- Proverbs 6:1-6
- Ephesians 5:15-20
- John 6:51-58
Are you full yet? We have been talking bread for 5 weeks now since Jesus fed the 5,000 on the green grass next to the Sea of Galilee. The author of John’s Gospel has been skillfully dancing us through this metaphor of bread for the body and Spirit, physical bread and heavenly bread. This culminates, of course, when Jesus pronounces that he is the bread of life.
Today’s text continues this theme; only this time, even the spiritual becomes a little more physical. Here Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in me. 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.” Jesus goes on to say, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” This certainly sounds a bit grizzly so let us unpack it just a bit.
Back in John’s first chapter, the writer labels Jesus’ true identity in this manner, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Jesus Christ, the Word of God has found a human (fleshly) form. And here I think that Jesus is passing this Word along to humanity. But this can only happen as we take this Word into our very souls. We can only do this through our relationship with Jesus learning from his life and example, and living that out first in Christian community and then in service to the world around us.
Since the beginning of this year, I have lost 40 pounds. I don’t mention this to brag because I truly needed to do it for my health and wellbeing. In 2020 I had two minor outpatient surgeries which were not terrifically invasive but required weeks of recuperation that saw me on the couch for a good bit of time. I found it very easy to add 15 pounds right there. Add this on top of the slow accumulation of weight that normally happens through 60 years of life, and I needed to take some weight off.
The weight loss program recommended for me involved mindful decisions about meal planning, food shopping, and preparation. It focused on not only what I ate but how much I ate and why. The process started by asking me what my big picture was for what I wanted to feel like, be able to do, and look like with the weight gone. In all of this, I certainly did confirm that we do become what we eat.
Too many carbs and empty calories with not enough movement in my daily life will add weight. Balanced meals consisting of real food eaten in proper proportions with sufficient exercise causes you to lose weight. The wisdom of the program was that when I found myself slipping in making good decisions, I was to go back to that “big picture.” Will making poor choices help me get there or slow me down. This was usually enough to help me minimize my slip-ups and get me back on track.
The same can be said for our spiritual lives. What is our big picture for what we want to be in life, how we want to live our lives, and how we want to impact the world? Are we only consuming pop culture that invites us to think first about our own needs without considering the needs of others? Just as the ads on TV invite us to consume a diet of fast food or processed food high in salt and sugar, our culture also stresses that money is the answer to all of our most pressing needs. I often find myself daydreaming about how what I would do if I won a multi-million dollar lottery. My usual thought is that it would be mighty sweet. But so is a banana split!
Consuming bread from heaven moves us away from being me-centered to being Christ-centered. This happens when we nurture our souls through prayer and Bible study. We also nurture our souls by sharing our Christian journey in a community of faith through worship, group study, and fellowship events. Our nurture continues as we humbly serve the needs of others. Yes, it always comes back to mission.
Next week we have our last bite at the Bread of Life. Stay tuned!