But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. (James 1:22)
For the next few weeks, our New Testament epistle reading us takes into the book of James. Tradition has it that James was Jesus’ brother (Mark 6:30) and the head of the early church (Acts 12:17).
The letter is most probably a circular to all of the churches and is written to encourage the early Christians to put their faith into action. James begins in chapter one by encouraging his readers to be faithful in spite of whatever trials and temptations may come their way and to be thankful for all that God has blessed them with:
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above. (James 1:17)
When the going gets tough, those with not enough faith get going. In our gospel this week we see that, for at least some of the crowd who were following Jesus, things are starting to get a little too serious. The excitement and adventure of journeying with Jesus are one thing. But all this talk about dying and eating flesh and drinking blood are a completely different story. The excitement of all those miracles of healing and free bread are fantastic but all the talk of living lives of sacrifice is not so palatable.
The truth is always the same for those who will be Christ’s followers. This is no easy ride. To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus requires perseverance, stamina and an almighty amount of faith and prayer. The good news is that in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us all we need to be up for the task.
In Ephesians 6:18, Paul encourages us to “pray in the Spirit at all times” and he reminds us of the great armory that God has given us with to help us live our Christian life. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, are all God’s gift to help us stand firm.
When was the last time you dusted yours off?
Till next time,
At the beginning of our parish meeting last week, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to give thanks and praise God for the many blessings we have to be thankful for in our parish and our community.
Our readings this week remind us of the wisdom of giving thanks to God in all things.
Psalm 111 begins with the psalmist singing the praise of God:
As children of God, there is great strength and unity to be found when we stand together in praise before the Lord:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives similar advice:. There is great wisdom, it seems, in being a people of praise:
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:15–20)
In our Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us once again that it is only when we put our trust in Him that we can ever be fully satisfied:
"... I 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.” (John 6:51)
The gift of life we have in Christ is a gift for which we should always be thankful. I pray that the Holy Spirit might give each of us the wisdom to truly know the fullness of blessing that comes from living in His love and to be bearers of that gift to those around us.
Till next time,
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)
In our gospel this week we are reminded once more that Jesus is the “Bread of Life.” Just as we need bread as a staple part of our diet so too we need to include Jesus as the staple part of our lives.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2)
Paul encourages us to be imitators of God and to follow Jesus’ example and live a life of love. So powerful was Jesus’ love for us that he gave up his life that we might have life. In and in return he calls us to love one another in the same way.
So what does it mean for us to be imitators of his love?
Till next time,
The crowd failed to understand when Jesus spoke of "the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world" (John 6:33), so he makes his meaning clear: "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35).
This is the first of a series of "I AM" (Greek: ego eimi) sayings in this Gospel that remind us of the burning bush story. When Moses asked God his name, God replied: "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you' " (Exodus 3:14).
"I am," of course, can be simple self-identification, but in John's Gospel it clearly means more.
"He who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35)
In their forty-year trek through the wilderness, God fed the Israelites manna, teaching them to rely on God for their sustenance. The deeper lesson was "that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh" (Deuteronomy 8:3). Now Jesus makes a similar claim for himself. He will provide for the deepest needs of those who believe in him.
Till next time,
Rev. Andrew Smith
Vicar of Light in the Hills