Scripture: John 6:52-59
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So 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. 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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
If we could all step outside our centuries old worship practices for a minute and read these verses without the benefit of experiencing Holy Communion, I feel safe in saying that we’d think Jesus was talking craziness. You want me to eat your flesh and drink your blood? That’s weird. And it’s gross. And how is that helpful, anyway? I’ve always thought Jesus liked to be provocative. I think he enjoyed getting those visceral reactions from the crowds that followed him. If nothing else, framing eternal life within the language of cannibalism will get the peoples’ attention.
But what we should keep in mind is that John was likely expecting his intended audience to understand that this was a reference to the Eucharist (what we call Holy Communion). He wrote this gospel many years after these events took place. In fact, the Gospel of John is by far the latest written of all the four. The church was established and had already developed many of its worship practices. So, John is constructing this scene in a way that communicates and reaffirms the significance of receiving Communion. He wants us to know how crucial this act of worship is in the life of the church. In these verses, our very lives seem to depend on receiving the body and the blood.
That’s because for the early church, receiving Holy Communion was largely understood to be the church’s central act of worship. They believed it was the most important thing they could possibly do. I think they were right. I think it’s still the most important means of worship we have. And I believe that any worship service that goes by without offering this sacrament has been left incomplete. That’s not to say a service won’t be fruitful and good, but I am saying it won’t be as good as it could’ve been. I believe that churches everywhere need to reclaim sacramental worship as their primary and central means of communicating the Good News. Because Communion is more than a symbol. It is more than a remembering. Holy Communion is a holy mystery – a sign – through which the Christ makes himself physically present with us and in us. Communion is where we see and experience grace and love in the flesh.
Incarnate God, teach us, again, to worship you through these means of grace called sacraments. Remind us that the bread and wine are for us your body and blood. Allow us to receive them that we might receive your grace in the most physical, tangible way imaginable. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
Holy Communion gives us the eyes to see with an eternal perspective.