The readings on which this sermon is
based can be found at: http://frsparky.net/a/r130.htm
s130g12 Sunday 18 5/8/2012
'the work of God .. believe in him whom he has sent' John 6.29
We do not believe in a philosophical proposition or a long past
event in history. If we believe in the resurrection it
follows that we do not believe in Jesus as a historical figure, but
as a present reality.
It is clear that those who had Jesus killed, the orthodox and the
devout, did not believe in Jesus who was sent, because he came not
to them alone but to all people. So Jesus came, not to
confirm the sanctified selfishness of the orthodox and the devout of
his day, as the devout and the orthodox expected, so the divine
continues to come to oppose sanctified selfishness in every form and
in every age. Killing Jesus showed sanctified
selfishness for the bullying that it is, but it could not and cannot
negate the essence of God.
The work of God is ever to oppose sanctified selfishness, this is
why Jesus was sent, and why Jesus continues to be sent.
The problem is that when some 'christians' hear the word to 'believe
in him whom he has sent' it becomes translated that 'others should
believe and come to church like us'. I point out that
those who had Jesus killed would have defined belief in precisely
the same way - that others had to believe and become devout like
The bread of God 'gives life to the world' not life to christians
alone, not to those who call God by the correct name alone, not to
those who believe a whole lot of metaphysical propositions alone,
not those who believe in the inerrant words of the bible alone, and
not just to those who are intimate when and with whom people the
‘church’ approves. Indeed God 'gives life to the world'
not just to those who do no work on the Sabbath, whatever day may be
designated thus, for Jesus, and God, continue to work on the
The bread of life gives life to the world because it negates all
sanctified selfishness. No one can be excluded in the
name of God, Jesus, YHWH, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, or by whatever
name one cares to call the divine. Everyone is included,
and included in the most intimate way, as guests at a common table,
as partakers of a common cup.
So belief in the one who was and is sent implies communion in the
most intimate of ways with all people, at a common table sharing a
common cup, where no one is excluded. Doing the work of
God is not something that benefits the divine, but benefits humanity
at large, because all are included, because no one is marginalized,
alienated, challenged, or condemned. There is no point
in intellectually assenting to this proposition; we have a part to
play in our own acceptance of others. For it doesn't
help others to know that they are included by God if we or others
exclude others. It doesn't make the lives of others
easier if we or others admit that God might love them, but we treat
them with distain. And again, no matter what you or I do
to accept others, it is but a drop in the ocean if the church as a
corporate institution marginalizes, alienates, challenges and
condemns others. We will simply not be believed, and we
will be pretending that we are more accepting than are the church
and God - blasphemy indeed!
Belief in the one who was and is sent implies communion in the most
intimate of ways with all people, implies that to make this a
reality, we have to include ourselves, here and now.
Jesus says: 'If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the
Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke
11.13) So the church exists to bring life to the world,
not just to her spiritual children, and it brings life to the world
by renouncing sanctified selfishness, which Jesus labels evil.
So the sort of belief that does the work of God is the belief that
Jesus is not about me and my salvation, but it is primarily about my
attitude to others, that all others are included in the embrace of
I am not particularly a fan of the creeds, yet one of the lovely
sentiments is 'I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic
church'. We, as the church, follow God united in our
being sent to others, sent to embrace all, which is the root meaning
of the word 'catholic': 'all-embracing'
Scripture is littered with examples of sacred
selfishness. One that immediately comes to mind is in
Genesis: 'Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the
Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to
Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s (Canaanite) wife (Tamar) and perform
the duty of a brother-in-law to her; raise up offspring for your
brother.’ But since Onan knew that the offspring would
not be his, he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he went in
to his brother’s wife, so that he would not give offspring to his
brother. What he did was displeasing in the sight of the
Lord, and he put him to death also.' (Genesis
38.7-10) It would have cost Onan nothing to do as Judah
asked, it was done out of spite and selfishness, perpetrated, he
thought with impunity, because he was a male and the sole surviving
son of the head of the tribe whereas she was a woman and a
The work of God is the work against all forms of sacred
selfishness. Our faith is not that God exists, but that
God exists for the benefit of all, never just for my benefit or the
benefit of any subset of humanity however defined. ‘My
Father is still working, and I also am working’ (John 5.17) and 'my
Father .. removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.'
(John 15:1,2) I think we need to hear those words 'in
me' for they imply not a criticism of others who do not come to
church, but 'christians' and more significantly 'churches' who bear
no fruit - christians and churches that exist for the vine and not
I can well imagine that there are many people for whom the existence
of God is problematic, but who model their lives on being a blessing
to others and to society in general, knowing that if there is a God,
this is what God would want. Matthew 25:31- 46 tells us
that as such they will receive the blessing of God. For
so often the picture of God that others have from the church is one
that blesses that particular church's variation of sanctified
selfishness, and this is precisely the sort of 'god' no thinking
person would believe in, and rightly so. Indeed the work
of God is to break this down.
Which is, of course, the whole reason for the incarnation .. and the
resurrection which guarantees the continuance of the incarnation ..
which is why it is necessary to believe .. though it is interesting
that secular humanists sometimes have a more accurate conviction of
an all-embracing deity than some religious folk.
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