Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church on August 19, 2018
[sermon begins after two Bible readings]
Proverbs 9:1-6 Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. 2 She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, 4 “You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
John 6:51-58 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.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Wisdom is ready to party. Her house is decked out down to the twinkle lights on the pillars. There’s meat in the smoker, sangria by the pool, and a table setting so full of Pinterest pins it’s downright holey. Wisdom is ready to party. No one can accuse her of holding a party only for people equal to her eternal, creative power. She flings wide the doors and shouts from the rooftops. She calls for simple and senseless people. Wisdom is ready to party, dear friends, and it’s our simple, senseless ears that are listening. Listening through the many voices competing for airspace. Listening for how Wisdom, in her eternal glory, makes sense to the senseless.
Regarding our simple and senseless ears, Wisdom doesn’t seem to be inviting us into a new opinion. Opinions are everywhere right now. It seems like everyone should be ready to weigh in about all things at all times. We confuse wisdom with the social tool of opinion. A tool that we use at parties, in the hallways at work, via text with our friends, on social media, in the car on the way home from church – you name the location and we’re wielding our opinions like clubs. To be clear, opinions are actually important. They affect real lives in real time. Opinions decide where food ends up, where people live, how we drive our cars, and who gets elected. Opinions guide our choices in each moment of each day. Opinions matter. However, today’s Bible readings invites us to consider the difference between opinion and Wisdom. Not the least of which is that opinions decide who gets to be at a party, while anyone and everyone is invited when Wisdom is ready to party.
One of the courses I took on sabbatical is called Executive Skills for Church Workers. For five days and many hours at a time, professors and executives from the business world regaled 20 of us pastors in the ways of accounting, entrepreneurship, information systems, social media, and more. Our accounting professor worked for many years as a consultant to large banks. She is married to a pastor and has also served on church councils as treasurer. Go ahead, ask me to lay out my fledgling opinion about zero-based budgets versus growth budgets as they relate to the church. Even more fun, let’s talk entrepreneurship and how new ideas are thread and cast to change the world.
The point is, we know how opinions are formed and shaped. Opinions can be widely held – of COURSE, Aretha Franklin is Queen of Soul! Opinions can rightly hold people and institutions accountable for misbehavior – from our banks sub-prime lending to our schools support of teachers in classrooms full of priceless children to our government’s accountability to the people to our churches plagued by pastoral misconduct. We know that opinions can be limited, biased, uninformed, and misleading. We also know that opinions can be wise and insightful. We know all of these things and, still, our opinions are challenged by Wisdom’s invitation. Wisdom is ready to party. Come hungry to the party because Wisdom is preparing food.
Ahhhh, food. I love food which for me means a love of cooking that includes cooking shows, movies about cooking, pictures of food, recipes, and foodie restaurants. But the best part of cooking is actually cooking. As Rob and I have flirted with an empty nest, cooking has taken on a different quality. It’s become more reflective at the end of a work day. It’s sensory in a way that settles my spirit. Slicing, dicing, sautéing, smelling, tasting, serving, chewing, swallowing…you get the idea. It’s not much of a stretch to envision Wisdom’s invitation that includes food, wine, and people sharing supper. Although it’s quite a stretch to cross space and time from Wisdom’s party to Jesus’ invitation to eat flesh and blood in wine and bread. Wisdom is ready to party and Jesus keeps it weird. There’s a bumper sticker for you – Wisdom is ready to party and Jesus keeps it weird.
Jesus doesn’t speak the classic words of communion in the Gospel of John. The classic words of communion, what we call the Words of Institution, begin with the words, “On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took the bread…” Jesus’ Bread of Life chatter in the sixth chapter is what he throws down. And what Jesus gives us in these verses is weird – flesh, blood, bread, and wine weird. The weirdness moves the crowd around Jesus from complaining to outright arguing with each other as they start forming their opinions about what he’s said. At this level, Jesus doesn’t seem interested in the opinions. Nor does Jesus seem interested in being taken into our hearts. Jesus seems interested in our mouths, gullets and bellies, in what’s digested and becomes part of bodies, in what he calls true food and true drink. This word “true” in the greek, alēthēs (ἀληθὴς), is literally translated as “what can’t be hidden.” Another way we say this in the church is that Jesus is truly present in, with, and under the bread and wine.
Jesus tells us that eating this true food IS abiding in him and he in us. This abiding is happening at the gut level – digestion and nourishment. Jesus abides in our very selves at the cellular level. Literally, in our flesh. The infinite God contained in the finite; the divine mystery in bread and wine and in our very bodies. This is insight from the inside out. Talk of insight brings us full circle back to Wisdom’s party. In verse 6 of the Proverbs reading, walking in the way of insight is defined a few verses later in verse 10 as knowledge of the Holy One. This is not meant as insight forming yet one more opinion to be explained and understood. Rather this insight is a relationship with the Holy One who is Jesus. The living Jesus sent by a living God.
The Jesus in John’s gospel throws down communion words about flesh, blood, bread, and wine while he’s living his life early in his ministry. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well as for Paul in First Corinthians, communion words are spoken at a Passover meal on the eve of his death. In the gospel of John, Jesus’ words about flesh, blood, bread, and wine draw life into focus – bringing the eternal in the flesh, into the now of living. Jesus IS life. More than that, Jesus is life now, today, as the eternal, infinite God meets us in bread and wine. Neither just a crusty remembrance of life ended on a cross in the past, nor a golden ticket into a future life to be postponed as long as possible. Jesus promises life today – the abundant life of God in real relationship with us here and now.
God’s source and norm of life brings hope t a world choking on opinions that end relationships. This is good news for our simple, senseless ears. We embody hope and life in the world as we abide in Jesus and he in us.
Wisdom is ready to party and Jesus is the life of the party. Welcome to the Table.
 ἀληθὴς as interpreted by HELPS Word-studies at https://biblehub.com/greek/227.htm.
 John 6:57
 Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
 Karoline Lewis, Luther Seminary, Associate Professor of Preaching and the Marbury E. Anderson Chair of Biblical Preaching. “A Living Bread” (John 6:51-58) on Dear Working Preacher for August 19, 2018. https://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=3667
 John 10:10 [Jesus says] I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.