John 6:35, 41-51 35Jesus said to [the crowd,] “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s title comes directly out of today’s reading from John’s gospel, but after I wrote it down, and after I stepped away from that title for a few hours and came back to it, I realized that many people, possibly even most people, would interpret this title differently that it was intended. I also liked what that different interpretation adds to our understanding of God.
I tried to find a video of someone doing a very quick pencil drawing of a face, preferably the face of a person who could be anyone of any color or gender, but I was unable to find any video of someone drawing a face of any kind in the time frame I desired, because I wanted something much shorter than several minutes.
Then I thought about having someone bring out the white board, or the paper tablet, and doing such a drawing on my own, and displaying how vastly unskilled I am at drawing people… I can make stick figures!
There is a sense, since God is the one who creates each of us using the genetic material of our parents, that our very selves are drawn, depicted as if in pencil, or maybe molded in clay, by the God who creates us… We are drawn by God, in ways that no human artistic rendering can fully capture.
Today’s drawing, from John’s gospel, goes further than that, beyond our being created by God and in God’s image.”
When Jesus speaks of being drawn by God, he’s speaking of something like invitation, only stronger. Sometimes, the word describes one being dragged along, but when used metaphorically, as it is here in John six, it means to draw by inward power, to lead, to impel. “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me,” Jesus says, after telling them to quit murmuring among themselves, putting him down as nothing more than the kid next door.
The saying is that familiarity breeds contempt, and it really does go both ways. Sometimes, we brag in pride when things go well for someone we knew our entire lives… At other times, jealousy kicks in, and we say, “Why him? Why her? Why not me?”
That’s where Jesus was in today’s story, dealing with the jealousies of ordinary people, ordinary people like us.
Why can’t we be as Jesus was? Why can’t we feed 5000 people miraculously without having to spend a year’s wages? Why can’t we cast out demons, or heal with a word and a prayer? Why can’t we walk on water when it’s not frozen by the frigid climates of winter?
When it comes right down to it, that’s rather like what the people were saying in the crowd when they complained about Jesus being just the son of Joseph, whose father and mother they knew, rather than someone who came down from heaven to give life to the world.
When Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me,” some might see that as a taunt, telling the complainers that they weren’t listening to God. Others might see it as an explanation why some just don’t seem to understand God’s love. Right now, I see it as a reassurance, that all who are gathered here today have in some way been drawn by God, invited into faith, and enticed into something greater than the self.
We are, after all, gathered by God as the family of God, children of God, the body of Christ. Because we have been drawn by God into this gathering, we are more than individuals clustered together, and we are called to participate in the invitation.
Our Lock-in of Friday night was rather a surprise. Those who said they’d be coming didn’t, for one reason or another, and we had three young people who came from across the bridge with faith questions… and good things happened here.
Our council is working on how we as a congregation can participate more actively in being part of God’s drawing, part of God’s invitation—for people of this congregation to participate actively as well.
We have been drawn by God, created in God’s image. We have also been drawn by God, invited into God’s presence, God’s family. We are both part of the picture, and part of the action.
Of course, the specific way the council is working is on how we do this as a church, working in community. The action of God in us is more than that, though. Our faith life is not limited to what we do here, within this building or on these grounds. It’s everything. It’s how we interact with family members, neighbors, friends, teachers, community members, coworkers, and even strangers. It’s how we do our job, whether it earns us a wage or not.
We are drawn, invited by God, to be expressions of God’s love here in this world. We are drawn to be part of the invitation drawing others as well.
Our special music this morning invited all creatures to be part of the invitation, all creatures to join in praise. We are drawn by God to draw all creation into God’s presence, and for this we give thanks. In Jesus’ name. Amen