Temptation and Advice

One Bread, One Body

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 10:14 So then, my dear friends, run away from the worship of false gods! 15 I’m talking to you like you are sensible people. Think about what I’m saying. 16 Isn’t the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn’t the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread. 18 Look at the people of Israel. Don’t those who eat the sacrifices share from the altar? 19 What am I saying then? That food sacrificed to a false god is anything, or that a false god is anything? 20 No, but this kind of sacrifice is sacrificed to demons and not to God. I don’t want you to be sharing in demons. 21 You can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you can’t participate in the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

O (Observation): Paul has a lot to say about a lot of things. He usually has a theological point, followed by a very practical application of what the people are facing.

One bread, one cup, one body. That’s the main thing.

So, if you eat bread or drink when it was blessed to a demon??? What does that say about your intentions? The demon means nothing to us as believers, but what is the statement you’re siblings in Christ will receive?

Are you divided in loyalty? Will that temptation be resisted by you? Likely not.

No need to be playing in dangerous territory. Not that we believe demons or other powers are stronger than the Lord. But know this…dancing in that dangerous territory can be quite taxing.

A (Application): Paul likes to give advice to his followers. He built a rapport with them. They knew him. And he could be quite challenging to them. And what he addresses are sometimes universal issues and are sometimes unique issues to a place and time.

So, where do we place Paul’s prohibition? In the realm of salvation? Or in the realm of advice for followers of Jesus? In this case, I choose “advice.” Paul knows that demons are no match for Jesus. He just wants us to know what we are getting into. We can easily let demons and other temptations cloud our hearts and minds and therefore bend our allegiance away from God and neighbor (and towards evil).

Our good news is that whether or not we succumb to the temptations of this life, we always have a God who wishes for us to know unity with God and with our neighbor. Whatever challenges or temptations awaiting us (and we will succumb to them from time to time) we rest assured that our one-ness with God can never be shattered.

P (Prayer): Lord, make us one…give us strength and grace. Amen.

Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Stride

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S (Scripture): John 6:47 Jesus responds to the Jewish opposition: “I assure you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that whoever eats from it will never die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

O (Observation): The Bread of Life. Living Bread. What vivid images are brought to mind. The bread is “living” insofar as it brings life to those who partake of it. Eternal life!

Jesus was surely disturbing those of the faith with this new teaching. Jesus was trying to help them see that the Law (doing what is righteous) drives one to the Gospel (salvation, forgiveness). Eating bread sustains for a time. Eating the Bread of Life lasts forever. And this is a free gift!

A (Application): So why do we – as Christians – make such a fuss over how we understand the Bread of Life to work? Why does one style of Communion distribution work better than another?

Or, why does one type of baptism “count” while others don’t? Is that not a stumbling block?

Why does one group of Christians – doing God’s work – feel it necessary to condemn another group of Christ-followers who are also doing God’s work?

Perhaps our call as Christians is to focus a bit more outward, instead of inward.

This outward focus is embedded in our vision statement at the congregation I serve: “We are called to walk closely with God, discover the gifts God has given us, and welcome and accept all people.” As that last part states, we strive to welcome and accept all people. That’s a wide range of folks, so we narrow it down to make real from time to time. Whether this be LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities, the homeless, etc. we find ways to live out our vision in our community.

We may receive condemnation, but as long as we receive the Bread of Life, nothing stands in our way of doing God’s work here in this place.

P (Prayer): Lord, sustain us for you are the Bread of Life. Amen.

What Do I Do Now?

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S (Scripture): John 6:26 Jesus replied, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. 27 Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Human One will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”

28 They asked, “What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?”

29 Jesus replied, “This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent.”

30 They asked, “What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

O (Observation): The crowd of 5,000 has had their fill of loaves and fish. Now they believe another sign is required for them to do God’s work.

The work, Jesus says, is much more simple than even that. Simply believe that Jesus (God’s Son) was sent by God. They don’t like that though. They feel the need to DO something.

A (Application): Why do we always feel the need to DO something to work towards salvation? Jesus says the work is simply starting with the belief that God is already at work.

Any work we do is based on the fact that God has already done the work of forgiveness and reconciling us to God. Jesus has taken the power of sin and has overcome it.

Now, we are free to move about the world following our callings for the sake of God’s work. We are set free from saving ourselves – Jesus does that for us. We are set free for meeting the needs of those around us.

In this, we have our freedom.

P (Prayer): Lord, keep me believing in your Son. Amen

Even Joy, in Disbelief

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S (Scripture): Mark 8:14 Jesus’ disciples had forgotten to bring any bread, so they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 He gave them strict orders: “Watch out and be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees as well as the yeast of Herod.”

16 The disciples discussed this among themselves, “He said this because we have no bread.”

17 Jesus knew what they were discussing and said, “Why are you talking about the fact that you don’t have any bread? Don’t you grasp what has happened? Don’t you understand? Are your hearts so resistant to what God is doing? 18  Don’t you have eyes? Why can’t you see? Don’t you have ears? Why can’t you hear? Don’t you remember? 19  When I broke five loaves of bread for those five thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?”

They answered, “Twelve.”

20 “And when I broke seven loaves of bread for those four thousand people, how many baskets full of leftovers did you gather?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 Jesus said to them, “And you still don’t understand?”

O (Observation): The disciples just witnessed Jesus feeding 5,000 and 4,000. Now they are headed off to other ministries…but when they got on the boat they only had 1 loaf of bread.

<Puts on sarcastic face on and drones on in sarcastic tone:>

Whatever would they do!

<shakes head>

Not only do the disciples not put 2 and 2 together…they are now like the Pharisees…not understanding that God is doing a work through Jesus. That God is bringing heaven to earth. Each are blinded in their own way.

A (Application): How many times have we witnessed or experienced God’s presence? And yet, when times get tough…we still doubt.

Does that mean we are terrible Christians? Absolutely not! We are like the Pharisees and we are like the disciples, both groups failing to completely understand what God is up to.

Perhaps part of our unbelieving is that we just can’t comprehend how magnificent our God is. Sometimes, when we are beaten down by this world, we think God has forgotten about us. Or worse, when the Church beats people down, we fail at carrying the grace-filled mysteries of our great God.

Let us repent so that our lack of faith may be acknowledged. Let us repent, so that God may fill our broken and contrite hearts. That we might somehow experience joy in the midst of our unbelief.

And then, let us take action to respond to care for those who are pushed to the margins and be grace and hope for them…even in our imperfect nature.

P (Prayer): Lord, make me whole. Amen.

How Absurd!

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S (Scripture): Mark 6:33 Many people saw [Jesus and the disciples] leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

35 Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. 36 Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

37 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?”

38 He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate until they were full. 43 They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. 44 About five thousand had eaten.

O (Observation): The crowd recognizes that Jesus has some significant power and teaching for them. They wish to receive his wisdom and his healing.

As 5,000 had gathered, they hadn’t made dinner plans. Jesus’ disciples wish for them to be sent away to get their own dinner. Jesus makes sure they eat : )

Jesus asks the disciples to gather what they have, he blesses it, and all 5,000 are fed!

I love how Jesus takes what the disciples ALREADY HAVE and blesses THAT. With that blessed bread and fish, all are fed. The disciples never had to look further than what they already had…and Jesus uses PRECISELY that possession to bless the crowd.

A (Application): How are you already equipped for ministry? What is it about you that God has blessed and used for the good of others? Your money? Your pen? Your voice?

Think back to Moses and Aaron. They were not asked to take a huge test or scavenge for weapons or anything. They were simply to speak on God’s behalf. Even the staff Moses had…God used.

How far do we have to go to think about what God can use in me? In you?

Are we afraid? Do we doubt? Perhaps. That would make us normal. If we believe…that makes us weird…that’s absurd. Which may be the idea all along.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you bless what has already been given to us. Amen.

Guns. Sustenance. God.

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S (Scripture): Matthew 15:32 Now Jesus called his disciples and said, “I feel sorry for the crowd because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry for fear they won’t have enough strength to travel.”

33 His disciples replied, “Where are we going to get enough food in this wilderness to satisfy such a big crowd?”

34 Jesus said, “How much bread do you have?”

They responded, “Seven loaves and a few fish.”

35 He told the crowd to sit on the ground. 36 He took the seven loaves of bread and the fish. After he gave thanks, he broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 Everyone ate until they were full. The disciples collected seven baskets full of leftovers. 38 Four thousand men ate, plus women and children.

O (Observation): This is the feeding of the 4,000. The feeding of the 5,000 came just a few verses earlier. The two feeding stories are very similar, calling forth an image of abundance in the midst of scarcity. The story is also about Jesus providing for those who have very little in their current circumstances. Because of his compassion, Jesus wishes for the crowd to be sustained.

And from their midst, they bring forth loaves and fish…just a few. But Jesus blesses their meager resources and makes it enough for all to eat…with 7 baskets leftover.

A (Application): Another mass shooting…in a school. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Emptiness. Scarcity. Fragile.

Living in the Pit of despair. I couldn’t imagine speaking for the families of the dead and wounded. But as for me, I wallow in doubt and fear. I am empty. I have no words to share that would bring comfort or solace.

Yes, Jesus reigns, but what does that sound like to the parent of a child gunned down in a supposedly safe place? What does this moment mean for them?

From a distance, I can lean on this scripture today…that Jesus will take the meager resources at our disposal, will bless them, and will make sure that all who need sustenance will be sustained.

This sustenance may come as grief counselors, law enforcement officers, nurses, doctors, funeral home staff, friends, family, faith leaders, school teachers and administrators. While the shadow weighs heavy, may God stir up those around the dead and wounded, in order to provide sustenance for the days and weeks ahead.

P (Prayer): Lord, we seek your presence in our troubles times. Amen.

Before Jesus…Elisha

S (Scripture): 2 Kings 4:42 Now a man from Baal Shalisha brought some food for the prophet (Elisha) – twenty loaves of bread made from the firstfruits of the barley harvest, as well as fresh ears of grain. Elisha said, “Set it before the people so they may eat.” 43 But his attendant said, “How can I feed a hundred men with this?” He replied, “Set it before the people so they may eat, for this is what the Lord says, ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” 44 So he set it before them; they ate and had some left over, just as the Lord predicted.

O (Observation): Wait!?!? Jesus wasn’t the only one to feed a multitude!?!?

As Jesus fed the 5,000, he had lifted the bread and blessed it. That action is the key in the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. God blessed the bread and created an abundance.  

And today’s text reminds me that God is the originator of all blessing. Jesus was the full manifestation of God on earth, because God was working through Jesus. And yet, God also worked through the prophets, like Elisha.   

A (Application):  If Elisha can be a conduit for God’s grace, why can’t I?  Well, God can and does work through the likes of you and me.  We simply need to be reminded that the blessing are not ours to give…they are God’s blessings to give.  

Allowing God to shape us and mold us in the waters of baptism and at the Table with bread and wine, we can see that God does abundant work through us.  

In Murfreesboro, we are hoping to engage in some long-term care for the homeless.  Why can’t God work through us?  Well…in fact, God can work through us.  And that’s my hope.  

What is the hope to which you cling?

P (Prayer): Lord, make us a channel of your peace.  Amen.  

Only Through Faith

S (Scripture): John 6:57 [Jesus said:] “Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread your ancestors ate, but then later died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

O (Observation):  What strange words.  How can anyone believe this?  

A (Application):  You can’t.  It’s called faith.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief! Amen!

Farther Than I Know

S (Scripture): John 6:47 Jesus says, “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

O (Observation): Jesus’ followers were looking for a sign to verify that Jesus was the one that God had sent.  They heard his words, but they wanted a sign.   Their ancestors received manna from heaven and they wanted a sign, too.  

This time, though, God gave more than just bread to eat: God gave them the bread of life – Jesus.  All who looked to Jesus for salvation received it.   This makes Jesus the bread that brings forth eternal life.   

Still, though,…to eat the flesh…?

A (Application):  Sometimes a leap of faith is what carries us through.  We plan and budget and prep.   But sometimes, we just reach the end of our rope…and that’s when God really takes over.   

Eat flesh?  Drink blood?   How odd…

What good can a slug of wine and a morsel of bread do me?  Well, it’s more than bread and more than wine…it’s God’s presence and grace in the bread and wine… mysterious… life-giving.    And it’s eternal.  

Being fed in this manner – week in, week out – I have been shaped to believe that my cares and my worries are never too big for God to take on.  And knowing that my wife and children and I are being cared for by our God of grace and mercy, I am able to carry on…unchained from fear and doubt… confident that God is carrying me farther than I know.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, I thank you again for carrying me farther than I know.  Amen.  

Reveal Yourself, Lord 

S (Scripture): Luke 24:30 When [Jesus] had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

O (Observation): This is the tail end of the Road to Emmaus story.  The resurrected Jesus ends up walking with these two men, who are extremely disappointed that Jesus has been crucified.  Their hopes are dashed.  

Jesus starts to open up their hearts a bit.  In v. 27, we hear about what Jesus says to these men on the road: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.”

And for the final reveal, Jesus breaks bread.   In the breaking of the bread, they finally see Jesus for who he is – the Messiah! – in their very presence.  

And just as soon as they grasped this whole experience, Jesus disappears.   So they go and tell others, including the disciples.   These guys have seen Jesus. Simon (Peter) has seen Jesus. The women who went to the tomb heard from the angels that Jesus was raised.   Momentum is picking up…perhaps the Messiah is alive, after all…

A (Application): As a Lutheran, this story resonates deeply with me.  We believe that Christ is in, with, and under the bread and wine at Holy Communion.  We believe that we are close to God in those holy moments.  Jesus is revealed to us – this day – in the breaking of the bread.  

I have begun a study of Martin Luther’s Large Catechism in our adult Sunday School class.   We will discern God’s essence through the Commandments, Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the sacraments.   

In the sacraments, we believe we have a tangible representation of “God with us.”  We believe that Jesus set this meal apart to cleanse us, make us whole, and remind us that Christ is with us on the way.  

Do you ave any stories of Christ being revealed to you “on the road”?

P (Prayer):  Lord, reveal yourself to us, that we might be reminded that you are right beside us on this journey called “life.”  Amen.