Weekly Reflections 8-12-2015

Texts for Sunday August 16: 

Proverbs 9:1-6
Psalm 34:9-14 
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

First, a brief reminder of the context of these verses from John 6 – we’ve been making our way through this chapter for 3 weeks now. It includes 2 miracles (feeding 5000/ walking on water), followed by dialogues/confrontations with disciples and crowd, and followed by Jesus’ teaching discourse about being the Bread of Life. Early in the conversations, the crowd refers to manna that God sent to the Hebrews in the desert. Jesus claims that he, not manna, is the true bread from heaven; he is God’s gift of life to the world….a confusing thought at best. So keep that whole picture in mind when you read this portion.

This week Jesus “wraps-up” his discourse. And he says something that really agitates the crowd. 

I heard once that the “extras” on a movie set are told to mumble “peas and carrots” over and over to make random, in-distinctive “crowd sounds” (try it in a group – it works).  In v. 52 the folks around Jesus “dispute among themselves” about what Jesus had just said.  I can almost hear the “peas and carrots” as I read it. 

 Jesus said “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”.  That is quite a shift of metaphor: bread to flesh - a rather disturbing image.  Maybe the crowd was mumbling “cannibals and zombies” instead. Our final text next week will tell you exactly how upset his followers were. 

But first, we again need to return to the cosmic first verses with which the Gospel of John begins. 
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us… 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

We are back to (actually we never left) incarnation – becoming fleshed. Word/Jesus has become flesh and lives here.  And it is through that fleshly Jesus – the only Son - that we know God.

Jesus said “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh”.  Now look at John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Here in John 6, Jesus points ahead to the crucifixion, to the giving of flesh and blood. That giving of flesh and blood comes out of God’s love.

Those who eat and drink have eternal life - note it is not something in the future; they have eternal life. “Eternity” includes this moment. The life Jesus promises is for now.

Finally, the word “abide” (which will be used often in the rest of the Gospel of John) is word of relationship, or presence. Abide can mean to remain, to dwell, or to continue. Jesus abides with God. Those who eat the bread/flesh abide with Jesus who abides with God and so those who eat abide with God.

Abiding, then, brings Holy Communion to mind. Jesus is truly present in, with, and under the bread (and wine).

Holy Communion… is a special kind of remembering that goes beyond mere recall. In the Sacrament of the Altar Jesus is truly present for us. Exactly how that is, we cannot say. Christians fail in trying to explain this mystery. We Lutherans simply take Jesus at his word, "This is my body… this is my blood… for you…" – 

This is from a longer article by Eric Ash on the ELCA website. Read more.

Verse 58 is the conclusion, wrapping up the discourse. Jesus is God’s gift of life, not like manna which “only” kept them alive through the desert, but rather Jesus is the bread that gives a full and abundant life lived in God, now and forever. 

Abundant life. A gift of grace.

[Jesus said,] 51 “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.”
 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 forever.”

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245