Reflection: A Hard Teaching

What’s difficult about faith?

We might answer this question by first focusing on what’s possible and what’s not. The question becomes a history and science debate. We read Genesis 1-2 (the creation of the world), and realize it doesn’t tell us that the earth is 4 billion years old. We move on from there to Jesus’ story and spend hours looking at star charts, trying to use astrophysics to prove that the Star over Bethlehem really happened. We can’t really do that so we move on, looking at Jesus’ life, and wonder about his miracles. We ask if he could really raise someone from the dead, heal a blind person, and feed over 5000 people with just a few loaves of bread. When these stories fail to match up with what we believe is possible, we start to struggle. The inconsistencies between scripture and “the real world” causes us to say, “I can’t believe.” This debate can feel like it’s a science vs faith issue. But it really isn’t. What we’re doing is taking what we know and wondering what our faith has to say about it. That impulse is completely normal, completely faithful, and is something people have done for thousands of years. Instead of focusing on the question of science and history, we should step back and look at why we’re doing. And that’s because, I think, we know that faith is hard. It’s not easy. Faith isn’t about trying to escape the life’s problems. Rather, faith is about living through them. And as followers of Jesus, what can make faith difficult is sometimes Jesus himself.

In today’s reading from the gospel according to John 6:56-71, the difficult teaching is Jesus’ promise about his body. The disciples do not question his abilities, his faithfulness, or that he’s a teacher from God. But what they can’t fathom is how Jesus’ body connects them to God. We know from our personal experience just how difficult bodies can be. They grow, change, and enable us to do amazing things. But our bodies also get sick, grow old, and wear out. Some of us, through cultural expectations and teachings, learn to dislike our body, wanting it to change. Bodies are very human and bodies do not last forever. Yet it’s through a body, Jesus says, that forms an eternal relationship with the Creator of everything.

For me, the difficult thing about faith is that faith is meant to be lived in our bodies. God chose to enter the world, live in a human body, and to experience life like we do. It’s through a body, through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, that God gives us the faith to trust that we are never on our own. This trust is meant to be experience in our current body, as we are right now. This faith is meant to flow into every nook and cranny that is our sometimes awesome, sometimes broken, body. Faith is not meant to be only an abstract thing. Faith isn’t something we keep in the back of our minds. Our faith is a gift from God lived through our bodies and our words. Jesus lived and died for you as you are. He didn’t live or die for the perfect version of you, the fit version of you, or for the most instagramable version of you. He lived and died for everything that makes you you – and that includes your body. And it’s through baptism, faith, prayer, and being fed ta the Lord’s table, that we discover how the eternal life can be lived, right now, in our non-eternal bodies.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 13th Sunday after Pentecost, 8/26/2018.