June 17, 2016 – John 6:33-40
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Even in the short amount of time that I knew Walt as his pastor, one thing, nonetheless, was always abundantly clear. And that is that no matter what it was that Walt loved, he loved it with passion and with joy.
Walt loved people, from his family to his friends, to his staff and his patients. He wasn’t just interested in people and their stories, he was also exceedingly kind to them, he was gracious, filled with joy and forgiving. He loved his interests and his hobbies, he loved nature and fishing. And Walt also loved food.
Whether it was the first day of work at the bottling plant, Dr. Pepper as the drink of choice, or coffee hour here at church, Walt had a passion for food.
Some of us eat because we have to. Some of us may even forget to eat because we’re too busy. But Walt, as with many others, really did fully enjoy and truly love all the flavors and all of the gifts that God brings in daily bread. Food is good. Not only does it taste good, not only does it make us happy, but we need it in this life, we need it to grow, to have energy, to get through the day. But food in this life doesn’t last forever, not only does it go bad, but no matter what our diet consists of, no matter how healthy we try to be, no food in the market or in the field will make you live forever. Our bodies grow old and tired, some faster and quicker than others.
Food is good, but it doesn’t last forever. But today, in John chapter six, Jesus tells us of something that truly does last forever, even a food that never goes bad, that even gives life, eternal life to the one eats it. And in that, we find yet another one of Walt’s loves, his passions, and his joys.
Every time I went to go visit Walt, we’d chat for a bit, and then read and discuss a devotion from the Scriptures. As was to be expected, and is the way of all flesh, yours and mine included, Walt had good days and bad days, focused days and distracted days, and though both he and I heard and received the Word of God in faith, sometimes our discussions were all over the map. And yet, when our devotions were finished, and we moved to then celebrate the Lord’s Supper, I was always amazed and humbled that in the body and blood of Christ given to Walt, that in that time, and every time…Walt was on board and tracking the whole way. For he knew what this meal was all about, that it wasn’t a snack, it wasn’t normal food to be found during coffee hour, it wasn’t just a memorial, and it wasn’t merely a pious religious experience.
No this food was and is different.
For it is the very Christ who is the true bread of God, who has come down from heaven, and in his body and blood, now gives life to the world. This food never leaves anyone hungry, and this cup never leaves anyone thirsty. For what it gives, even though it looks so small and so simple, is truly life, salvation, the very promise and certainty of the resurrection and the forgiveness of sins.
What Walt loved, he loved with passion and with joy. And with regard to the body and blood of Christ, it was no different.
For as much as Walt loved people, as much as he poured his heart into those around him, as much as his smile brightened a stranger’s day, still Walt knew that he needed this food. That his life, and all life, was not truly life without this Christ. He knew then, as we know in faith now, that by his love alone, he would not live forever. That by his smile alone, he would inherit eternal life. And that by his joy alone, even his lifelong, never ending joy, even this would not forgive his sins. Walt knew that this food, and namely, this Christ was needed, and even more than that, that this Christ was and is everything.
Death has a way of sending us running, of sending our minds racing, of throwing us in countless directions. We seek out anything we can hold onto, anything that feels stable and secure. Because to be quite honest, death makes us feel insecure, unstable, even lost and confused. And those things that we hold onto, they have their place, they’re of great importance, indeed they’re good. Today we give thanks for a man full of joy and humility, and in that, we take comfort in the lives of the saints that we follow. These things are good. But they aren’t the end. They aren’t the only things.
For indeed, Walt himself, didn’t hold these things as the true hope, as the sure comfort, as the joy that even exists in the midst sorrow. No, the true joy, the comfort that’s given today, tomorrow, next week, and fifty years down the road, that hope is Christ himself. That hope is the Son of God who loves his creation, you and I, Walt himself, and He loves his people in this way, passionately and with the utmost joy. For as much as Walt clung to the promises of Christ, of his true body and blood, of this sure and certain food that actually forgives sins, that actually makes righteous and holy, and that actually preserves faith to eternal life. As much as Walt held onto these things in his life, the hope this day is that Christ has more passionately, more joyfully, and more intensely held onto Walt.
That is the promise and the love that really matters. For that is the joy that began for Walt at the waters of Holy Baptism, where He was brought not just to the font, not just to the pastor, not just to the water, but as Jesus declares today, to the very heart and name of God Himself. That Baptism, that washing of sin, burying into Christ’s death and raising into his resurrection is the very promise that Jesus gives today in the Gospel of John, that “All that the Father has given to me, all who have been brought into this faith, these are the ones I promises never to lose, never to forsake, never to abandon, but to raise them up on the last day.”
Walt is not lost, he hasn’t been misplaced. It is not that we don’t know where he has gone. Christ Himself has said it, He has made it so, nailing this very promise into his own flesh and blood on the cross. In that death, he has taken up our death, our fears and insecurities, our sins and our sorrows. And in that death, that loving, passionate, and yes, even joyful death, He has held onto Walt, more intensely, more joyfully, more than Walt or you and I could ever hope for.
Christ lives, and because Christ lives, so does Walt. Because Christ lives, so do all who are found in his name, washed in his Word, fed by his table, and held by his promises.
This is our hope, it is what carries us today, tomorrow, and every day after. It is hope even amidst sadness, even amidst grief. It is a sure and certain foundation, unshaken, tested, tried and true even by death itself. It is the plain, simple and direct Word that Walt believed, and that also comes to you. Christ is for you. And He comes to be given to you. To be held fast in faith for you.
He comes in mercy through His Water, Word, Body and Blood. He comes to hold onto you not just on Sundays, but every day, calling you to the gathering of His church, keeping you at the table of his salvation, and walking with you, as He has with Walt, every step of the baptismal road.
For indeed Christ lives, and He holds onto you, onto your faith, onto your sadness, onto your grief, onto your very life. He has done so for Walt, and He promises the same to you.
Walt loved with passion and with joy, and he still does, for He is now found at that table, at that feast that has no end, soon you and I will join him.
Thanks be to God, for He does all things well.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.