Sermon for Pentecost 12 Proper 15
The text of the sermon delivered by Marie Hvezda,
Licensed Lay Preacher
In order to enjoy good spiritual health, one needs nourishment and care. In our Gospel reading this morning St, John tells us Jesus referred to himself as the "bread of life", meaning that he alone could provide the care and nourishment that believers need to grow.
After the feeding of the 5OOO, Jesus and his disciples cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. When he arrives at the other side, and while the miraculous feeding of the multitudes is fresh in everyone's memory, Jesus declares himself to be the bread of Iife that came down from heaven. He says that those who come to him will never hunger or thirst, meaning they will be forever fulfilled.
It was Jesus Himself who said, 'I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give ls my flesh for the life of the world.'
That is a strange statement and it is not surprising that His listeners were puzzled by it. Jesus heard their questioning, but refused to dilute His language. In fact in an even stronger statement He said, 'If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you...my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.'
When Jesus speaks about drinking his blood, we find a strong conflict here with the command repeated so often throughout the Old and New Testament' that strictly forbade the drinking of blood or the eating of meat that still had blood in it. E.g. in Deuteronomy 12 God says: "Be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the Iife with the meat. And in Acts 15, when the church council of Jerusalem sends instructions to the non-Jewish churches elsewhere, they confirm that this commandment is still valid.
The reason that drinking blood was so strictly forbidden is that the blood contained the life of the other. And that's exactly why Jesus gives this seemingly contradictory command to drink his blood. You could say that, by eating the flesh of Christ, we identify with his death. But in drinking his blood, we identify and take in his life.
Then comes His great claim: "I AM the Bread of Life.... I AM the living bread which came down from heaven'.
Then Jesus went even further when He identified this bread of life with His own body and blood, 'If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you...my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.'
Just as good food and drink sustain physical life, so Jesus, the real spiritual food and drink, is the one that gives real, spiritual, eternal life. He alone is the sustenance of life.
This verse emphatically states that true food and true drink for our true need is found in Christ alone. He is the only food and drink that produces real life.
We can not separate the humanity of Jesus from the divinity of Jesus. And so, when Jesus says that "He is the bread of life that came down from heaven, to give his flesh and blood for us to eat, so that we might have eternal liter" he is telling us that he feeds us through every aspect of his total being'
Not only can we learn from Him and model ourselves on Him, we can also partake of Him. He feeds our souls on 'the Iiving bread' until we begin to live His life.
Our lives can be intermingled until the lines of distinction are virtually lost. Jesus said, 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in Him.' It is a picture of total intimacy, a complete sharing of Christ's life. It is only with Christ that we can have that kind of intimacy. He gives Himself to us without reservation.... Nothing is kept back.
For us wine is the symbol of the blood of Jesus, which we can drink and which Jesus, at the last supper, told his disciples and us, to do. And bread is the symbol of Christ's flesh which was sacrificed on the cross, that we should have eternal life through him.
Jesus sacrificed his body as the perfect sacrifice once and for all. There will be no more animals killed for a sacrifice as in the Passover, because Jesus did it once and for all. The flesh of Jesus was and is, the perfect sacrificial flesh; once and for all. We only need to know one thing, and that is - Jesus, He is the way, the truth and the life; the only way to heaven itself. He died on the cross instead of us who really deserve it.
To eat Jesus' flesh and to drink His blood means to believe in Jesus...by personally appropriating His sacrificial death.,. and by continually partaking of His life.
Crucial to the celebration of Communion is the sharing of Jesus' meal with the 'community' - with the body of Christ. We are all welcome to come to God's table, to remember Jesus and his sacrifice for us to have eternal life.
So the question I'd like all of us to answer this morning is this: What are we eating? I'm not speaking here of what goes into our mouths and stomachs, but rather what's going into our souls. And the old adage "You are what you eat" is certainly true when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. Our bodies certainly wouldn't survive very long if all we did is snack once a week - and the same thing is true with our souls. Are we constantly feeding on a meal of God's Word or are we settling for a short devotional reading or a verse of the day that we grab on the run? Are we consistently incorporating Jesus into every area of our life or is our intake limited to a one hour snack once a week on Sunday mornings? Is Jesus our daily bread or a side dish? Is he our regular nourishment, or our Christmas turkey, Easter ham and whatever else conveniently fits into our schedule throughout the year? In other words, is Jesus our Lord, to whom we look for all things, at all times? Is he the center of our life and faith, or is he our insurance policy that we think of only when we need to file a claim in times of need or despair? The body and blood of Christ is active, not static. It nourishes and flows. It is alive and requires our active participation in it to carry its meaning into the world.
So, let us consume with our ears and with our hearts, our Lord's spoken word for us this day. And whenever we come to his table, we remember his death on our behalf, and feed on his presence as he comes to us in the form of bread and wine, to nourish us in faith. For the Bread of Life that came down from heaven feeds us in both Word and Sacrament.