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John 6:51-58

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke there are specific textual institutions of the eucharist… in John’s gospel we receive this dialogue in chapter 6. Per usual, the author of John is helping us see in a new light. The language Jesus uses here can be best described as offensive and what follows his words are disputes, fights, and what we would perhaps call “church splits.” Why would Jesus say these things?

The temptation that we continually face in passages such as this is to parcel out and categorize in order to make sense of things. We use terms like “spirit-filled” or “of the world” or “spiritual-thirst.” But it seems that Jesus is more interested in blurring those lines between the spirit and the flesh, rather than drawing them in this text. “Flesh… is food. Blood… is drink.” Jesus crosses an invisible boundary between earth and spirit… by naming his own body as something to be consumed for “the life of the world.”

I can’t help but wonder if Jesus sees it more clearly than anyone how his body isn’t separate from, but tethered to, all life and all creation? Should it be any surprise that Jesus words are so holistic? Should the kind of sanctification we are called into be delivered by any means less “shocking” for us? Because what Jesus wants to do in our lives and in the entirety of the world… is that radical.

The questions we ask are often: “Is this a metaphor? or, Is this transubstantiation?” Our questions seem limiting and binary for the kind of universal redemption that Jesus is here for.

This text is on the heels of Jesus feeding the masses, and here also he refers to the hungry Israelites in the wilderness asking for food. Jesus’ words are more relevant than ever in a time when we exert more time, energy, and money than in other point in history consuming the natural world. In the 1800’s the American prairie had topsoil 12 feet deep and today it can only be measured in inches. We now have lost ninety-eight percent of the planet’s old-growth forests. We know that only a very small percentage of the word’s population consumes the vast majority of its resources. Since we’ve first consumed that forbidden fruit we’ve been bent on continuing to take more than we were ever supposed to have. Even in our “spiritual lives” we often find ourselves wanting more from Jesus… our prayers primarily become lists and requests for varying forms of miracles and abundance. How are we different from the masses following Jesus around for more free dinners?

Jesus knew what we needed to hear. “You’ll always be hungry until you consume me. All of me.” In fact, our relationship with all other forms of consumption won’t add up until we’re consuming Jesus’ body and Jesus’ blood as he offers it to us, as true food and true drink. In this holy consumption we abide in him and he abides in us.

The pastor has the opportunity to extend this grace-full invitation each time she/he stands to offer the eucharist. It is our receiving of all that we need. The eucharist reframes our story, our posture with God, and our relationship with all of creation. How might we faithfully proclaim this radical message of holy consumption today without also diluting it, making it comfortable, or simply leaving it behind unchanged?

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