Jesus said, I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever;             and the bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. The Jews disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Perhaps it is comforting to know that the things Jesus is saying about bread and flesh and eating his body didn’t make any more sense to those first listeners than they do to us today. I struggled with this text this week –             and seriously considered preaching about Solomon asking for wisdom             as a good back-to-school text. But as difficult as these words are, they kept drawing me back. I am the bread of life, Jesus says in John’s gospel. He says it again and again and again. He does not – now or at the story of the last supper – say “This is my body – take and eat – do this in remembrance of me.” Clearly, John was familiar with these last supper stories. He worshiped in a community that practiced the Eucharist meal. But John is trying to get at something different here – or at least get at it in a different way. Jesus has been talking about bread, and body, and eating the bread which is his body. Now in today’s lesson the words seem to take on even more urgency. The language becomes more earthy, more physical. Unless you chew on my flesh, Jesus says, you will not have eternal life. Eeew. What could he possibly be saying? I found it helpful to look at ways these words echo other stories from John’s gospel. When Jesus says that he is flesh, his words echo the very beginning of John’s story. In the beginning was the Word, John says, and the Word was God. All things came into being through the Word. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. God became flesh – became flesh and blood, muscle and bone,             so that we flesh and blood and bone humans might finally, truly know God. When Jesus says that he is living bread, his words echo back to a time when he stood at a well in Samaria, and had a conversation with a woman there. That he spoke to the woman at all was remarkable, given that she was a woman,             and foreign, and of questionable reputation. But what he said to her was even more remarkable, when he offered her “living water.” If you drink the living water I give you, he said, you will never be thirsty again. And he told her that he was the messiah. As I pondered the words of Jesus in today’s gospel, and the story of the woman at the well,             the words that kept coming into my mind were,             “to fill.” It’s the title of a story I read in college, about a woman who uses humor and sarcasm and overeating to help her in her denial of her difficult reality –             of her husband’s affair, and her mother’s illness. But more than that particular story, the words just echoed in my mind To Fill So much of our contemporary lives, in this culture at any rate,             seem to be a desperate attempt to fill. We use many things to try to fill the empty space within us:             food, alcohol, romance,     devices that fill our ears and eyes with a constant input of information and entertainment It seems to me that in this culture, more than any other we have learned to fill our lives with things and noise to avoid ever coming into silence and truly facing how alone we feel. How do these words of Jesus sound, spoken into this flurry of activity and clutter of things we accumulate to fill us?

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. I became flesh to be with you.
Those who eat my bread and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.

I hear Jesus saying that none of those other things will ever fill me,              because I was made for relationship with God. I hear Jesus saying that he doesn’t want to be a doctrine I profess to believe in.             He doesn’t want to be a good set of moral standards that I live up to. He doesn’t want to be confined to my “spiritual life,”             sitting on a box on the shelf to take out Sunday mornings and for bedtime prayers,             kept safely tucked away in case of emergency. Bishop Craig Satterlee wrote for the Working Preacher website, All throughout John 6, Jesus has tried to help us embrace that God’s wisdom is not so much knowledge to be explained and understood as it is relationship to be trusted and embraced. Jesus no longer speaks of “belief in,” as we find in chapter 3, but of “the one who eats me” (verse 57). For eternal life does not come through understanding correctly or believing the right things. Eternal life is being in close communion with Jesus. Eternal life is to remain in Jesus and to have Jesus remain in us. We take Christ’s body and blood into our mouths, into our stomachs, into our bodies, so that Christ remains in us and we remain in Christ.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.

God became flesh to live among us in the person of Jesus,             and Jesus wants us to understand how very much he wants to be a part of us,             to have us be a part of him. Jesus is with us –             in our office buildings and classrooms,             in hospital rooms and on top of mountains,             in kitchens doing dishes and when we fold the laundry. When we sit at the computer creating one more spreadsheet or document,             or just playing a video game, Jesus is with us. Because that is where he has chosen to be. The Word of Life – the Word which created the world and gives life to all beings –             became flesh to live among us. And he wants to be let in – to be invited into our hearts and minds and, yes, our bodies,             so that we might abide – dwell, rest, remain – in his love.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

Thanks be to God. Amen St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church Albuquerque, NM

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