PROPERS: PROPER 14, YEAR B
TEXT: JOHN 6:35, 41-51
PREACHED AT HOLY TRINITY, PENSACOLA, ON SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2018.
ONE SENTENCE: Eternal life is about more than life-after-death; it involves a quality of life in the here-and-now.
Teddy Roosevelt was the 26thPresident of the United States – and the youngest ever to serve as the nation’s chief executive.
He had been a sickly-child, suffering from asthma and debilitating fears. He grew to become “a force of nature” – strong, vital, energetic and courageous.
His eldest child, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, once said of him: “He wants to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening.”
Roosevelt had overcome his fears by confronting them. When he had been bullied as a child, he took boxing lessons. If there was something which provoked his fear, he found that acting like he was not afraidultimately overcome the fright.
To put it succinctly: Teddy Roosevelt was a man of action. He believed that action – behavior – authenticated belief.
Roosevelt articulated that viewpoint early in his career, when he was police commissioner in New York City. He said, “I have always had a horror of words that are not translated into deeds, of speech that does not result in action. I believe in realizable ideals and in realizing them, in preaching what can be practiced and then practicing it.”
In other words, our lives should manifest our beliefs – otherwise, words are empty. Walk the walk; don’t just talk the talk.
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A recurring theme in our gospel lessons the last few weeks has been the bread of lifeand its gift of eternal life. Jesus’ own words about the bread of lifeand eternal life are there in our gospel lesson today:
“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
I think, on some level, we know the meaning of Jesus being the bread of life. We certainly do not comprehend it in all its mystical dimensions. But we know that our lives are changed by his presence in our lives and hearts.
But, really, do we?
So often, the gift we are given by taking the bread of life, eternal life, is not fully appreciated.
It seems that much of the civil religious culture of our society has reduced eternal lifeto a single concept: life after death.And that isa profound part and a deep hope each of us has.
It is, indeed, that – but so much more.
In our baptisms, we become fully children of God. That gift of adoption comes with meaning that has eternal ramifications. But we need to realize this dimension to that adoption: We have entered into eternal life at that moment.
Our baptism – and our renewal of our baptismal vows – comes with vows that should have meaningful impact on our lives. The change in status we acknowledge in our baptism means that life should never be the same.
Yes, there are eternal aspects to our baptism and entry into eternal life. We lose so much of the power of eternal life if we see it as only beyond the grave. It should mean something to us now. We have already entered into eternal life.
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Let me share Teddy Roosevelt’s words once more:
“I have always had a horror of words that are not translated into deeds, of speech that does not result in action. I believe in realizable ideals and in realizing them, in preaching what can be practiced and then practicing it.”
The Bread of Lifeshould nourish you – so that you can nourish others. You should embrace eternal life– so that you may share that life with others. Your life should be touched by the hand of the Holy One – so that you may touch others. Your life should be transformed – that you may transform the lives of others.
When we do that – when we walk the walk and not just talk the talk – eternal life actually expands. And life beyond the grave – so much a part of the Christian hope – becomes lagniappe; that is, something extra.