Like Moths to a FlameJohn 6: 41-51 Ummmm, does anyone hear an echo in the room? Bread. Bread. Bread. Bread. Bread. Is it just me, or are we being inundated with the Gospel of Bread? Flour. Yeast. Oil. Water. Salt.
Bake and eat. Take and eat. This is my body. Jesus said to them, â€˜I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Hunger and thirst. Basic needs that every single human feels and experiences. In any age and generation. And here Jesus says that which are your deepest elemental needs find their fulfillment in Christ. We begin to understand our incompleteness in a life apart from the Creator.
We don't really get how it works. We don't really understand why we are drawn into the life of Christ. Some days, we'd like to walk away. Some days we do walk away. Stamp our feet. Demand proof. Demand to be let go. But, like moths to a flame...we are drawn back in. Unbelief is overcome and faith is made possible only by the intervention of God. Like a magnetic force which pulls humans to God.
Go ahead and try to leave. You can pretend for a while. But then...you feel yourself being pulled back in. Drawn in. â€œNo one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me;â€ This is less about exclusion and more about the activity of the Holy Spiritâ€”drawing us in.
In these words, we realize that it's not really about us or how we are feeling or a decision we make. It is God. It is God who draws us in. The word used in this verse is the same word used to describe fishing nets being hauled into the boat. Poor fish never even knew what was coming. We must be dragged into faith by God, there is no other way to come.
In today's Gospel, Jesus says that he is the bread of life. This got folks around him grumbling. Who can blame them? They have grown up around Jesus. They know his earthly parents. They wiped his nose. Fed him. Shooed him away from the cooking fire. And now he goes and makes this inflammatory claim that he is Divine. That the same God who fed their ancestors in the wilderness is his Father.
Rather than make this claim easier to swallow, less offensiveâ€”Jesus ups the ante. This is my flesh. â€œThe bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.â€™â€ With all this talk about bread, we are tempted to make this a statement about Holy Communion. But here, Christ is pointing to his death on the cross. This bread is no free lunch. It will cost Jesus his life. And feeding on this bread will bring us as well to the cross. In the conversation with the Jews, Jesus isn't being cryptic or inflammatory just to make things exciting. Jesus is defining discipleship on Jesus' own terms. And Jesus terms are the way of the cross. Feeding on this bread...this bread of heaven, this bread of life, will bring us, as well, to the cross.
So we take and eat. And past, present, future all get blurred. It's as if we are transported into the last season of Lostâ€”where you never know what year or time it is. Jesus stands with us in the present, stretching an arm to the futureâ€”of God's kingdom to come and an arm to the past--to the rescue of the Israelites in Egypt, manna in the wilderness, the Last Supper, the event of the cross. And we are drawn into this holy mystery where Jesus is the host and we are guests. Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, says, â€œWe lay our puzzles and problems and find them not removed but reshaped in the pattern of Jesus. The whole world is coming, symbolically in that wine and bread, to the foot of the cross. And we gather up the praises and the pains of creation, turning them into prayer and sacrament. Which means that justice and peace are flowing out from this Meal as well.â€
When Paul says that in this meal we announce the death of the Lord until he comeâ€”he doesn't mean it's a good opportunity for preaching. He means that this actionâ€”the taking of the breadâ€”announces to the principalities and powers, the unseen forces in the world, that Jesus is Lord. That the cross changes everything. And we as God's people can go out to put that holy resurrection to work. In the city council. In the classroom. In the unemployment lines. In the cancer wards. In the peace negotiations. In our homes.
Jesus didn't give us theory. Jesus gave us action. Do THIS in remembrance of me. And be in awe.
Flour. Yeast. Oil. Water. Salt.
Bake and eat. Take and eat.