People start coming to church for essentially two reasons; they either consider that something good happened to them, or they consider that something bad happened to them. Each option has a significantly different perspective. And either event can take people down significantly different paths.
The Gospel text for this Sunday [John 6:35-51] continues with the results of the feeding of the 5000, the details of which are only found in the Gospel according to John. The results are interesting after this extremely good thing happened to them—that they all were fed with just a few loaves of bread and a couple fish.
On the previous Sunday, the gospel text focused on the bread that was given. On the following Sunday, the gospel text will focus on the action of eating that bread. In the middle, quite appropriately, Jesus is focusing on himself. He is bringing in language about what he does, who he is, where he comes from, and who sent him.
That is, admittedly, a great topic to preach about. But that is, admittedly, not always what people want to hear about. If they are coming to church because something good happened, maybe they are starting to think that they are relatively good, if they have tried really hard. Maybe they would like to hear about more good things that are coming their way—since they have been so good!
It is always good regularly to go over the basics, the essentials of what it means to be a Christian. The nice thing about the Divine Service is that it goes over the basics in the section sometimes titled ‘Preparation’. The Introit is actually the first part of the service (the word ‘Introit’ means ‘entrance’). The Confession and Absolution is part of the action which helps prepare the Christian—no matter what the previous week may have been like—to receive the Lord’s gifts. After Confession and Absolution, everyone starts over in the exact same place.
Jesus continues to feed the crowds who cannot stop following him. In verse 40 of this Sunday’s text, Jesus says, ‘…everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life….’ In verse 47, Jesus says, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.’ After you compare the two verses, you might ask, regarding the second one, ‘Believes in what, Jesus?’ It is more specific than that. Jesus starts that second verse with his extremely unique way of talking. Jesus wants people to believe in his WORDS.
In our world today, words can be mislabeled, misused, and greatly misunderstood. Words can also be very loving, caring, and upbuilding. With Jesus behind them, they are re-creating.