Sermon for Lent Midweek 2

Sermon for Lent Midweek 2

(Transcribed by machine 04/07/2024)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
In John 6, on the occasion of the Passover festival, Jesus says,
I am the living bread come down from heaven.
If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.
And the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.
world. What is this life of the world? If Christ is giving us something we didn’t have
already, what is this thing we think we call life? How is it different? Is the life of
the world something in the future, a promise to be attained only when we die? Is it the
addition of some kind of spiritual dimension to our otherwise physical and
secular lives. In tonight’s reading, John 15 to 17, spoken right after he
institutes his Holy Supper and shortly before he’s betrayed, Jesus tells us
about this life he gives by his death, the life that is only possible because
of his death, the divine life for which humanity was created, but which humanity
tragically forfeited for death in the Garden of Eden. Jesus says, I am the vine
and my father is the vine dresser. Abide in me. You cannot bear fruit unless you
are in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in
him bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing.” Jesus’ words remind us of
the very first words ever spoken to humanity immediately after the Holy
Trinity made man in his image to be like himself, be fruitful. I don’t take this
to be a reference to procreation because God goes on to say unmultiply.
Procreation is a way of being fruitful and it does beautifully mirror the
life-giving Trinity, as does marriage, but there’s something more fundamental to
this blessing in paradise. Man, created in the image of God, is to be fruitful, to
grow, to increase. The life of the world is a life that is lived. Man was created
to be branches of the vine for life to flow from God to man to neighbor. And man
was created to hunger for God, to depend upon God, and to bless God for what he
receives from him. It is no coincidence then that the fall of mankind created to
be fruitful centered around fruit. To take the fruit not given by God for
oneself, is to cut off the branch from the vine. It is to love the world as an
end in itself. It is to reduce the sacred to the profane. It is to snatch the world
away from the life-giving God. Adam and all his offspring were severed from the
vine of life. Adam is now a vine that bears no fruit. You are dust, and to dust
you shall return. As the prophet Isaiah says, God planted a vineyard and looked
for justice, but behold, bloodshed. And he looked for righteousness, but behold,
outcry. With the fall into sin we are motivated by selfishness and
self-preservation. We would rather take the fruit that God forbids than receive
what he freely gives. We would rather preserve our life than lose it. We would
rather kill than be a martyr. But a new sacred fruit has come. Jesus, the bread
from heaven, for the life of the world to give life through his innocent death,
through his own loving selfless sacrifice. And it is this fruitfulness
which Christ manifests throughout his earthly life as we look at Jesus in the
and we see the perfect image of God, humanity as it’s always intended to be.
As we see Jesus, we see the life of the world lived. Just a few chapters earlier
in John, Jesus says, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it
remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses
it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Christ’s death is fruitful. He is the vine, you are the branches, and this life is so
different from the life that Adam passed on to his children. Greater love has no
one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. In Christ, life as
the world knows it, is brought to an end.
The devil says, turn these stones into bread,
and Christ says, my food is to do the will of the Father.
He manifests the life-giving will of God
and the life of humanity as it should be.
And so it is no coincidence, again,
that Jesus is soon to bring his disciples to a garden,
that the Creator is soon to bend down to the dust and speak words of life, and
that the perfect man is soon to say, not my will but thy will be done. Abide in
this new Adam, beloved, and in his words so full of life. The devil wants you to
love yourself above all else, to enslave you to the world, to threaten you, to
make you feel like you’re bad and evil if you deny yourself, but Christ frees
you from the slavery of self-preservation. If the world hates you,
you know that it hated me. If they persecuted you, if they persecuted me,
they will persecute you. This is what we celebrated on Ash Wednesday. The ashes
say that no diet, exercise, medicine, or amount of money is going to reduce the
effects of sin, but the ashes traced in the shape of the cross upon your
baptized foreheads tell where your confidence lies, the fount of the life of
the world, the vine of which you are the branches. The one who goes to the Father
goes to prepare a place for you, and he sends you the helper. For the Son does
not go to the Father to leave us as orphans. The Son goes to the Father to
join us to the Father, to bring the Father and the church together in one
fellowship. It is to your advantage that I go away, Jesus says. It must be this way
for the Father to make us his children. We need the Spirit. When the Spirit of
the truth has come, that is the Spirit of Jesus, he will guide you into all truth.
The Spirit leads you to the cross to see that this is how God manifests himself.
This is to lead you into the truth. This is to live the life of the world, to
believe that no one comes to the Father except through the Son, to believe that
the branches bear no fruit apart from the vine. The concluding part of Jesus’
speech before they go to the garden, before they get there, is his prayer to
the Father. I pray that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in
you, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me,
and the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one, just as
we are one, I in them, you in me, that they may be made perfect and one.
I want us to recall again the creation of man.
After creating the world, saying, this is good, this is good, this is good, God says
it is not good for man to be alone.
When God speaks of this fundamental loneliness,
he’s not just talking about companionship
as important as that is.
If we just needed more people,
there would be no lonely people in the world anymore.
From the beginning, we were meant to be one with God.
And our oneness with each other is always supposed to be
because we’re one with God.
Hear the words of Saint Paul.
The two shall become one flesh.
this mystery is profound, and I’m saying that it refers to Christ and his church.
The oneness that we are created for is found only in our communion with Christ.
Just as Jesus is one with the Father according to his divinity, he is one with
us according to his humanity. Our wholeness is only in communion with
Christ, who opens up to us the oneness of the Trinity as it embraces all of
humanity, and there’s no room left for loneliness, guilt, anything that divides
you from each other. Christ gives himself for the life of the world, and here we
are one. In Christ’s life in all its totality, its wholeness, its oneness,
everything that’s lost and broken is given back. A great mystery indeed. Who
could have ever imagined that the creation story depicts the union of
Christ hanging on the cross and his bride drawing life from his wounds as
branches of a vine? What groom has there ever been who seals his marriage by his
death? And what bride has there ever been who loves and adores and clings to a
crucified one as her husband.
This is no escape from the world.
This is the life of the world.
Heaven on earth.
Jesus does not pray to take us out of the world.
He overcomes the world.
And here in church, we have communion.
Where food ceases to be an idol,
but becomes what it was always meant to be,
communion with God.
It’s a sacrament of joy, that Christ’s joy may remain in us his bride, and that
our joy may forever be in him, a joy no one can take away.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, the psalmist says, but steadfast love
surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O
righteous, and shout for joy all you upright in heart. In the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen.