Monday, August 27, 2018

Everyone Eats

John 6:56-69
August 26, 2018

Everyone eats.
Not the same thing or the same amount.
Not everyone has the same likes or dislikes.
Some people need to take nutrition
in different ways because of health problems.
Some people have more complicated relationships with eating.
Some people love to eat, some people don’t.
But everyone needs food.
Everyone eats in one way or another.
The Last SupperSeiger Koder

Whether food scarce 
or whether its plentiful,
eating has brought people 
together forever.
People have shared food and traded food.
Societies have been formed by
how people hunted or gathered 
or farmed food.

In pre-grocery store times,
making a meal was a community act.
The cheese maker shared 
the baker’s products
baker shared the farmer’s 
products and the butchers.

The necessity of food brings people
to our food pantry every week and
out of that necessity, we’ve made
new relationships with new people
we might never have met before.

And since we all know that everyone has this
similar need, eating is a good opportunity to
gather together with other people.
So people come around all sorts of tables to do this task.

This human necessity that we all share,
makes the sharing of food with others
a sacred experience. God joins us in that moment.
Whether we’re sharing with strangers, giving it away,
or eating with our families around these tables.

And lots of things happen around these
tables while we’re filling this needed activity.
When we do come together at the table
it’s probably the most extended
amount of time people spend together.

Now, if you’re like me, you remember a lot of
of good times around those tables:
talking, laughing, sharing.

But if you’re like me, you also remember some horrible times,
bad news, cold stares, yelling, crying, storming away.

The dinner table:
The best of times and the worst of times.
That’s a good indicator when something is sacred and holy,
it can go very, very good and terribly wrong.

But the thing about food, is that we all have to eat.
The need brings us back again, and again
where we can forgive and rebuild
sometimes a good plate of spaghetti
can fix a lot of things.

Jesus knew about the power that food has,
it’s necessity, and its inherent sacredness.
So when he has that crowd together,
he showed them the power of God by
feeding them all. They were very impressed.

Then when they come looking for him,
he tells them to stop looking for bread that goes bad.
He is the bread of life, the bread that won’t go bad.
The bread that you don’t have to keep looking for,
or making again, or buying.

Then he goes a step further and says the line we hear today,
About eating the flesh of the Son of man and drinking his blood.
Which apparently is a bit too far for some people.

I think when we hear these words now, we go directly
to the Eucharist and the 2000 years of
doctrine that has gone with communion.
But there was no communion when Jesus said this.
There was no doctrine.
John’s gospel doesn’t even have
a last supper/first institution of communion in it.
What was Jesus talking about?

I would say it’s obvious that
Jesus isn’t talking about
literally eating his flesh, tucking in
and eating and arm or a leg.
Even people who take the bible literally
don’t think that.

But what I think he’s is saying
is don’t just be an observer of Jesus.
Don’t just see Jesus. Don’t just sit on the side and watch.
If you’re going to follow Jesus, go all the way.

Eat it. Eat the whole thing
Eat it. Consume it. Chew on it.
Ingest it. Make it a part of you.

The word Jesus actually uses for eat
literally means “to gnaw”.
To gnaw, gnaw on his flesh.
Not just to nibble or to taste, but to gnaw on it.

Jesus wants each of us to take in all of him.
To let Jesus life, death, teachings, resurrection
become a part of us and our life.

And that is what happens at the communion table.
Jesus body given for us, his flesh and blood
that he gave for us, that lives inside of us
the meal that we share at this table together.

We come to this table and all tables like this
to share the necessity of life with one another.
We share the gift and burden of eating,
and share the food that doesn’t spoil:
Jesus body and blood, the gift and sacrifice of God.
We consume this, it becomes a part of us.
It changes us whether we want to or not.

The necessity of this food brings us together with others too.
We share this meal with people we love and like and enjoy,
And we have shared at this table with people
we don’t like, don’t agree with, can’t stand.
We share it with those that we argue with,
those that we normally wouldn’t want to be seen with.
Jesus table, like other dinner tables,
can be the best of times and the worst of times.
But yet, this basic human necessity
brings us back again and again.

This table of Jesus challenges us, and stretches us,
being at this table with others slowly,
gradually makes us more like what we eat.

There was an Anglican priest named Father Wiggit
who ministered to the political prisoners
in South Africa in the early 1980’s.
And he recounts this story:
Every week Father Wiggit would come and share
communion with the prisoners.
They would sit around a little table in a nasty room,
and there was always a prison warden who was assigned
to come and observe the proceedings.
He would just sit there, stone-faced,
and make sure that there was no ‘suspicious’
activity happening, no secret information shared.

In 1982, Nelson Mandela had already been in various prison
labor camps for over 20 years.
And he was transferred to the prison that Wiggit served.
The first time that Nelson Mandela was there,
he joined them for communion.
Father Wiggit started the communion liturgy and
Mandela asked them to stop in the middle.
He yelled out to the warden and
asked him if he was a Christian.
The warden said “yes” and Mandela said,
"Well then, you should be over here.
Take off your hat and come join us.
Father Wiggit said he had never thought of inviting the warden,
He said he just saw him as an apartheid functionary.
But Mandela saw him as a brother in Christ.

This is difficult teaching.
We sit across the table and share this sacred
food with our enemies, those that don’t share,
that don’t believe our struggles or opinions.
Those who don’t understand us or agree with us.
Even those who keep us captive,
who treat us and others with great injustice.
This is difficult teaching.
Not everyone can live with that.

But that is really taking in the body of Jesus.
Really ingesting it, gnawing it, consuming it.

This is Jesus table, Jesus is our host
and so it’s Jesus guest list that we have to use.

And where else are we gonna go?
The need that we all share
and the food that we share,
keeps us coming back.

This body of Christ, this is the bread of life,
The sacred meal that we join together to share,
The meal that we ingest, gnaw on,
that becomes a part of us.
That has the power of reconciliation,
the power of forgiveness.
The power to help and to heal.
The power to bring us together and erase divisions.
This living bread from heaven
that has the words of eternal life.

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