Flesh and Blood, Literally…

Lectionary Passage:  John 6: 51-58
To read this passage online, go to http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=John+6:51-58&vnum=yes&version=nrsv.

Yes, more about bread!  But we can’t help but read this passage and think of our own Eucharistic language.  That is probably intentional.  Commentators think that this sixth chapter of the version of the Gospel story by the writer that we call John might have actually been composed over time and that the implications to the Eucharist might have been added later.  It, like our participation in Holy Communion, is an opening of oneself to a life in Christ.  The bread and the cup are lenses through which we can see things differently.  When taken literally–the notion of eating flesh and drinking blood–, they are downright shocking to the ears of this world.  So, if not literal, then are they merely symbols?

The truth is that this idea of “living bread” is something more.  It is more than just an over-spiritualized connection to the idea of God.  Rather, it is meant as a real, even a physical, maybe EVEN a literal, connection to the real God that is ever-present in our life.  This is hard for us.  We tend to be a little more Puritanical than most of us would care to admit.  We tend to try to separate the spiritual from the physical, perhaps trying to hold off at bay that physical self that is sometimes so raw, so vulnerable and exposed, perhaps even so dirty from that seemingly pristine image of God that we hold so dear.  But is that what Jesus intended here?  Listen:  “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

So what would it mean to connect to God, to literally abide in God, in every aspect of our being?  What would it mean to actually become the living, breathing image of God Incarnate?  We all wear skin.  We all live and breathe and walk around in this absolutely incredible physical body that is not disconnected from our soul or from our spiritual selves but actually part of it.  What does it mean to realize and affirm that God loves all of us–our souls AND our bodies?  And what, then, in turn, would it mean to love God in the same way?

The last things that Jesus did had nothing to do with making sure that the Disciples had all the Scriptures memorized or that they believed the right way or worshipped appropriately.  Jesus did not leave them instructions on how to be righteous or right.  Rather, in those last hours, he fed them bread and wine, things they could see, smell, and taste.  And then he touched their feet, caressing them lovingly, pouring cool water over them and wiping them with a towel.  And, lastly, he said the words that they needed to hear:  “Do this–not BELIEVE this or UNDERSTAND this or SPOUT this to the masses–but DO this.  Do this in remembrance of me.”

Stanley Hauerwas claims that “Christianity is not a set of beliefs or doctrines one believes in order to be a Christian, but rather Christianity is to have one’s body shaped, one’s habits determined, in such a way that the worship of God is unavoidable.”  Our faith is not limited to the spiritual.  It really is literal; it really does have to do with the flesh and the blood and sometimes even those funny looking, flat-bottomed things with the not-so-pretty toes at the end of our legs.  God created all of us.  God loves every molecule of our being.  And with every thing we are, we are called to love God, to become one with God, to live in full Communion with nothing left behind.

And, when you think about it, those senses, those very literal expressions of our bodies, are the ways that we connect to each other.  So, stop, and see, hear, smell, taste, and touch and do this in remembrance of me.  Eat this bread and drink this wine–together.  And kneel and wash and serve–together.

The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw–and knew I saw–all things in God and God in all things. (Mechtild of Magdeburg, 13th century mystic)

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

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