Monday, August 10, 2015
So Now What?
For the last few weeks, I've fallen into a pattern of sorts. On Monday, I wake up and read the gospel lesson and think, "Bread of Life again? What else can I possibly say about John 6?" Then, on Tuesday, I read the lessons again and calm down enough to figure out a direction to take. Well, it's Monday, and I'm hoping for new insights tomorrow because, right now, I'm still wondering where this is headed.
Although it might be because I'm worn out with John 6, today I find myself on the side of the Jews. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" they ask. Good point. How is that possible? What is Jesus' response? "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." Thanks, Jesus. We got that part. I'm asking how that works. How is it possible that we eat your flesh and drink your blood.
Trust me, I won't be offering a sermon on the history of Anglican Eucharistic theology. If our tradition has anything going for it, it's our history of not defining how the mysteries of Holy Communion work. When people ask me what we believe about the Eucharist, I usually give them the "neither Transubstantiation nor bare Memorialism but somewhere--anywhere--in between" answer. Yeah, I'm not happy with it either. And maybe that's the point. I think Jesus' strategy on this issue is worth observing.
The crowd hears his message and fails to understand it. They ask for clarity--for explanation--and, instead of providing it, Jesus doubles down and amps up the strangeness of his message. They want to understand what he means by "bread of life" and "eat my flesh," and Jesus responds by taking the image even further: "You must eat my flesh and drink my blood!" Yuck.
For me (and this blog), it's a familiar refrain, but faith isn't about figuring it out. We aren't supposed to understand what happens. We're supposed to open up--our mouths, yes, but more importantly our minds and our hearts--and receive. Jesus doesn't give any wiggle room. He doesn't water down the message. He won't let us off the hook. We ask for relief, and he won't give it. Yes, it is a hard truth to swallow (just wait until next week's gospel lesson). But, like many aspects of following Jesus, this is an accept it first, understand it later sort of thing.