Ramblin’ On My Mind

Jesus told them…“I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If any eat this bread, they will live forever; the bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The temple authorities then began to argue with one another. “How can he give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus replied, “The truth of the matter is, if you don’t eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Chosen One, you won’t have life in you. Those who do eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in them. Just as the living Abba God sent me and I have life because of Abba God, so those who feed on the will have life because of me. This is the bread came down from heaven. It’s not the kind of bread your ancestors ate, for they died; whoever eats this kind of bread will live forever.”

John 6:51-58

 

Every week, somewhere around the world a group of Christians gathers and enacts this ritual. A cup is offered containing wine or juice, a gift of the labor of the vine and a symbol of the blood of Jesus Christ. A loaf of bread is fractured and offered as the body of Christ broken for you.

 

Some groups believe the cup contains the actual blood of Christ and the bread truly becomes the Body of Christ and are consumed in the manner that this passage entails. They are consumed to bring about
new life.

 

Other communities believe the cup and the bread bear the essence of Christ’s body and blood but they are just symbolic presence. Yet others see this action as a memorial, using respectful gifts that gestured towards the realness in Christ, not present in the loaf and cup. No matter how we understand the bread or the cup it is central to our identity as Christians.

 

Comfort is offered at the Table of Christ. We bring our woes, our concerns, our joys, and our hopes to the Table. At the Table we are connected to the billions of sisters and brothers across the globe as we all are connected and drawn in to relationship with Jesus the Christ.

 

What is a reconciling place, a place of so much hope for so many, a place of celebration and adoration is a place of offense for others. We are to consume blood and flesh? Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience in this passage. An audience to which the consuming of flesh with blood is forbidden by law.

 

It is cultural taboo; it is offensive to eat flesh and blood together. In Genesis 9:4 it says, “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” Here they are being told that unless they break with culture, offend all that they have known, and eat flesh and blood that the awaited Messiah shall ignore them.

 

In Islam it is haram or sinful and displeasing to Allah to consume blood. A Muslim observing Christians consuming the body and blood of Jesus would be offended as well.

 

The taboo against the consumption of human flesh is visible throughout history. In very few cultures is it permissible to consume the flesh of other humans. These few instances are done so in ritual to gain the essence and power of the one that is being consumed.

 

Doesn’t this sound the least bit familiar?

 

What Jesus is telling us to do, to eat his flesh and consume his blood is offensive. Jesus is not merely suggesting that we eat some bread and drink some juice and pretend it is his body and blood. Jesus is literally saying that we must consume his flesh and drink his blood. How many of us are ready to literally eat the flesh of Christ and drink the blood of Jesus?

 

I am not ready for that kind of commitment. I eat my steak well. I do not like the sight of blood. I would rather stay apart from that promised eternal life, than to consume Jesus’ body and blood.

 

This part of Christian teaching is one of my personal struggle areas. I do not like the idea that we must consume the body and blood of Jesus to get new life. I could explain it away or move to the mystery and symbols of the Table without getting in to the real demand placed upon us in this text. It is offensive to me to think that I will miss out on the glory of God because I can’t eat Jesus.

 

Why is this so offensive?

 

It is offensive because Jesus takes what we hold as sacred and exposes it as profane. Then Jesus stands in the face of the profane and reclaims it as sacred. This is supposed to be offensive. This world is filled with offensive action.

 

This last week a man was shot and killed while handcuffed in the back of a police car.

 

Who is offended by this?

 

We now live in a time where anonymous voices can flood political races with money and influence elections as the demand for greater protection from voter fraud restricts access to the ballot box.

 

Who is offended by this?

 

 

This past week a feminist Russian punk rock protest performance art band called, Pussy Riot, was sentenced to a two year prison term for offending church goers in attendance at a church in Russia, as the band shouted “Mother Mary drive Putin away!”

 

Who is offended by this?

 

Last week a local Oklahoma City mosque was vandalized.

 

Who is offended by this?

 

A war rages on in Afghanistan and the war drum beats on in Iran, and North Korea.

 

Who is offended by this?

 

Women and children are traded like baseball cards across world markets to fuel a sex and slave trade that sustains a shameful economy.

 

Who is offended by this?

 

If we are not offended by what we experience in the world as the nightly news plays on, are we understanding what Jesus is calling us to when he says, “Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in them.”

 

To be offended is to hold on to the truth that what we see, what we hear in this world is not the end. That the truth offered in the offensiveness of the Gospel is where it is at. The offensiveness of Jesus reclaiming the profane world as sacred after our sacred is exposed as profane is the Holiest act Jesus can enact with us. This is the intimate action of salvation. This is the restoring of ones soul. This is the development, the annunciation of “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

It is offensive because Jesus takes what we hold as sacred and exposes it as profane. Then Jesus stands in the face of the profane and reclaims it as sacred. This is supposed to be offensive. This world is filled with offensive action.

 

Being offended is the first step to action. The civil rights movement began with folks being offended enough to say, “NO!” Then others got involved as their offense to what was happening to others and recognizing that justice begins with witnessing the offensive nature of injustice.

 

The fight for civil rights is not over. It is our continued offense at unjust systems that keep the fight going. There are still folks being persecuted and separated for being who and what God created them to be. There are still folks being disrespected for being the fearfully, wonderfully made creatures God fashioned them to be.

 

The offense of the Gospel moves us to act. The offensiveness of the Gospel forges communities that are bound in relationships as we seek to understand this mysterious word together.

 

If we stopped at our offense of this passage and just ate the flesh and blood of Jesus, we would miss out on the Holy tangling of wrestling with the meaning of God’s Holy Word and its bountiful byproduct of community.

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