Chris Aho's Podcast

Our Biggest Constraint

August 12, 2018
Chris Aho's Podcast
Our Biggest Constraint
Chapters
Chris Aho's Podcast
Our Biggest Constraint
Aug 12, 2018
Rev. Christopher R. Aho
Are you the one who always has an answer to every question? Maybe you are God's biggest constraint. Maybe you are keeping God from being at work.
Show Notes Transcript
A sermon for Oxford Baptist Church on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost. The transcript below is a new experiment buzzsprout is working on. I added it to this episode but have not messed with the transcript myself...it is all computer generated and updated. From what I have seen, it looks pretty good.

Speaker 1:
0:02
Our scripture reading this morning comes from the gospel of John Chapter six. We'll begin with verse 35 and then we'll read verses 41 through 51 here. Now, this reading of God's word, Jesus said to them, I'm the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. The Jews began to complain about him because he said, I'm the bread of life that came down from heaven. They were saying, is this, is this that Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose mother and father we know. How can he say, I have come down from heaven? Jesus answered them, do not complain among yourselves.
Speaker 1:
0:56
No one can come to me unless drawn by the father who sent me and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets and they shall be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the father except the one who is from God and he has seen the father. Very truly. I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life and I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 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 is for the life of the world and it is my flesh. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. The word constraint is not one that we probably use all that often. We use similes too. We use synonyms for constraint. We use harder words, we use limits, barriers, impossibilities, restrictions, but to say constraint means something that limits us or holds us back. Typically we don't like constraints or we say we don't like constraints. We prefer to claim that the sky is the limit, that anything is possible. We want to think there are no limitations of who we are, what we want, how we can operate, and what we could possibly achieve.
Speaker 1:
2:52
But to get there, we need constraints. Every paper you've ever written for a teacher had a page limit on it, otherwise you'd still be writing it and we all would be miserable and every teacher who assigned a paper with a page limit thought, I don't want to read 10 pages of that, so it'll be a five page paper at work.
Speaker 1:
3:20
Do they seem like they go on forever? Meetings cannot go on forever. You have to actually get back to work. Meetings and projects have deadlines. They have constraints at home. We have budgets, we have curfews, we have fences and very few of us eat every night from the hall. You can eat. Buffet constraints are just a part of our lives and even at church, even if the spirit is moving, there was a constraint on the sermon and the spirit's gonna move in the first 10 to 15 minutes, definitely 20, but not 30 or 40, at least in this church. I don't think preaching cannot be endless. Preaching must be constrained, right? Constraints can be good. They can provide the necessary parameters to get something done, but more often than not, we fail to use constraints in healthy ways. We don't see the ways that they can be helpful. We see the ways they hold us back or we use them to hold others back, and so instead of constraints limiting things that they should, we allow constraints to limit things that they shouldn't and that's exactly what the religious leaders do in this passage. They create some self imposed constraints that limit the movement of God and that's exhibited in a lack of faith.
Speaker 2:
4:59
Okay,
Speaker 1:
5:01
now Jesus states I am the bread of life. Obviously. He's evoking a metaphor here, one that you and I are. Most church people are so familiar with that we just, we just get it. The language, the image, the sentiments for most of us, that's just second nature. It's church language. If we were talking to someone who knew nothing about church and we talked about Jesus being the bread of life, they probably would or should think we are a little bit weird because this bread of life thing has a lot of history to it that we just assumed and no, but Jesus uses this metaphor to remind us of God's provision. He's explicit about God's salvation that comes from him. The bread of life, the bread of life is the stuff that nourishes our spirits and our the bread of life is sort of like that manna from heaven, except it's the kind of manner that's going to feed you everyday, forever more. It's not going to let you die. This is the kind of manner that no matter what mill wilderness you find yourself in the spirit of God can be with you. To the followers of Jesus who heard him say, I am the bread of life. Well, this was great news. This brought hope and joy because see, the people had been hemmed in oppressed, especially constrained by the religious leaders and their rules and their structures,
Speaker 1:
6:47
so when they see Jesus and they hear that he is the bread of life, they're ready for something new because the spiritual bread was being rationed by the religious leaders. The spiritual rules, we're not constraining. They were oppressing and the emotional toll of this had taken on. Some of those believers had squashed any rational hope that the god who promised he would come was actually going to come, so to hear that the bread of life is here was good news and it meant they didn't have to have blind loyalty to those constraining religious leaders, those constraining religious leaders who ultimately faced their biggest constraint being merely a lack of faith. Now it doesn't manifest itself exactly as a lack of faith. Let's let's think about how it does. Have you ever been in a meeting or with someone and anytime you had a thought or an idea or a possibility, they had a reason why it wouldn't work. Maybe there's times when you you bring up a topic where you see a topic around and the response to it as sarcasm or satire in order to shut the whole conversation down these days. It seems like the firm footing we want to find is that of being in the know and being right and the way we have to show that it's sort of always have an answer to everything. Every problem has a solution or every crazy solution has a reason why it won't work and any idea is not possible and constraints begin to oppress.
Speaker 1:
8:48
Maybe you recognize this person. If you don't recognize this person, maybe maybe you and I need to look in the mirror and maybe we are being that person. Sometimes I know I have been,
Speaker 2:
9:04
yeah,
Speaker 1:
9:04
but whether it's you or me, the reality is all over life and in our times we do this and this habit is a modern day reflection of exactly what the religious leaders are doing in John Six. They're putting constraints on what Jesus is saying because they deeply lack faith and we want to be open to the faith, to our faith, into the movement of the spirit of God. John says, the Jews began to complain that I've been calling these Jews religious leaders, and that's not just the preachers and the ministers. That's any of us who have some level of influence within a religious community. The son of God comes and he says, I am the bread of life and he's offering good news and he's offering hope. He's offering the salvation that God has promised, but these religious leaders who are so focused on being right and staying in power and squashing anything that might be new or out of their realm of control, say the bread of life, aren't you the carpenter from Nazareth? Wait, wait, wait. Don't we know his parents? How could he kept come from heaven? You're bringing a message. They say that promises to relieve hunger and thirst forever.
Speaker 1:
10:40
No, we don't think that fits into our plan. The religious leaders say as soon as something new or different or out of the ordinary come to threaten their power. They shut it down because they can't control it. They shut it down because it's a challenge or a threat to their power and authority, and this manifests itself by them being the experts. It manifest themselves were being the ones who they knew what they wanted to happen. It manifests itself in, in, in, in them becoming their own worst enemy because they're so self assured in their own belief that they lacked the say that God might be able to do something beyond their control and we we suffer from the same problem. We don't want to, so we'll name it, but we suffer from the same problem. I borrowed this quote from a friend and I've used it before, but it's great. He says, we're really good at doing things we know we don't need God's to accomplish. We're really good at picking ourselves up by our own bootstraps. Most of us are pretty good at putting the nose to the grindstone and getting the work done
Speaker 1:
12:11
and those Jews, after building all of those bricks in Egypt for Pharaoh had left on their own in the wilderness with nothing or very little and managed to move elsewhere, create a civilization within the Roman Empire that gave them some measure of autonomy and agency within the empire, but they were so focused on the concrete laws that got them there. That when Jesus says, I'm the bread of life you've been waiting for, they don't have the faith to go there. They have competence in their knowledge and they have fear over losing their power and their only response is to sarcastically shoot the idea down. You can be from God. You're justifying Mary's kid. You can't serve bread from heaven. You're not a baker, you're a carpenter. They don't want the spirit of God to wreck their stature or their authority. So they questioned the identity, the identity of the one who's bringing the message, and they have such fear that God might ask them to do something beyond their means that they then instead of brace, embracing the bread of life, they spit out that bread and call the idea of crazy and they immediately impose the constraints on their face by saying, no way, no, how, how can this be? He's just a carpenter
Speaker 1:
13:49
and their biggest constraint is that they lack faith and the way that that lack of faith expresses itself is by forging any new idea that would reflect the movement of God in a new way, in a different way or in a far reaching way, and sometimes we do the exact same thing. Sometimes our biggest constraint is us, and that's not what we want, isn't it? In a few moments, we're going to pass these trays around. I call them pillow crackers. Some folks call them chiclets. Jesus calls him the body of Christ, the bread of life. He calls that sip of juice that we take from those little plastic cups, the cup of salvation, and for some of us today will be deeply meaningful and for others this time it won't be, and for others it will just too long and so the wish they had slipped out beforehand and all of that is okay. None of us are always on the same page when it comes to how God's working in our lives.
Speaker 2:
15:02
Okay?
Speaker 1:
15:05
But it does take a real live, legitimate, deep faith to believe that the one who said, I'm the bread of life in John six is still giving us life here through checklists and a sip of juice. If we want to be religious leaders from John Six, we can say, how can this be? Those crackers couldn't sustain an ant hill. We could say, how could this be? Isn't Jesus supposed to taste good? He says, taste and see that the Lord is good and I've had better crackers than this. If we wanted to be like those religious leaders, we could say, if this is really the bread of life and the church, eat it more than once a quarter, we could say all of those things and sarcastically amuse ourselves over this, but all those things would do would be cover up a lack of faith and that's not who we want to be. It's not who I want to be. It's not who you want to be either to somehow in some way, through God's help. Let's put away or lack of faith. Let's step beyond our biggest constraint, which is the desire to judge and have an answer before the question is even out of someone else's mouth and let's be open to without judgment the movement and spirit of God, however, and whenever it may come, because when God moves, there's always plenty of reasons why it might not work, but God's behind it
Speaker 1:
16:42
and we're with the Lord on that, so let's not place constraints on ourselves that keep the Lord from working. Let's be aware enough to remove our greatest constraint, our lack of faith expressed by our quickness to judge and our desire to be right so that we can allow even the little crackers from a bookstore and this sip of juice to remind us that yes, Jesus is the bread of life that promises to nourish us and provides a source of strength from heaven. I'm going to sit and remember that this is a place for nourishment that we deeply and desperately need
Speaker 2:
17:30
today.
Speaker 1:
17:32
That's my prayer for me. That's my prayer for all of us. In Jesus' name today,
Speaker 2:
17:39
amen.
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