Fortified, grateful and content
John 6: 47-59 (NRSVA)
47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 53 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. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 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 for ever.’ 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
Saint John has seven “I am” sayings in his account of the life of Jesus. The first saying is in 6:48, “I am the bread of life.”
The seven sayings are all deeply connected to everyday life experiences — there is a door, a shepherd, light, life and death, and wine.
In the ancient world each statement would have been more significant than for us today. Wine was drunk because the water was unclean, and bread was the staple for people in this middle eastern context. When Jesus declared that He was the bread of life, He was indicating the intimacy He offered if we choose to participate in Him.
For me, the sacrament of Holy Communion is the most intimate of our worshipping activities… we become one with the Divine. But there is more to this than simply eating bread.
When I was a student in Seminary, Holy Communion was always served by intinction. That entailed several students standing either side of the Minister and holding large cups of wine and large plates with one loaf of bread broken in two. We would leave our seats and walk forward. Upon reaching the bread, we were told, “this is the body of Christ broken for you,” we would tear off a piece of bread and proceed to the wine, once there we were told, “this is the cup of the new covenant sealed in Christ’s blood for you,” we could dip our bread into the cup or we could drink from the cup.
The action of getting out of my seat, standing in line and moving slowly, gently, forward, there was time to be still and to ponder, and then to be blessed by a peer with those ancient words… It was a gift, a beautiful gift. I always left fortified, grateful and content. Leaving my seat, humbly walking forward and receiving – it’s all activity, and it reminds me of the words of Jesus in verse 57, He was ‘sent’ by God, He moved from His place with the heavenly host and all those who have gone before us, He, the King of Kings, moved to show how great the love of God was for us. Do you see how this love shows us that we too must be willing to move from our “heavenly host” our place of security and love, to a place where the only guarantee is that Jesus has gone before us?
Silence is one of the languages of God, please sit in silence and breathe in and out, slowly, intentionally and repeat the following phrase until your heartbeat slows down and you are focussing on God: “The Lord is here, His Spirit is in me.” Don’t ask for anything, don’t tell God anything — He already knows! Simply be silent.