Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

“DERIVING LIFE FROM LIFE”

John 6:51

Psalm 104:24-31

One of what are called the “prime principles” of biological science is that all life derives from life.

Another way to put it is that all living things draw their life from other living things. This is a principle

we learn pretty early in life.  While I was too young to remember the details, somewhere along the

line of my first three and a half years before my sister Lore was born, I was convinced by someone,

or maybe some cartoon, that babies were delivered by the proverbial stork.  So my mother would

tell the story of that day when she returned home from the hospital with my sister, and my crying

and asking why the stork couldn’t bring me a baby brother instead.  Only some years later did my

teenage cousin Joanie explain to me in graphic terms where babies really come from.  That I do

remember.  And I remember liking the stork idea a whole lot better.   

      According to those same life from life principles, in the plant kingdom, there is no fall harvest

unless living seed is sown in the spring.  About the same time that I learned that the stork thing was

bogus, my childhood friend Danny French and I decided to conduct an agricultural experiment. 

Danny’s dad used to grow a vegetable garden every year.  We noticed that he would take the seeds

of some of the tomatoes, peppers and beans he grew, put them in the ground, and grew more

tomatoes, peppers and beans.  Well, Danny and I loved Tootsie Rolls.  You can probably guess where

this is going.  That summer, we sowed two entire handfuls of Tootsie Rolls Midgies, waiting day after

day for the darn things to sprout and grow.  They never did.  In fact, when we dug them back up,

they looked the same as when we planted them.  So, we washed them off and, and did what most

any seven year old boy would do.  With the help of a failed agricultural experiment, and the sex-

education tutorial of an older cousin, I began to come to the realization that biologically-speaking,

living things derive their life from other living things.

     Spiritually-speaking, the same principle applies:  all life derives from life.  An inward, abundant life

that we long for springs from the living Spirit of Almighty God.  As life derives from life, spirit derives

from spirit.  The vital spiritual life we find spoken of in the New Testament comes to us only from

the living Son of the living God.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus describes a spiritual lineage; in one instance

in the 15th chapter using the metaphor of a vine and its branches in describing His relationship to

God the Father, and our relationship to Him.  In this morning’s passage from the 6th chapter, Jesus

uses the metaphor of bread as life-giving and life-sustaining, describing Himself as the “bread of

life.”  The Son derives life from the Father, and we derive life from the Son.  On the most organic

level, that’s what it means to be a Christian.

     Many seek to turn the Christian faith into a philosophy of life, or a moral code, or a set of abstract

beliefs, or a set of right behaviors.  These things might emerge as the produce of our faith, but they

are not its roots.  Christianity is fundamentally Christ living in us and through us.  We could say that

Christ has planted His own life in the soil of ours.  How does this happen?  How do we get this in-

ward, abundant life of Christ planted in us?  Jesus puts it this way: “I am the living bread….Whoever

eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my

flesh.”  As we said at the beginning of this message, all life derives from life; living things draw their

life from other living things. That is both a prime biological principle, and a prime spiritual principle.

      It is also a prime biological principle that life alone sustains life.  In the most basic terms, that

means we human critters survive from day-to-day by eating other living things, whether we are

meat eaters or vegetarians.  We build our bodies, maintain our strength, fight disease, and sustain

our energy only by taking living things into ourselves.  We eat to live, and if we cease eating, we will

also cease living.

      By the same token, we can live spiritually and abundantly only by continually taking things of

God’s living Spirit into ourselves; for us as Christians, only by continually taking the things of Jesus

Christ into ourselves.  By feeding upon Christ – His way, His truth, His life – we build up our spirits;

maintain our inward health and grow in our inward beings; fight spiritual disease; energize ourselves

for a life of discipleship and service.  We feed on Christ in order to live.  And when we cease to feed

on Christ, we will also cease to live in Christ.  

      All of us as parents and grandparents are struck by how quickly our children and grandchildren

are growing.  They change so much from one day to the next.  And knowing how quickly they will

grow and change, we try, in a sense, to feast upon them.  That is, we play with them.  We watch

them grow in all their endearing childlike qualities.  We drink up their words, cherish their special

characteristics and gifts.  We can’t get enough of them!  We try to take into ourselves as much of

them as we can absorb so it won’t be lost; for as we know all too well, in the blink of an eye, they

are grown up and gone from us.

      We know what it means in this respect to feast on others.  We feast in this way when we’re

courting someone with whom we’re falling in love; or when we bump into an old, dear friend we’ve

not seen in years; or when we make what might be a final visit to a dying parent or loved one.  We

can’t get enough of them!  In a spiritual sense, we take as much of them into ourselves as we can. 

We can and should do the same thing with Christ.  To feast on the living bread of Christ means to

give Him our full attention; to soak up as much as possible from Him.  It means studying His life and

remembering His words.  It means prayerfully opening our hearts to His presence.  It means growing

in faith and dependence upon His grace.  It means seasoning our days with praise and thanksgiving. 

It means welcoming Christ by serving the least of His children; our brothers and sisters in this human

family. 

      On this communion Sunday, it means coming to the table of Jesus Christ where abstract ideas

and philosophical concepts become as tangible as fresh-baked bread and sweet, red fruit of the

vine.  The table of Christ strengthens our faith by making visible the promise of abundant life.  Here

at this table, we receive Christ’s life into ourselves, even as we are received into the life of Christ.   

Here at this table is courage for the timid and comfort for the heartbroken.  Here at this table is the

assurance of health for the sick and guilt-fevered.  Here at this table is companionship for the aban-

doned and lonely.  Here at this table is strength for those worn out; renewal for those burned out;

welcome for those cast out.

      So come to Jesus Christ, all who hunger for wholeness and forgiveness; all who are famished for

living bread that comes down from heaven.  Take into yourself the flesh of the living God, and you

will have God’s Spirit living in you as well.  For at the end of the day, all life derives from life.  Amen.