This bread was for the whole world and those who partake of it are guaranteed everlasting life; they will be raised up.
But what Jesus said about the bread scandalized his disciples. Jesus was changing their story right in front of them,” How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (6:52). As if this was not offensive enough, Jesus went further in his offense,” Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (6:53). For context, read (Lev 17:10-14). Even worse yet, Jesus spoke about eating his flesh, using the word that describes a wild animal gnawing or grinding his teeth on a bone. The word for audible chomping down is used four times in these verses (6:54, 56, 57, 58). This is not just some spiritualized reality; it is very bodily, in the eating and drinking, Jesus is truly united with his followers and it is in this vine and branches abode that we bear fruit.
What implication do these words have for you Erb Mennonite? What implications do they have for us at EMM? Who do we invite to the meal?
Remember, it was a Passover setting; it was the time when God was celebrated and remembered as deliverer and the provider. It was the time to remember the provisions in the wilderness. But, unlike its prototype of manna, this bread present in Jesus’ flesh is pure promise: “The one who gnaws on this bread will live for ever” (6:58). So when we come to the table and we hear the words, the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, this is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way he took the cup also, after supper saying, this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, Do this, as often as you drink it in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
What happens at this unforgettable potluck where Jesus is both guest and host? What memories of Jesus come to mind? Can you imagine the disciples talking about what they remembered? How about the healing of the demoniac, what about the leper, the blind man, the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus’ daughter, what about the storm that scared all of them? What about world hunger, people who have not had a chance to hear the gospel? How about our family members that are non believers how about his words, “as the father as sent me so I send you?
What a meal? What unforgettable meal, what a potluck! Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me…Those who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6:56-57). What is God’s call to us today as embodied people of God?