Sunday 12th August: proper 14: Trinity 11
1 Kings 19:4-8
John 6:35, 41-51
In the story of Elijah, where we started this morning we have charted some of the extraordinary contradictions of being human. How frail and fickle and psychologically weak we can be.
A great victory can be a hard cross to bear, especially if everything is then expected to turn out just as the successful person desires, and even a slight disappointment can bring the whole house of cards crashing down and lead to judgements wholly unrealistic in their negativity.
I know myself, and I’m sure I’m not alone, that twenty positive comments can be totally undone by one slightly critical one and lead to a dark and pessimistic mood totally at odds with reality.
The context for this piece is just after Elijah had demonstrated that the God of Israel was more powerful than Baal and had all the prophets of Baal killed.
Whatever you think about that, it was nevertheless a great victory, but Queen Jezebel’s threats against him sworn by these same worthless idols causes him to flee into the desert.
It seems that he no longer trusts the God in whose name he won the contest, he rushes into the desert and he wants to die.
But though he loses his faith and trust in God, God still looks after him and provides sustenance for his journey to Mount Sinai.
We have been exploring the idea of both physical and spiritual sustenance for the journey for a couple of weeks now and it will continue for a couple more so we turn to the ongoing treatise in John’s gospel and I want to draw out just one aspect of John’s theology which is very important to understand
Now if we substitute Elijah’s physical journey to Mount Sinai with our own life journey, what do we substitute for the cakes and water that God provided for Elijah in the desert?
What spiritually makes you get up out of bed in the morning, expands your vision, gives you insight, gives you peace and hope for the future, feeds you until you want no more?
Eternal life can be seen simply “pie in the sky when you die”.
But eternal life, is not something that you hope might be given to you after death.
Eternal life is a present possession. We have eternal life. Eternal life is a quality of life, enriching our present.
It is not something we are grasping for just out of reach – it is the very ground on which we stand.
It enriches our life now.
We know that our lives are not lived between the perimeters of our physical birth and death. We live our lives against an infinite horizon, of which our current physical life is but a part of the whole.
Jesus said “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life”.
It is this quality of our lives that is changed when we realise fully in our very being that we are children of God.
The change in outlook is so earth shattering that Jesus called it being “born again”. Born again to a living hope that enriches our life.
Once we realise that we have an intrinsic worth, not gained by how much we earn, or what we do for a living, or where we went to school; that our worth is given by God, because we believe that God sent his son to die for us to release us from the bondage to death and decay into the fulness of eternal life.
This huge about turn in our orientation in regards to God, life and each other has moral and ethical implications of course, the whole basis of which emanates from the belief that Jesus died for us.
Moral teaching that Paul articulates in his letter to Ephesians today,
But rather on dwell on the teaching itself I think it more important to understand where these teachings come from.
They did not come from a vacuum.
They did not emanate from clever human beings.
They are a response to what God has done for us in Christ and has the seal of God’s authority stamped on it.
As Jesus said in verse 45 today “They shall all be taught by God”.
I'll end with Paul's summing up of the nature of Christian life and action and the source of that life.
As Paul ends this extract from Ephesians today he says.
“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”.