Introduction & Welcome
Welcome to worship today, God’s gift to us because God is good! all the time!
and all the time! God is good!
In today’s gospel many people take offense at Jesus’ invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood; even many of Jesus’ disciples peel off. This is the backdrop in John’s gospel for Peter’s confession of faith. “To whom can we go?” asks Peter, in words we sometimes sing just before the gospel is read. “You have the words of eternal life.” In order to take such a stand, as Peter and Joshua did, Paul tells us to arm ourselves with the word of God. We pray in the Spirit that we might be bold ambassadors of the gospel.
Confession and Forgiveness
Blessed be the holy Trinity,☩ one God,
the God of manna,
the God of miracles,
the God of mercy.
Drawn to Christ and seeking God’s abundance,
let us confess our sin.
Silence is kept for reflection.
God, our provider,
It is hard to believe there is enough to share.
We question your ways when they differ from the ways
of the world in which we live.
We turn to our own understanding
rather than trusting in you.
We take offense at your teachings and your ways.
Turn us again to you.
Where else can we turn?
Share with us the words of eternal life
and feed us for life in the world.
Beloved people of God:
in Jesus, the manna from heaven,
you are fed and nourished.
By Jesus, the worker of miracles,
there is always more than enough.
Through Jesus, ☩ the bread of life,
you are shown God’s mercy:
you are forgiven and loved into abundant life.
Prayer of the Day
Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal. Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth, that, renouncing what is false and evil, we may live in you, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
First Reading: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
In the Near East, covenant means “agreement” or “alliance.” It describes relationships and is the primary word used to characterize the relationship between God and Israel. By delivering Israel, God has already begun the relationship. Joshua calls upon the people to respond.
1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2aAnd Joshua said to all the people, 14“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
Psalm: Psalm 34:15-22
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous. (Ps. 34:15)
15The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
and God’s ears are open to their cry.
16The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to erase the remembrance of them from the earth.
17The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them
and delivers them from all their troubles.
18The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves those whose spirits are crushed.
19Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers them from every one.
20God will keep safe all their bones;
not one of them shall be broken.
21Evil will bring death to the wicked
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
22O Lord, you redeem the life of your servants,
and those who put their trust in you will not be punished.
Second Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20
Like a general giving a rousing speech to troops before battle, this letter closes by calling on Christians to be equipped for spiritual warfare against evil. The full armor of God includes truth, righteousness, peace, faith, the gift of salvation, and the word of God inspired by the Spirit.
10Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia. (John 6:68)
Gospel: John 6:56-69
The “hard saying” that offends Jesus’ disciples is his claim that his followers must eat his flesh and drink his blood. The followers who return to their old lives know something about how odd this sounds. Simon Peter, on the other hand, knows something about the scarcity of living, gracious words. He asks the most important question: “To whom shall we go?”
[Jesus said,] 56“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This 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.” 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
60When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” 61But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”
66Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Meditation by David O’Brien
The picture painted in today’s Gospel is quite different from the one we saw just a few weeks ago. At the beginning of chapter 6 of John, crowds are following Jesus everywhere He goes. If fact, when we read Mark recently, He couldn’t seem to get away from them no matter how hard He tried! They came because they had heard how Christ was doing miracles such as healing the sick. Then when the crowd became too large to be fed, Jesus performed another miracle by feeding them all with the contents of a child’s lunch. Because of this, the people followed Him wherever He went. Then Christ decides to confront them about their reasons for following Him. In John 6.27 He says to them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges them even further. He tells those following Him that He is the bread of life and that anyone who eats of this bread will live forever. He further declares that the bread that He will give is His flesh and that those who eat his flesh and drink His blood will remain in Him and Christ will remain in them. This was a difficult thing for the disciples to hear. The Jews had long been taught that cannibalism was a sin. And when Christ tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, this seems to run counter to that teaching. What they failed to realize was that Christ was using a metaphor to illustrate how they must take Him into themselves and become one with Him if they were to be His disciples. It was difficult for many to hear this from Jesus, but Jesus did not intend to take them on an easy journey. He lost many of His followers that day, but the twelve apostles remained. When Christ asked them if they were going to leave as well, Simon-Peter says something that we often hear as our Gospel acclamation. “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Hearing things that are difficult to understand is an important part of growing as a Christian, and in life in general. I’ve always enjoyed star gazing and once considered a career in astronomy. Then I saw all of the higher math that was involved and thought “that’s not for me”. Other folks might look at what I do, working with recently released convicts, and think that it’s not something they can do. The point I’m trying to make is that whatever you choose in life, there will be parts of it that are difficult. I recently read a story about a missionary society that wrote to David Livingstone, a medical missionary in Central Africa, and asked, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you.” Livingstone wrote back, “If you have men who will come only because there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” In other words, he wanted the people working with him to have a very high level of commitment.
Being a Christian is also a choice that requires some difficult decisions. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are expected to try to do His work in this world. The wealthy ruler who came to Jesus in Luke 18:18 learned this when Christ told him to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor. Fortunately, I don’t think that Christ is calling us to impoverish ourselves, but He does want us to care for our brothers and sisters in the world. One of the ways we can do this involves the pandemic, which, contrary to popular belief, we are still in the middle of. We can care for our brothers and sisters by getting a simple shot in the arm. There are some among us who consider this an affront to their freedom of choice. After all, they might ask, I haven’t gotten sick thus far, why should I get the vaccine now? The answer to that is that this virus continues to thrive and mutate. This delta variant is proving to be more easily spread than the ones before it. If we want to beat this disease, we need everyone to do their part so that others, who may be more susceptible to the illness can live without fear of contracting a new strain. It may be difficult for some people to hear, but it may be necessary for us to make some sacrifices for the health of our community.
Christ calls us to follow Him. He doesn’t say it will be easy. If fact, He says that there will be times when we are persecuted for following Him. May we all choose to follow Him anyway, assured that our reward will be great in heaven.
Prayers of Intercession
Made children and heirs of God’s promise, we pray for the church, the world, and all in need.
A brief silence.
God of courage, bless all leaders of your church, including Daniel and Elizabeth, our bishops, and Howard, our pastor. Make them ready to proclaim the gospel of peace and strengthen them to preach your loving word. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of creation, bless fields and orchards. Protect the land from drought and bring life-giving rain to support growth. Instruct your people in wise treatment of the world you have provided for all your creatures. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of community, bless all who seek justice between nations and peoples. Give guidance to bridge-builders, heal divisions, and inspire cooperation in times of crisis, disaster, and war. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of compassion, bless all who are in any need. Accompany all who are lonely and feeling abandoned and remind them of your abiding presence. Accompany all who are persecuted and exploited and open us to their cries. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of change, bless our transitions. Guide all who are embarking on new stages in life such as a new job, new school, or new community, especially this community called Grace, as we prepare to embark on a new stage of our life together. Sustain enduring friendships and kindle new relationships and interests. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
God of comfort, bless all who mourn the deaths of their beloved ones. We give you thanks for the saints who have gone before us, especially St. Andrew, the Scot. Renew our confidence in your promise of resurrection and life in the world to come. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.
Receive these prayers, O God, and those in our hearts known only to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Together, let us profess our faith using the words of the Apostles Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
And now, as our Savior, Christ is teaching us, we boldly pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The blessing of God,
who provides for us, feeds us, and journeys with us,
☩ be upon you now and forever.
Go in peace. You are the body of Christ.
Thanks be to God.