Today’s Author: Carol Swanson
The Bread of Life Discourse continues, and it is about to take a turn. In John 6:51, Jesus says “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 for the life of the world is my flesh.” (Ah yes, the Prologue again—1:14. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” The incarnation.)
This begins a dispute among the Jewish authorities in the crowd. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And Jesus responds, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Karoline Lewis writes, “It is important to note that… the Jewish leaders call Jesus ‘this man’ and do not use his name. The offense is that this mere man is making these radical claims about God. This particular moment is worth contemplating when it comes to our sacramental theology around Holy Communion—To what extent do our practices and our imagination around our celebrations of the table have a marked domesticity about them, as if we have forgotten the radicalness of what Jesus actually did and said? When Jesus offers himself as the Bread of Life, his flesh to eat, at least according to John, it is not limited to the offering of his life on the cross. That allusions to the Lord’s Supper are relocated from the events surrounding the death of Jesus to the middle of his earthly ministry suggests that the offer of this flesh is first and foremost connected with abundant life here and now and not just the resurrection, and certainly, not just the crucifixion. If there is any eucharistic theology to be gleaned from the Gospel of John, it needs to be one that is a celebration of abundant life with God now and not a remembrance of Jesus’ life soon to pass away.” (p 95)
Jesus continues in verses 56 and 57: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” This is that mystical wisdom that is so wonderful and yet hard to imagine. We abide in the omnipresent Creator-Savior-Spirit and the omnipresent God abides in us.
Last October, the Process in Faith event was Practicing Communion” with guest presenter Paul Nancarrow, a retired Episcopal priest and professor. He shared how Communion is so central to our Christian being; to our practices of worship; of hospitality; of forgiveness, justice and reconciliation. He said Jesus gave two key commandments: 1. Love one another as I have loved you. 2. Do this in remembrance of me. He also talked of receiving and offering in freedom and gratitude. I think of the crowd of 5,000 on the hillside and Jesus giving thanks for 5 loaves and 2 fish. The words “Receiving and offering in freedom and gratitude” take flight in my imagination and I see the loaves and fish multiplying as Jesus mingles and distributes. Freedom and gratitude. In the receiving. In the offering. Moved to share. Being welcomed in Jesus, we welcome all.
God of sustenance, provide us with your living bread daily so that we might be brought to eternal life. Help us share your living bread with all who will receive it. Amen.
(“Prayer of the Day” from Sunday)
Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community. If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, contact Pastor Peter.