#Dinner is the podcast for August 16, 2015. When God wants to know us intimately he comes to us in a way we can receive him. Are we ready? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John #John6 #Dinner #Eucharist #BreadandWine #BodyandBlood
This is a previously aired podcast from August 16, 2015
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For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/16/2015 The 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read John 6:51-58.
When I was dating, I was told by my brother, “Never go out to dinner with someone on the first date. Meet them for a drink, coffee, tea, whatever, just a drink. If the drink goes well, then you can move on to dinner. If the meeting over a drink goes poorly, then you can leave. Dinner means you want to get to know her.”
“Dinner means you want to get to know her.” Ah, there is a phrase that stuck with me. It, also, stuck with me when renowned biblical scholar Fred Craddock wrote about this passage from John 6, “We cannot live by bread alone. But the image of Jesus not only providing bread but being the Bread was pressed even further, joining it with the common understanding that eating and drinking are the very epitome of intimacy and union.” Craddock’s observation stuck with me because the center of the Christian life is intimacy with Jesus Christ. We believe that the most intimate of acts in the Christian life is the common union with Christ in the Eucharist. It is a prayer that joins us physically.
Three weeks ago, in embarking on this series on John 6, the Scriptures asked us to be open to what God could do. Two weeks ago, the Scriptures asked us to be open to the idea that God is beyond physics and the limitations that we place on things; that we place on him. Last week, the Scriptures asked us to be open to the fact that Jesus himself is the Bread of Life. This week Jesus himself, in this passage from John 6, impresses upon us the means through which we can receive that Bread of Life. Namely, we receive the Bread of Life primarily and ordinarily through the receiving of Communion, the Eucharist.
Prominent British Methodist theologian and friend of Benedict XVI, Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, who taught me systematic theology at Duke University, would tell us how he documented that the Reformers wanted, begged, and pleaded, with their followers to receive the Eucharist as often as possible. Luther would settle for weekly when he wanted daily, Calvin could not get the magistrates in Geneva to celebrate more than quarterly. The Reformers whole purpose was to open up this Treasure of the Eucharist to all the people.
Catholics, who celebrate the Eucharistic Meal weekly, are regrettably starting the trend again to only want to give their communicants the bread and not the cup. Until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, there was very little participation in the Mass by the people, who communicated very infrequently. The people had to wait some 800 years, until the 1960s to be allowed to receive Communion in the body and the blood, the bread and the cup.
This reluctance to receive the Eucharist is just craziness by all involved. My favorite quote about this tendency for us to shy away from the reality of Jesus in the Eucharist is from John Wesley, leader of the Methodists, who says it like this, “In a word: considering [receiving the Eucharist] as a command of God, he that does not [receive] as often as he can has no piety; considering [receiving the Eucharist] as a mercy, he that does not [receive] as often as he can has no wisdom.” My daughter says that Wesley is being “sassy.”
Earlier in this series, I said that the Catholics were held captive in their understanding of how Jesus is present in the Eucharist by the 12th century philosophy of scholasticism and that the Protestants were held captive by the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Can we all just take a step back from the drive to understand-so-that-we-can-believe? Can we just take the Word through whom all things were created at His word?
I think we have to be open to some concepts for us to be able to understand what Jesus says in John 6:53-54, here they are: “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.” First, we need to be open to the idea that God can do great things. This was the first reading from Chapter 6 in this series, the feeding of the 5,000. God does great things. He did and he does. We must be open to that.
Secondly, God can do those great things by using the ordinary. He uses water to wash away sin in Baptism. He uses oil to heal, as we saw in Mark 6:13, the week before the series on John 6. He stills the storm after the apostles approached him on the lake. Why do we pause and think he is not present in the Bread and the Cup, then? Why do we not think this is a life changing experience? There is a crisis in the Catholic and Protestant Churches regarding the Eucharist. The crisis amongst us Christians is that we need to once again believe that God speaks to us through the ordinary and he is beyond any limits we may put on him. God is God and we are not.
Thirdly, Jesus himself is the Bread of Life. He said so in this passage last week. In him, the Word through whom all things were made and exist, in him is life. When we eat the Bread of Life we receive the wisdom of the Universe. If we are open to God, if God is beyond physics and can do things we can’t understand fully, then how is it that we are to eat Jesus Christ? If I were not a Christian, it would sound gross and make no sense.
The key is to know that when God wanted to save the world, he came as an understandable form: a human being. When God wanted to offer us the most intimate moment of our faith, he comes in the form of bread and wine. The God who loves us doesn’t come to stump us. We don’t need elaborate theories of how the bread is changed. We don’t need to reserve the “specialness” of the Eucharist for clergy alone. We don’t need to make this meal more because it is everything we could ever want. We don’t need to keep the meal from anyone who is baptized. We don’t need to keep the meal from anyone who thinks they are not worthy.
All that we need is found in Jesus Christ. He said he is the Bread of Life. He said if we want to be intimately connected to him, we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. On the night he was betrayed, he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples and said, “Take this, all of you, for this is my body…” Likewise, he took the cup and said, “Drink this all of you; this is my blood…”
Simple. Profound. Amazing.
Remember when I said that my brother told me to only go for a drink because I should keep my distance? Jesus Christ isn’t inviting us out for a drink. He is inviting us to meet him for dinner. It is a dinner where we take a piece of bread and a sip of wine. In Him, then, at that moment, we are given the very presence of God to go into our body. Who could not be changed by having God enter into our bodies? Who could not be prepared for the Second Coming of Christ and be ready to be raised up on the last day after receiving the Lord of the Universe?
This is what is promised when we partake of Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. It is the Bread of Life, Jesus, with whom we have common union. He desires to be intimate with us. Why should we deny him? Taste and see that the Lord is good.
I have posted a video at MySpiritualAdvisor.com of Joseph McBrayer playing an adapted tune to a hymn written by Charles Wesley in the 1700s about the Bread of Life. Here are the words that stick out to me and I hope you will let them wash over you:
How the bread his flesh imparts,
How the wine transmits his blood,
Fills his faithful people’s hearts
With all the life of God!
This is what Jesus is talking about today. Believe him. Receive him. Taste him. See him. Become him. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2015.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian