We begin each of our services by lighting a Christ candle. The Christ candle symbolizes Christ being with us whenever two or more meet in his name, and how within our awareness of his presence is all the Peace that God intends for us know and to be. We especially own that peace of Christ now as our province of BC burns with this unprecedented level of wildfire activity. We own that peace of Christ for ourselves. We own that peace of Christ on behalf of all the front-line and support firefighters working on the ground and in the air as well as behind the scenes – we pray for them as they continue to make the courageous sacrifices that we all so appreciate, that we all so need them to be making. We own that peace of Christ for those who have been unsettled, who are scared: we think particularly of those on Evacuation Notice from Logan Lake and elsewhere – people who have had to sleep in their cars for lack of emergency accommodation, people who have or are seriously at risk of losing their homes, or even worse. We know we can own that peace of Christ because it’s based not on anything we need to be doing but on an eternal promise of God – a promise that with all our hearts we believe – that Christ is with us wherever we are, whatever our circumstances.
MAY THAT SELF-SAME PEACE OF CHRIST BE WITH YOU…
Over the last 4 weeks we’ve been looking at aspects of what it means that Jesus describes himself in John 6 as the ‘Bread of Life’.
- We began by exploring how he is as essential to our everyday living as bread was to any meal eaten in the Middle East of his time… His point being that ‘without an embracing of who and what he is and does there is a very real sense in which our lives are and will remain incomplete.
- Then we explored something of how there truly is no sense of scarcity in God. Not only is what God provides in Jesus essential, it is also abundant!
- Next, we looked at how, by describing himself as actual bread, Jesus would have us own how following him isn’t just some esoteric theory for us purely intellectually to grasp as about something very real. Physical!
- Last week we looked at the familiarity of what is being revealed to us by looking at how Jesus’ bread is always right here with us where we are – for those with eyes and hearts open enough to see and receive.
- Today it’s for us to understand how for any of this ‘Jesus as bread’ to have any meaningful significance in and through our lives – we do need actually to be eating of it. It needs to be eaten.
This week – it needs to be eaten
What does Jesus’ insistence on the actual ‘eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood for eternal life’ actually mean? What does it imply? What does it invoke? What does it effect?
I understand that the early church was despised by many in the first centuries – and not least of all for this accusation of cannibalism. They would have known something about this pretty radical teaching of Jesus Christ but without knowing too much more about the inner workings of this newly emerging faith, they took what he said about our eating him literally.
2ndC Christian writer & apologist Justin Martyr describes how Christians were persecuted for 3 main reasons: atheism, incest, and cannibalism. Atheism came from their refusal to worship the Roman pantheon of “gods”. Incest was the result of Christian husbands and wives referring to each other as “brothers and sisters in Christ.” And cannibalism because of their belief that we actually are somehow to eat the flesh of Christ and drink His Blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
But what then did Jesus mean here with this highly provocative teaching – or perhaps, more clearly, what didn’t he mean: Jesus as the Bread of Life!
What I don’t believe is that he was giving us ammunition for arguing about this as we have over the centuries. I mean, does the bread and wine actually become his body and blood in the sacrament as the proponents of ‘Real Presence’ insist, or is it just purely symbolic – not to be taken too seriously? Or is it something else altogether – something more nuanced than any of those extremes? People have gone to war over this question. I am with those who understand that Jesus was speaking metaphorically. But notice, not JUST metaphorically in any diminishing dismissive sense of the word, PROFOUNDLY & SACREDLY so.
He is saying that for him – like bread – to have any meaningful impact in our loves, he wants our physical engagement! Our receptivity! As we said earlier, this truth about Jesus is not just about some esoteric theory, accessible only to the intellectual & theological elite!
In order for ordinary people like us, truly beloved people, ever to be impacted by it, it requires of us to DO something. It requires our physical engagement in order to make our participation in him real, and for us to be changed by that. I’m speaking about our being moved to take some physical action! …it calls for our receiving/ and doing/ and so our becoming what God has always intended to make of us!
However delicious bread may appear to be displayed up there on the baker’s shelf, for it to have any possible impact on us, for it to be able to make any nutritional difference in our lives, it needs to be reached for, taken into our mouths, chewed, swallowed, incorporated: …in-corpus/…incorporated into our bodily living. By calling himself ‘Bread’ Jesus is saying that however attractive our ideas about him, or God, or even for ourselves as we follow him are, for him and ‘His Way’ to have any meaningful or significant nutritional impact on and in and through us physically or spiritually, he chooses to need our active internalizing!!!
But how do we do that? How do we get to eat this bread?
We are all so different. Some may find that they best do that by prayer as they make the time to go there: get out of bed a little earlier perhaps. Just sitting quietly perhaps…As they do so they may find themselves beginning to confess again how needy and desperately self-obsessed and kind of godless as we are on our own. That prayer may be for us to be allowed to recognize that, and then to embrace every day that unless we chewing on the bread of this Jesus as a very real part of our everyday living we don’t have a hope. Then thanking God for how God does make this possible…
Some look to the various disciplines of our faith that have emerged over the centuries: …setting time aside to walk a labyrinth, committing themselves to read scripture, or to engage with a prayer buddy where they allow themselves to connect at a level deeper than just the superficial as they come to share each other’s hopes, fear, joys, sadnesses. Some choose to reconnect with others by becoming part of a local faith community.
Others may choose to eat the truth of Jesus as the Bread they need for life not necessarily even by naming him as such, but as they find themselves coming to love what he loved, doing the things he would have all of us do.
They may never join a church or become ‘religious’ but are so often the ones to be seen faithfully pushing for justice as they get opportunities to do so, prepared to sacrifice their own comforts as they choose to show love, care, compassion to others who are in need…
These are those who so often are the ones who make the effort to show up at the rally supporting some cause that matters: a greener planet, deeper respect for humanity, who challenge misogyny, homophobia, who step up to volunteer in the kitchens, to serve on the soup line, those who tend actually to make those calls of kindness & generosity. We all know people like that – people who truly make a difference as their lives demonstrate their chewing on that Bread of Jesus.
The point being that there are these things that we are given ACTUALLY TO DO. As we do them, so we are placed in the space where we can participate in the Bread that is intended to feed and grow us all into becoming the menschen that God intends. Just as adopting a healthy life-style helps our bodies to get strong and in-shape, so we can expect our actually engaging in these Jesus-Bread-centered practices to make us whole. We can expect to lose the flab of what we are not – this greedy all-consuming-obsession with self that we all tend to go back to, the lusting after purely personal betterment and ambition at the expense of others, the constant need to be building up our egos, and so we may find that we are becoming whom God has always intended us to be – created as we are in God’s image.
To Summarize the Series
That is us as we are being changed from understanding our spirituality as an optional extra tacked onto our lives to embracing it as the absolutely essential ground of our being. That’s us moving out from the entrapment of our small and scared scarcity mindsets to the liberation of open and generous attitudes of abundance, where we know that in all things there just so much more of God’s compassionate life, healing hope and poured-out love to know and to share. And so our faith grows up –moving from being purely theoretical and largely irrelevant to our finding ways for living it out in realized physicality. We come to understand God’s love not as a noun merely to be looked but a verb to be lived as we put it into action. And familiar – absolutely no escapism, just engaged action where we are. That’s us coming to use what we have, where we are, all to God’s glory. That’s our actually eating of that living bread and then finding practical ways to share it. Then, having eaten long and often of this “bread of the Living Jesus Christ”, our prayer is that each one of us will come to know the transformation of being able to say with St Paul[i] that ‘it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me’.
Even as You fed so many with what they most needed to come alive,
we pray for that enlivening – that feeding.
You know the various hungers we carry,
the hungers that are crippling us, and that are crippling the world,
whether they are consciously aware of it or not.
Feed us with your Living Bread,
that we truly may be the people you use to make your difference.
Show us how we can do that, O God, and so make you smile…
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2021.
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