Sunday 19 August – 4 churches together at St Giles
Reading Ephesians 5.15-20
Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel John 6.51-58
When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.
Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.
Mary Berry – secondary modern – good for nothing except nursing or cookery. Sent to France by father. First night – ate horse meat – had left much loved pony behind – sobbed throughout evening – hosts thought her home sick.
A levels – Bromley – heart – Methodist couple – duty to eat what God put in front of me and be thankful.
Horror was mild compared to the reaction of the Jews to Jesus’ invitation that we eat his flesh. We are horrified by Shylock’s pound of flesh – something abhorrent about that demand for restitution – but if the Jews who followed strict rules concerning the preparation and consumption of meat were shocked by what Jesus said, then it was adding insult to injury to require of them that they also drink his blood. Scholars to this day argue whether his language was incarnational, or whether he was speaking figuratively of the Eucharist.
Just 4 weeks ago we read of the feeding of the 5,000 when those who sat down to lunch misunderstood what was going on. For them it was a miracle they all were satisfied – next day came back for more. But what was actually going on was the institution of Holy Communion, more important than the miracle of feeding, and a sacrament we still rehearse week by week to this day.
This time Jesus is not offering his hearers any choice. The first part of what he promises is positive. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” Sounds like good choice – free, full of grace, why would anyone not rejoice?
What follows is a double negative. No choice this time. An absolute command. “…unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
Many people say – “you don’t have to go to church in order to be a Christian.” What would they make of this verse? “…unless you can eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” How do we explain it?
If you were put off by the double negative, Jesus immediately follows up with “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” So the reference to “you have no life in you” does not refer to our life here on earth, but life eternal.
Don’t forget – this life is not attained through any form of doctrine – no need to believe in anything – this is achieved through a relationship. A personal experience of being with Christ which demands living in a particular way. Feeding that relationship with God through prayer. Nurturing that relationship with him through constant communication, listening, seeking and finding.
In case you thought the Christian life is all about self-denial and constant striving against sin, the prize offered is much more than you could ever imagine. Throughout chapter 6, Jesus develops his theme. We are offered:
· Life ongoing (v52)
· Raised up on the last day (v52)
· To abide in Jesus (v53)
· To have Jesus abide in me (v53)
· To live because of and for his sake (v53)
· To live forever (v58)
For those who during feeding of 5,000 misunderstood what was going on, now all is clear. It’s not about the bread. It’s not about the wine. It’s not even about what they represent – the body and blood of Christ. It’s about life with him.
Those picnickers interpreted what was happening literally, and came back for more. Like them, we can interpret the Eucharist at a literal level – argue about what is actually going on – fall out about the significance of the words and actions – and make the same mistake. We can see the literal level and miss the depth of riches that lurks just below the surface, unseen by those who take the literal interpretation.