John 6:51-58Jesus said, "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."
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 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 the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."
There is a saying, “you are what you eat”. We have been talking for several weeks now about the bread of life and drinking living water so that you may never again thirst. That is what I want! I want to be closer to God. I want to eat this wonderful bread and drink this living water.
Two thousand years ago Jesus's statement, “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.” was misinterpreted by many as some kind of weird cannibalistic ritual performed by this offshoot of Judaism called The Way. There were even rumors of human sacrifice.
Even today it seems a little strange to use a metaphor about eating human flesh and drinking blood. Jesus was talking about consuming his teachings. He was talking about the bond that would develop between he and his followers. He would live in them. They would live in him. This idea of the duality between God and man would fall away and they would become one in him. Jesus was also talking about the sacrifice he would make for man. He was prepared to give himself, and die on a cross for those he loved. His sacrifice would wash away their sins.
I am a retired teacher. Many of the students I taught were considered emotionally troubled and because of that I would help them deal with the tough situations they would get themselves into. I would spend a lot of time helping these students in their interactions with whichever authority figure they had gotten in hot water with that week.
Here is a taste of what we would do. I would say, “Billy, you are about to get called down to the principal's office for swearing at Ms. Onion. I know this is not going to be easy for you so I am going to go there with you, but before that happens I want you to tell me about it.”
I would listen to his story and then I would say something like this. “You and I have no control over what the principal is going to say but you have control over what you will do. So tell me what it will look like when you and I visit the office.
Billy and I would then talk through what he was going to say and how he planned to react when he faced his consequences. I have to tell you that this worked every time. Students who tended to be explosive when they were in a stressful situation were calmer and better prepared for what was to come next.
Why am I telling you all this? I think Jesus is preparing us for the end. He was telling us that if we consume his teachings and put our trust in him we will be ready for what is to come next.
I have spent a good bit of time at hospice this week. A friend of mine was in the final stage of life and I did what I could to support him and his family. A constant theme of our discussion was about Bill's giving nature and how hard he worked at making this world a better place. While I was visiting them I read Prayers for a Vigil from the Book of Common Prayer. The words are comforting and say a lot about our beliefs. One of the sentences is, “Receive O Lord your servant, for he returns to you.” Bill had spent his life consuming the bread and drinking the water that is his Christianity. Now it was time to go home.
My question to you is what does it look like when you or I consume that bread and drink that water. What does it look like when we act out our Christianity? If we are practicing Christians, can other people tell and what do they see? I ask you to reflect on that this week.