“Come, Live as I Do!”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – August 19, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 111; John 6:48-59


    In our Scripture lesson this morning, Jesus was trying to inform his listeners as to what would ease their transition from being alive in this world to being fully-alive in the next realm.  The change at our exit is as dramatic for us as it was when we left the liquid environment within our mother's womb, squeezed through the narrow birth canal, and entered a world of light and countless forms where we became air-breathers.  The transition was a process over which we had no control, just as our exit from this life will be.

    This morning, I would like us to imagine what all of us will one day experience.  Human beings are the only species on the planet that understand that one day we will depart from our bodies.  Let us review a composite of memories that others have brought back once they regained consciousness on this side of the curtain.   

     A day will come when we find ourselves finally surrendering to whatever predictable fate is happening to our bodies.  It is not that we have given up hope of surviving some illness.  Our life-issue is that we have grown exhausted and frustrated just holding on, particularly when we realize that we will never get better.   We have accepted the fact that our death is imminent and while on the operating table for one last attempt at giving us more time, we let go.

     We immediately discover that our life did not end.  What ended was the vehicle that temporarily housed us and because of the way we feel, we wished we had let go months if not years earlier.  

     Our first experience is that everything that we once took for granted no longer exists.  We no longer have to eat, sleep, or worry.  We are safe, secure, and we experience a loving field of energy that is everywhere.  We learn from others that this experience is the only evidence that God exists. No one we meet has ever met or seen the energy source of creation.  God remains a mystery there as our understanding of God remained a mystery when we were still living in our bodies.  However, no one seems to be bothered by the invisibility of the being we call God.

     As spirit-beings, we can go anywhere we wish. All the major players in the world of human affairs are there from former political leaders to entertainers.  Everyone communicates with what is akin to mental telepathy.  People who played the role as our spouses, parents, and friends are present, but our reunion with them is not as dramatic as we had imagined. Our understanding of loved ones and the role they played in our lives is filled with a vastly different understanding.

     Heaven is nothing like the images we were given as children. There are no streets of gold.  There are no pearly gates.  There is no throne where God sits.  Jesus is just one among many spiritual teachers.  As it turns out we are all sons and daughters of our Creator.  Many people during our former lives parroted such a belief but seldom was such a label taken seriously.

     While we are still in the early stages of getting used to our state-of-being, suddenly, we hear voices of someone calling our name.  We find ourselves awakening in the recovery room of our hospital following the successful, experimental surgery.  While our doctor was debriefing us following the procedure, she told us that the likelihood is very good that we will make a full recovery.  We will officially be in remission.

     What happens to all of these mind-blowing experiences we just encountered? What is it that excites us to tell others about our excursion on the other side? Do we tell our loved ones about our regrets of being returned to their world?  After all, it is rather lame to leave what we knew to come back into a conflicted world filled with people who are completely uninformed about the real meaning of their life-experiences.  Most have become preoccupied by issues that are totally meaningless in the grand scheme of possibilities.

     We remain thoroughly convinced that what we experienced was not a dream.  With our body still functioning through mechanical means we had left our body for a fair amount of time. How many details do we want to share about those we met and what they communicated to us?

     In John's Gospel lesson for this morning, it sounds as though Jesus is trying to tell people this very thing.  He wanted his listeners to know that what will ease their transition into the next world will also work extremely well while they are still here.

     Jesus said, "I am telling you the truth, if you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not achieve the  full meaning of life within yourselves."  Many among his listeners questioned such an absurd teaching, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"  (John 6:52f) Jesus was attempting to inform his listeners why changes in their attitudes and goals will be infinitely helpful to them:

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me and I will live in them. I am describing the bread that God sent to the earth. What I offer is not like the bread that our ancestors ate in the wilderness.  The bread (information) that I bring will enable you to develop a spirit that will serve you now and forever. (John 6:56f)

     Jesus' graphic words were telling his listeners, "Take my spirit within yourselves.  Be like me."

    The Apostle Paul understood this as well and preached the same message to his listeners.  Paul said, "I beg you, I am bringing you the good news (the bread from heaven).   Follow my example." (I Corinthians 4:16) "Please, imitate me just as I imitate the spirit of Jesus."  (Corinthians 11:1) Can we understand what Jesus and Paul were teaching?  Can we visualize it?

     During one of our visits to Maryland, I clipped a cartoon from the Washington Post that was horizonal for about a foot as it appeared in the comic section.  It now hangs on our refrigerator door here in Bermuda.  The cartoon features a dog and a cat that have become very close friends. 

     The dog is shown saying to the cat what he thinks about people, "It is amazing how hard these creatures have to work to become like us."  The pair is at the bottom of a tall zigzag stair case with signs featuring wise decisions at every plateau as one ascends to the top where Complete Enlightenment awaits each climber.  Here are the stages:


The first step to enlightenment: Abandon your ego.  (2) Learn more and talk less.  (3)  Be present.  Open your mind.  (4)  Accept what is.  Reject preconceptions. (5) Embrace diversity.  Release judgments (6) True wealth isn't monetary. (7) Introspection: Realization of your connection with all other life forms. Finally, at the top is number (8) Complete Enlightenment.


    If a person wants a quality disciplined path to follow, this cartoon comes pretty close to describing such a journey.  However, Jesus was presenting to humanity a consciousness that will energize each of our unique personalities.  In spite of our being one-of-a-kind, when we perceive everything through lenses of unconditional love, we radiate the wisdom found on each plateau of the staircase.

    Last week, we mentioned how Joseph, son of Jacob, communicated this consciousness eighteen hundred years before Jesus was born.  This road map to spiritual freedom has been around forever. (John 1:1) When we find that nothing we do can emotionally stabilizes our lives, we soon learn that the problem is not with events happening in the created order, it is how we are choosing to respond to them.   When we become upset about anything, we are only reflecting what we are allowing to control us.

    Dr. Wayne Dyer once told a story that comes from India.  India was being threatened by an enemy and the call went out for men to join the army. A devoted husband and father left his family and joined the military. Once India had secured a victory, he returned home to find that it had been burned to the ground by a roaming gang of looters and murderers.  He presumed that his family died in the blaze. He became heartsick and mourned for a remarkable length of time.

     His life with his wife and his son were what kept him going with courage.  His goal was to return to them.  It was for them that he was fighting a war against a threatening enemy.   He gathered up some of the remains of his family and put them in a small pouch that he wore around his waist as a constant reminder of their presence.

    Many years later, the man heard a knock on the door of his rebuilt home.  The knock was coming from his son who had escaped from the gang of robbers who had captured him many years earlier.  His son said,


Poppa, poppa, unlock the door. It is me, Deepak, your son!  Please open the door!  I have escaped from the men who were looting and destroying everything while most men were off fighting the war. 


     The father could not believe that someone would engage in such a prank. They must have known how long he had grieved. The father said, "Go away.  My son died years ago."  The boy persisted but the father refused to unlock the door. The son realized that eight years had passed and his father might not recognize him.  Everything from his voice and body had changed. Finally, the son gave up and sadly went away to continue his journey in the world.

     The father could not negotiate steps 3 and 4 in the staircase to enlightenment.  He was holding on to his son's death so tightly that he was not open-minded enough to understand that another possibility existed. 

     This a storyline for many people in our experience! They have become so invested in a particular understanding that they are blind to any other alternative.  Many people do not want to recognize this about themselves because they are right and feel perfectly justified to hold on to their attitude of bitterness and anger.  They even enjoy the support of others who feel the same way.

     Jesus knew that his listeners were waiting for God to save them by the arrival of the Messiah.  They refused to love their enemies.  They paid their taxes with an undertow of bitterness and hatred for the Romans. They wanted their war-god, Yahweh, to fight for them as God had done for their ancestors centuries ago.

     For Jesus, heaven is an environment where each spirit is filled with attitudes-of-being that have ties to other beings and none that are linked to the forms of this world.  Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul begged people to detach emotionally from the things of this world that create attitudes that constantly sabotage the quality of their lives. 

     I once heard a committed Christian say: 


Look, Dick, I can only live in one world at a time.  You keep telling me about another world and I can't be like you. I can't bring myself to care about our politicians.  I am fed-up with the way our government spends our tax dollars on things that do not matter.  I can't tolerate the attitudes and behavior of people who ruin life for all of us.  When I get to heaven I'm going to ask God why there was so much wrong with His creation.  


    I told him that God is likely to respond to him by asking:


What did you think that Jesus meant when he taught, 'Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.'  You were miserable because you were holding on to things that were beyond your ability to control or change.  


     Clearly, most of us have a lot of work to do within ourselves. Do our choices really express our love for others or are they more about our self-interest?  Most of us cannot let go of what really matters to us in this world.  None of those things will matter in the next life. Religions are a human creation that try to explain how things work in our world. However, all of them have little in common with the normal processes of life that all people experience.

     Clearly, the processes of our living conditions are still a mystery to many of us. It is so nice and rather comforting to realize that the Creator of the material world has infinite patience with all our responses and reactions.  We are the ones who came into this life to play.  Jesus' ministry was dedicated to giving us better rules that define who we really were before we came here to play.

     God would be insane to allow our eternal destiny to remain in our hands.  We will all return to the environment we left in order to come here to see how we do with our choices when faced with challenges.  Jesus was only trying to help by introducing unconditional love as another tool for our tool chest.



Loving and always nurturing God, we search for the spiritual nourishment that will cause our neediness to be silenced.  We know that gratification is not the same as fulfillment. We know that authentic power comes from our skills of spirit and not because of our station in life. Teach us that our faithfulness in living what Jesus taught is our greatest gift to this world.  When we take into ourselves the spirit that Jesus lived, we have a remarkable opportunity for living life to its fullest potential.  Help each of us to be a blessing to those who have not awakened to this truth.   Amen.       



Loving God, we are so thankful for our lives.  They are like a beautiful tapestry that is being created when we allow our experiences to weave the threads of our bittersweet moments into a work of art.

So many times, we become caught on the edges of an experience that we feel is so unjust or unfair, without ever knowing that we are being pruned in order to bear more fruit. We are quick to judge our circumstances without any understanding of where our experience might be leading us. We marvel at how failure can lead to an open door, how a fractured relationship can lead to one that is fulfilling, how a detour can lead to a new horizon, or how our frustration can inspire our creativity.  Help us, O God to trust your wisdom in how our lives are unfolding. Only when we doubt your presence do we find ourselves blind and lost.  Only when we misplace our trust in you, do we seek fulfillment in places that cannot provide it.

Help us to be more open to the movement of your spirit.  Encourage us to be more expressive of our faith.  Help us to lead others to the discovery that everyone needs spiritual nourishment. Cause us to remember that what Jesus taught has now become ours to demonstrate.  Enable us to look upon all who enter our path as people that we can influence with our smiles, friendship, and peace. We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus who taught us to say when we pray . . .