When we eat our life’s bread, our Lord Christ, we take God’s very essence into us and we are drawn into the reality, heart, peace, and life of the Triune God and become part of Someone greater than we, yet including all.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 19, year B
texts: John 6:35, 41-51; 1 Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We all long to know that we matter, that we’re noticed, that someone thinks we’re important.
Our society idolizes the individual, urges us to claim our rights to be whatever we want to be, but at our depth we fear we are alone. What if we don’t show up and no one notices? What if we’re in pain and no one cares? What if we’re struggling and people just pass us by?
People of faith join communities of faith looking to belong, to matter. But it’s amazing how people start to change, and bend over backwards for others they hardly know. People look out for each other in a place like this, pray for each other, notice when people are missing. We come here to find a place for ourselves, but we change.
Paul explains with this truth: “we are members of one another.” The body of Christ is our deeper truth, not our individuality. The more we live into this body we are changed. We do things differently, choose differently, live differently, because it’s no longer about me, or you, but about us. We are members of one another.
Without fully knowing it was happening, we’ve lived what Jesus teaches today.
We have taken Christ Jesus into us as bread of life and he has changed us. This is a deep, confusing teaching, but we’ve started living it.
It’s like what happens whenever we eat. Our body is changed by the foods we eat, whether it’s a meat-heavy or vegetable-rich diet, lots of carbohydrates or sugar, our body chemistry, health and life change.
That’s what happens when we take Christ’s essence and life into us, as our bread of life. We are not who we were before. This is hard to grasp; Jesus lost lots of followers when he spoke like this. People don’t want to be changed. People don’t want to hear strange, disgusting teachings like “eat my body, drink my blood.” People don’t want hard-to-comprehend teachings, just simple answers.
But Jesus is being simple. He says if we can imagine drawing his life into ours, we will discover he is drawing us into the life of God, and we will never be alone, never be afraid of being lost, never wonder if we are valued or important to others again. And even though it’s been happening partly without our knowing, if we look now we can see at least four ways Christ transforms us by drawing us to God.
When we eat of our Lord, take this bread of life into us, we are drawn into God’s reality.
When Christ fills us we are drawn out of our own sense of what is real and what isn’t. The barriers between us and God fall and we see things not as we always have, but as God does. The barriers between us and others fall because we share God’s vision together.
So we’re able to look at the pain of the world as God does and see not only that it needs to be dealt with but also that we have the ability to do something. We’re able to look at the problems of the world and see what we’ve done to make them and start to work in the other direction.
When we are drawn into God’s reality it becomes ours, and with our community of faith we start seeing our path clearly together, not hundreds of different paths.
And when we eat of our Lord, take this bread of life into us, we are drawn into God’s heart.
When Christ fills us we are drawn out of our sense of what is lovable and what isn’t. The barriers between us and God fall and we love things not as we always have, but as God does. The barriers between us and others fall because we share God’s love together.
So we lose our fear that we can’t be loved by others in the joy that we are surrounded by God’s love. Our decisions, our actions, our way with everyone, from family to friends to co-workers to strangers are shaped by love, not fear or selfishness.
When we are drawn into God’s heart we find we are loved forever, and our whole world view becomes deep and abiding love for others in the limitless love of God.
And when we eat of our Lord, take this bread of life into us, we are drawn into God’s peace.
When Christ fills us we are drawn out of what is troubling us, making us anxious, afraid. The barriers between us and God fall and we feel things with the confidence that comes from living in the peace of God. The barriers between us and others fall because we live together in God’s peace and stop being afraid of each other, of ourselves, of life.
When we are drawn into God’s peace we find a place we couldn’t have found on our own, a place of calm in the midst of storms, a place of silence in the midst of shouting, joined together in God’s peace, and we know that all will be well.
And when we eat of our Lord, take this bread of life into us, we are drawn into God’s life.
When Christ fills us we are drawn out of our sense of the limits of life and death and its finality. The barriers between us and God fall and we see life not as the years we have to live, but as a quality of how we live. The barriers between us and others fall because we realize we share a life together in God that is profoundly more vital than each of our lives apart.
When we are drawn into God’s life we find what Christ means by eternal life. Life in the life of God connected to everyone else and connected to God, we are never alone, we never need to fear, not even our death, because together we are part of God’s life that is now and always.
John doesn’t tell us of the Lord’s Supper, just this teaching. Maybe that’s because the Lord’s Supper was intended all along to remind us of this.
On the night of his betrayal Jesus gave us this meal, calling it his body and his blood, perhaps because he was thinking of this teaching and realizing how difficult it would be for us to grasp. We’re so individual and independent, it would be hard to get what it meant to be drawn into the very being of God through Christ.
Jesus said do the Lord’s Supper to remember him. What if the point of tangible bread and wine was that we would, over time, deepen in our remembering of this prior teaching and our living into it? That we would come to this Table seeing it not as an end in itself, but God’s food that transforms us, food that truly is Christ Jesus in us, food that draws us into the reality, heart, peace, and life of the Triune God for our life going forward.
We would realize we are Elijah in the wilderness, and Christ is urging us, “get up and eat. You need to eat me for this journey of faith, and this bread and wine will help you know what it is to truly take me into you and be changed.”
So now we get up and eat. We take our Lord’s body and blood into us. And now we know what that means for the rest of our lives.
It means that all the barriers between us and God, between us and others, are coming down as we are drawn in, and changed.
It begins here in this place, as we live more deeply the truth that we are “members of one another,” as we deepen in our imitation of God, as Paul invites, living and breathing in God’s reality and heart and peace and life.
It will continue beyond this room, though, because once there’s nothing that keeps us apart from each other, once we all matter to each other, and we all belong to God, once our being in the body of Christ is far more important than any of our individual lives, it’s a small leap to recognize we belong to and are a part of everyone on this planet. To begin to live lives that show that what happens to everyone matters, that there is no one who doesn’t count, no one who isn’t noticed.
What that will look like for us lies ahead. The Holy Spirit will show us. But today we know that’s our path, and we once more will eat and drink our Lord Christ into ourselves for that journey, but now more fully aware of what this food will do for us.
It is grace and life beyond anything we could have imagined.
In the name of Jesus. Amen