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The Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

8 August 2021


[We were pleased this day to welcome Mr. Jack Driver, our pastoral intern from Ridley Hall, Cambridge, as our Guest Preacher.] Jesus said: “No-one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” What brought you here today? Maybe you are here out of habit, or maybe something or perhaps someone made you come here this morning. Maybe, you just want somewhere to belong. I’ve been in my fair share of churches and maybe you are like me and sometimes when you step foot in a new Church it doesn’t always necessarily feel like you are meant to be there. In fact, I can recall countless occasions of entering a Church building only to feel like someone who doesn’t belong (of course that is definitely not what we felt last week when we came for the first time!) Maybe the feeling of not belonging is due to a difference of belief, or a difference of approach to worship, nevertheless the feeling of being on the outside is a very challenging feeling to shake off. Sometimes feeling like we don’t belong comes like a rushing feeling similar to the one you may have when you suddenly realise that the F on the door meant FEMALE not Ferfi, or when 30 minutes into a seminar realising you are in completely the wrong room and rather than being in a seminar on New Testament Greek you seem to be in the middle of a seminar on French Literature.. not that either of those two realities are something that I have had to experience! *cough cough* In our second reading today, speaking to a fractured Christian community, Paul invokes the church to become “Imitators of God, as children of God” [Eph 5:1]. Does this mean that as those reading these words today we are supposed to find some hidden key to a wardrobe that helps us copy Jesus and simply fit it? As if somewhere in a building like this there is a special collection of t-shirts that help mark us off as Christians from everyone else, similar to the John 3:16 T-shirts that some people choose to wear. Our reading this morning remind us of how the people of Israel wandered through the wilderness sustained by the daily miracle of the manna bread. Today, though, Christ reminds us of the miraculous gift that He provides through the Holy Spirit... the daily right to be children of God. Page 1 of 3

Yes, we could speak of how Christ reveals here some of the mystery of eternity, of the mystery of what is unseen, but today perhaps Christ is drawing our attention to what is seen. To be the bread of life means to be that which sustains and nourishes the believer. But, and this is important, this bread is not for the one who approaches this gift as though it were a possession, a birth right or something to be entitled. Or we could put it this way, This bread of like does not BELONG to us, WE belong to it! In this context, what to make of Paul’s charge do not make room for the devil (Eph 4:27)? I wonder if today this means not allowing the thoughts to come in that for some reason or other someone doesn’t belong, as though membership within a community is something exclusive and illusive. I can think of times where that person has come to Church on a Sunday and the secret prayer I have prayer is “Please Lord do not let them sit near me!” Or other times when a person comes in wearing attire that would not stand out in a night club on a Friday but for Sunday best they just look out of place. It is within the meandering of these thoughts that I am reminded of who Christ is speaking to in this passage, those referred to as ‘them’. Who is the them? Simply put, the “THEM” is not the religious elite, nor is it the chosen twelve disciples (although of course they may have been present). No, the ‘them’ is the crowd compiled of those who were following Jesus and those who, when seeing Jesus, could only recall the young little boy who was the son of the carpenter. For how many of us know that memories of yesterday can so often shape what we see today? To us reading today we see Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, the miracle worker. But to ‘them’ He was just the boy they knew growing up, the young one, the one who is easy to understand and put in a box, or put another way, the one who knew His place! For in those days a person could not simply climb the social ladder. As a matter of fact, there is even more offence in this passage because someone from the lowest places of society could not claim to be “I am”, ego eimi. Within this simple Greek phrase, Jesus is stating something significant. He is saying that He is God. In Exodus 3:16 we see the account of Moses encountering the bush that was on fire but not burning. The bush was a sign of the presence of the “I am” [The name that God tells Moses “I am the I am”, or in Greek the same EGO EIMI]. This fire reminds us that God does not need, God may reveal Himself in a way that seems dependent, like a fire dependent upon wood. But reference to the bush burning but not being consumed, shows God doesn’t need. And here in todays passage, while it is important for us to be reminded of His heritage, it is not Christ that needs Joseph and Mary, it is not Christ who needs sustaining, for He is the bread of life. He is the sustainer, the nourisher, the One whom does not need who is not dependent. Jesus Christ cannot become a possession of ‘them’. Once more, the ‘them’ are those who have a fixed mindset of who Jesus is, those who from the perspective of the disciples couldn’t understand, couldn’t get it, who just didn’t belong. Page 2 of 3

And still, to these people Christ says, “No-one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” What if today we see that, while their motives may be unclear, the higher truth in this passage is that the significance is not in the state of “them” but Christ’s relationship with God His Father, and the reality that to simply be with Christ is not something achievable by the individual. We face the impossible if we try to take this bread of life. The reference to Manna reminded His hearers not just of the faithfulness of God providing for His people, but also of the error of the people who attempted to store up tomorrow that which is given for today. Christ the Manna is the bread that is given not taken. The bread that is self-sustaining. The bread that is a miraculous gift. So be imitators of Christ. What does this mean? It means to seek not to take, to receive and not store up. It means not looking at the one who may look out of place as though they are in the wrong place. For the fact is, that deep down none of us belong by birthright, But as Christ says that “No-one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me”, those who come, which includes you and includes me, simply belong. When Paul tells us in 4:32 to be kind to one another, perhaps today this kindness looks as simple as welcoming the other with loving arms, recognising that they belong here. There is not a THEM and US in the economy of God, there is HIM and US. One family. One people. So be reminded that to become imitators of God as children of God, means to remember that as no-one can come unless called by the Father, the fact that you are here today means you are called by the Father. The good news that by virtue of just being here in community today means that you belong.

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