The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16, Year B)

“God’s Love, Sacrifice, and Salvation”

A sermon from our Deacon, Dinushka De Silva

John 6:56-69

Jesus’s words are striking today. They are shocking to many of his followers who cannot understand him and even to many of us today.

Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and…died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Today’s reading in the Gospel of John is central to our faith and theology. Its words are a metaphor for sacrifice and salvation. Jesus Christ is the bread of life, the bread that will not rot, that will not be thrown away … it is life giving for all of eternity.

We do not literally partake in eating the flesh and drinking the blood. We partake in the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We willingly accept, like the few disciples that stayed loyal to Jesus, that God will sacrifice Himself for our salvation.

Each service the bread symbolizes the body of Jesus and the wine symbolizes the blood of Jesus. With each Eucharistic celebration we call forth upon the Holy Spirit to transform the simple elements into sacred substances beyond bread and wine that will further connect us to God our Father. Through this blessed meal we are reminded that we abide in God and God abides in us.

So why must God do this for us? Why must Jesus give up his flesh and blood for us? Why do we need salvation through sacrifice?

Jesus gave us that answer in the parable of the lost sheep. He said, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he…says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

WE are the lost sheep. Except there isn’t just one of us, we are hundreds and thousands of lost sheep. God didn’t want to save just one. He wanted to save hundreds and thousands of the lost.

And what causes us to be lost? Lies, Stealing, Murder, Cheating, Turning our backs to LOVE. Refusing to Love others. Refusing to Love ourselves.

God said, “You are worth dying for. I will give everything of myself, including my human form of a life to find you and pull you out of despair.”

Your despair comes from abiding with evil, with cruelty, with unkindness, with selfishness, but I will cover you in Unconditional Love and give of myself so that I may abide in you and you in me.

This is the story of God who sees His children are constantly falling and don’t know how to get up. Rather than waiting for them to get up on their own, God walks over and pulls us up every single time we fall.

If you are a parent who loves your child unconditionally, then you know you would be willing to give everything, including possibly your own life to save your child.

And when you have seen that your child time and time again struggles to do right, you do all in your power to help them live well, live with purpose, live with love.

So you must show the ultimate example of love, which is sacrifice. Sometimes it is sacrifice of time, sometimes it is sacrifice of money, and sometimes it is even sacrifice of your own life.

Recently I came across a Pinterest post, I believe from the famous Dr. Laura, that moved me. It said, “Children shouldn’t have to sacrifice so that you can have the life you want. You make sacrifices so your children can have the life that they deserve.”

God willingly sacrificed so that we can have the eternal life we deserve.

With the sacrifice and salvation of Jesus Christ, mankind no longer had to sacrifice their animals, their children, or give up their harvest to atone for their mistakes and sins.

Instead we would be forgiven with mercy and grace and given a chance to renew our lives, change our choices in order to walk towards God’s Love.

Perhaps the hardest part for some of us is that we don’t want to feel that we need any salvation to begin with. We want to express our independence.

We want to take care of ourselves and not feel as vulnerable as a child or a lost sheep. We want to be our own heroes.

Well as a hospital chaplain, I truly have met remarkable human heroes who put their fears aside and walk into danger to save patients struggling with COVID.

I am a chaplain not only to patients of varied backgrounds and faiths but also a chaplain to staff who need emotional and spiritual support.

During this COVID time period, I have seen staff accept their vulnerability even more so and accept that they can’t predict what the future may hold.

I’d like to share a story, some of the details have been changed to protect the privacy of my colleague. I know one young doctor who is a genius in her field. She use to always joke around about religion and play some funny pranks on the chaplains, telling them that she heard the devil in the ICU!

We laughed with her. She wasn’t religious. She was a good doctor with compassion for her patients.

She, however, thought that she still could control life and death in her hands with her medications and the support of good medical equipment and good nursing staff.

COVID forced her to change her understanding about human life and death. She began to see how vulnerable we all are, and how like small children we can get when faced with a huge wave of uncertainty and illness.

Amongst the COVID patients she lost, one them was her twin brother. She had to grieve amongst a sea of COVID patients.

Thoughts of eternal life and faith began to come to her. One day as I was doing my rounds, she came up to me and asked how I could this job?

“All you see chaplain is death. How can you bear it?”

I told her, “Because of my faith doctor. Because of my faith I accept death. I believe I will always have life. And I believe this for others too.”

She nodded her head and then asked, “Chaplain do you know of a good church nearby?”

I will never know if she went to any church. I don’t know if she is even called to Christianity. Perhaps Buddhism or Islam might be a better fit for her. Because not everyone will believe that Jesus Christ is the bread of life. But we here know he is our salvation. He is God’s Incarnate Love sacrificed for us. And we accept this mystery.

Either way this doctor has accepted her vulnerability. She knows she can’t always be the hero who can save every life.

We know here that we can’t always be the hero who saves lives either, but our faith tells us that Jesus Christ can save us. Through his sacrifice is salvation for all. We can lean on God to carry us through the darkness of this life and one day walk us into eternal life. Amen.