The Indwelling Word


Biblical Text: John 6:51-69
Full Sermon Draft

This is the third and last sermon on the “Bread of Life Discourse” in John 6. The typical and easiest way to understand the entire discourse where Jesus says we must eat his flesh and drink his blood is as a reference to the Lord’s Supper. That isn’t wrong, but we do have to ignore that fact that when Jesus said it the crowds who heard it had no recourse to the sacrament. What this sermon attempts to do is proclaim the gospel from this most perplexing text with the sacrament not as first resource but as an gift that embodies for all time the truth.

What I latch onto is Jesus’ embellishment of eating the flesh and blood as the gateway or image of Christ abiding or indwelling in us. Just as the Father dwells in Christ or Christ as the perfect icon of the Father, by eating Christ he dwells in us. Creation has always been about building a dwelling place or a temple for God. In Christ we have the perfect temple, and we are made the living stones as God dwells in us. As Christ is the icon of God, we become the body of Christ and icon of a sort (although that might be a little strong this side of the New Jerusalem). That flesh and spirit incarnation is always a scandal to the world which wants to keep them separate.

Yet as Peter says – these are the words of eternal life. The second part of the gospel explored is Peter sequence where we believe first and then come to know. We must eat first – take Christ into us – to know. The body and blood of Christ give us a sure foundation. We can know because he is the bread that has come down. If we keep it outside of us, we can’t know. Belief comes first and it is belief from the heart.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Ezekiel 38:1-23 and Romans 7:1-20

Ezekiel 38:1-23
Romans 7:1-20
Old Testament Apocalyptic – Gog & Magog edition
Paul’s complex understanding of the human (flesh, mind, soul)

Images, Art, Kitsch, Beauty, Doctrine and the Christian Tradition

HT: Houses of Worship in the WSJ
On this past good Friday a painter that you probably know died – Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light. You know, the guy who painted thousands of very pretty overly light filled cottages, houses and other landscapes. Franklin Graham commissioned Kinkade to paint a cross/crucifixion painting for the Billy Graham library. Depending upon your pre-existing thoughts about Kinkade you might either have that sinking feeling or an already natural uplifting expectation. Here is that picture.

Kinkade used to like to say in defense of his work, “I like to portray a world without the fall”. That is a big problem when it comes to painting a cross. But Kinkade is far from alone. I want to bring up a couple of cross scenes from a prior generation’s popular culture – the scene of Christian seeing the cross in Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan.

Maybe not to the same extent as Kinkade, but you get that same visual impression. The otherworldly light. The slightly twee sense of cleanliness. The absence of the body from the cross. Superficially enticing, but yet there is something missing. Something not quite right.

And that is probably the tie to doctrine and an ancient heresy – Docetism. Docetism was the belief that Jesus’ body wasn’t really real. Since Jesus was God, and God is Spirit that whole flesh thing must have just been an illusion along with the cross and passion. The church and society moves in a docetic direction anytime the reality of the physical is denied. If your god could not take on flesh and be born of the virgin Mary, then this flesh stuff is substandard. The church specifically moves in that direction when the deity of Christ is emphasized to the exclusion of the humanity. That goes part and parcel with the belief that I’m escaping this world for the joys of heaven. There is a truth implanted in there, but it also obscures the central proclamation of the church. Our hope is not in heaven. Our hope is in the resurrection. The resurrection is the recreation of all flesh, a putting back together of body and spirit which had been separated by the fallen world. A separation that we can feel and experience before the final one as our bodies age. But that flesh is not substandard; it is fallen. And God intends to recreate, to resurrect.

Here is another image – the Grunewald Altarpiece. Until we can find beauty in this, we have not grasped the core of the message of Jesus.

Witness of the Spirit

Full Text

The core metaphor of the gospel in the text for the day (Rom 8:12-17) was adoption. We have been adopted and made heirs of God. And that is important. We sang Children of the Heavenly Father as the opening and the hymns carried that message throughout the service. But, that doesn’t seem to me to be Paul’s main point in the text. In Romans 7, which we looked at the last two weeks, especially last week, Paul is meditating on the role of the law in the Christian’s life. And he ends on a depressing note. I serve the law in my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. In and through the law itself I have no ability to keep it. The law is weak. What then is the answer to the law?

The answer is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God has placed his Spirit in us which wars against the sin in our body. The power of the Spirit gives us the ability to strive after the law. It is not to our credit. We are debtors to the Spirit. But, all who are led by the Spirit are children of God and put to death the deeds of the body, and they will live. But even though we are debtors, we are debtors as a child is a debtor to a Father. It is written off the moment of the expenditure.

Using real old words, we mortify the flesh. We do that through the Spirit. And if you are wondering about that Spirit, Paul points at four ways we can observe it. Read the sermon to find out…