Ephesians 4:25-5:2

John 6:35, 41-51

The religious authorities dismiss Jesus when he claims to be “the Bread of Life,”  because they know too well where he’s from. He suggests he’s come down from heaven, but they’ve met his parents. They may have had Joseph do some woodworking for them. They know who Jesus is and where he comes from.

Iron Rangers know something about being judged by their parentage and the town they come from (many of us from static communities know this). Tight-knit communities can make it hard to begin again, because you have to live yourself down. When people know this much about you, your identity can become synonymous with your issues and faults. You might be here hoping to start over today, and you know it’s hard actually to do that.

Life for the early church was an adventure in starting over. The church invited people to give up their separate identities as religious insiders and outsiders and become Christian (this was before Christianity made its own outsiders). Paul invites the Ephesians to begin again in our reading this morning, to live in truth, peace, and righteousness. For example, he invites thieves to give up stealing, cut off their past, and begin again. It’s hard work for a thief to give up their way of life, like it is for a drunk, and addict, or anyone else. To do this, you need a community gathered around you, living in ways that welcome that new life.

A community tends to know “too much” about a person. It asks, “given your past, how do we know your desire for change is sincere?” When you come to this church for our weekly ritual of being remade, how do we know you’re really searching? Jesus answers, “Nobody comes to me unless God draws them to me.” This idea reverses our usual Christian thinking, that it’s Christ (especially the church) that leads us to God. Jesus says, it’s God who draws us here. So you can know that whyever you’re here, it’s God that is leading you here. And we can also know that whoever you are, wherever you come from, or however you got here, God led you to us.

Some of us came here without feeling the need to be remade wholesale, but in Christ, the good news is that not even the need for wholesale change can keep you apart from this new life. Christ is the bread of new beginning, and he walked the way of self-giving that leads to a new start. He invites us to be a part of this new beginning. We’re invited to become thieves working to share with others; sinners learning the ways of righteousness; a community learning to trust in the new beginnings God is working among us.

Amen.

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