You Are What You Eat
October 7, 2018 – Pastor Doug Stratton
CCI: Jesus calls us to find our source, our strength, and our sustenance in Him.
Intro: Today is World-Wide Communion Sunday. On this first Sunday of October Churches of many varied traditions gather around the table of the Lord to remind one another that despite our differences, despite the words that mold our distinctive identities, above all else we worship, One Lord, we share One Faith, and we receive One Baptism. On this day, above all others, our differences take a back seat to what we share in common and that is faith in the Love of God and the Salvation Jesus reveals as it is represented in the Table. And so, today, we are going to focus on the gift Jesus has given to us at his Table.
The Scripture is taken from John 6:53-59
The discussion Jesus is having with the crowd and the Jewish leaders occurs right after Jesus had fed the 5000. Let’s remember what happened. A crowd followed Jesus to the far side of the Sea of Galillee, which is actually just a lake. There Jesus taught them and after a time, the crowd became hungry. Jesus broke 5 loaves and 2 fish and shared that little lunch with the multitude and they all were filled. That night, Jesus sent the people away, sent his disciples back across the lake, and he went into the hills to pray. Soon a storm arose on the lake and Jesus walked across the lake, overtaking the disciples and then calming the sea.
The next day, the people came looking for Jesus. Jesus was rather short with them, he said, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” He then told them that he was the bread of Life that came from heaven, and as often happens in John’s gospel, the people did not understand. And that brings us to our passage this morning.
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. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Intro: Young Martin had been studying for years. Finally the big day came. His family had come to share in the moment. As he lifted the chalice, he became unable to say the words of the sacrament and his bishop had to step in and complete the ceremony. This is my body, this is my blood. When Martin Luther stood before the alter to offer his first sacrament, the significance of what he was doing left him speechless.
From the beginning of the Christian Church, the memorial meal that Jesus shared with his disciples the night of his arrest has been a central focus for most of the church. It has been understood in many different ways throughout the history of the church. In the early church, communion was considered a scandal by the world. Christians were even put to death for cannibalism. When people desired to become a part of the church, until they had gone through a year of teaching and studying, they were not permitted to even attend the Lord’s Supper, much less participate.
Today, the Lord’s Table has become a common thing. I have never met a person who became speechless as he or she presided over the memorial. In fact, we approach it casually and with little thought about why Jesus Christ instituted this memorial. Rather than focusing on what Jesus gave us when he gave his life on Calvary, we argue over whether communion should be for all believers or just baptized members of particular congregations. We debate the use of wine or grape juice, common bread or unleavened. The church, both locally and world wide has taken this reminder of the unity we have in Christ and made it a point of contention.
Unfortunately, this is not new. In the Scripture we just read, Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” By the time the Book of John was written, Christians were being expelled from the synagogue. They were being accused of many things, including cannibalism. And so in this passage, we see Jesus take the charge that was coming upon his followers and claimed them as his own. In doing that he broke the power of the mockery. Just as claiming the name “Christian” which was intended as ridicule emptied the word of its power to mock, so declaring that followers of Jesus eat his flesh and drink his blood, emptied the charge of its power for those who were followers of Christ, it was evidence of their obedience.
In this passage, which is John’s account of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus reminds those in the crowd that their eating, their drinking, their living and their dying was all part of God’s great design.
Eating and table fellowship was central to Jesus’ ministry and teaching. He spoke of the blessing that is in store for the Bride of Christ when we gather as the Great Wedding feast in the future, and he opened his ministry of miraculous signs at an intoxicating wedding! Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. He also ate with poor and common people; with lepers and Pharisees and friends. Men and women gathered at the table with Jesus contrary to social custom.
Jesus was constantly expanding the table inviting others to come and eat; to share life together.
In the ancient Middle East, the practice of hospitality was a core value of the society. Because of the harshness of life, sharing your home and sharing your meal was literally life giving.
Even today the sharing of sharing food and a common table takes place on different levels. First there is the unifying idea of sharing the same food. Then there is the symbolism of the table itself: where you sit at the table, how the table is arranged, and who is invited. Together the food and table become a symbol of how our social world is also arranged.
Following the death of Anthony Bourdain, people have become acutely aware of his mission to “honor other cultures through the lens of food, using it as a means to educate and unite humanity.” In Kitchen Confidential, he wrote, “Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed pope-mobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.” His vision of sharing table with the humble and the wealthy, in the city and country, is a picture of what the table of the Lord is to be. There was always a hope that at the end of a meal halfway across the world, we could walk away from the table realizing we’re all human. Despite our seeming differences, we’re all grappling with universal issues to connect and to be fulfilled.
The table of the Lord is a table that is constantly expanding as it repeats the means of remembering that Jesus gave us. In the ground grain of wheat and crushed grapes of wine, we remember the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus. These elements were not unique, they were not magic, they were not unusual, the bread and wine were common elements of daily life.
As we celebrate World Wide Communion Sunday today and join with believers all around the world in that celebration, we come as the body of Christ, diverse and complicated, messy and confusing, but non-the-less it is the body of Christ, our body, our hands, our feet, our skin and heart. And as we share in the symbols of the body of Christ and blood of Christ, we share in the joy of new love and sorrow grief; we share in the fear of victims of violence and the hope of freedom; we share in the hunger of the forgotten child and the pain of the estranged mother. This is why we gather at the table.
Richard Rohr, the contemplative monk wrote: Many Christians say they believe in the Presence (of Christ) in the Eucharist, but they don’t get that (Christ’s real presence) is everywhere—which is the whole point! They don’t seem to know how to recognize the Presence of God when they leave the church, when they meet people who are of a different religion or race or sexual orientation or nationality. They cannot also trust that every person is created in the image of God. Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry trying to break down the false distinctions between “God’s here” and “God’s not there.” He dared to see God everywhere, even in sinners, in enemies, in failures, and in outsiders.
Father Richard Rohr – Center for Action and Contemplation July 17, 2018
And that, I believe is the message for us when we gather for communion. God is present here and now. And in this place we chew on that truth, we drink in that reality. And in the same way, in the common everyday elements of life, God is present each and every person we meet and as we chew on that truth and drink in that reality we become what we eat.
May we gather at the table with open minds and receptive hearts to meet Jesus in this moment, and in each person we meet as we go forward.
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Come as you are and praise Him!