Eat Me – Jesus’ Adventures in Wonderland
Sermon for 10the Sunday of the Year – 8th August 2021 – St John the Baptist, Felixstowe
Text: [Jesus said] I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ (John 6v51)
God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.
Soon [Alice’s] eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words `EAT ME’ were beautifully marked in currants. `Well, I’ll eat it,’ said Alice, `and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!’
She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, `Which way? Which way?’, holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing, and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size: to be sure, this generally happens when one eats cake, but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way. (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
The fridge magnet beloved (or perhaps more correctly sighed over) by those who are trying to diet is true for both physical and spiritual nourishment, ‘You eat it, you wear it!’ ‘Eat Me’ and you will, as Alice eventually discovered, grow bigger.
But what sort of growth do we want to produce in our lives?
If we are not deliberate about our diet instead of growing bigger, we may just grow wider and take up more space.
If we are not careful our growing bigger may mean that those around us are squeezed so much that they cannot grow at all?
Is growing bigger something for which we should aim in any event?
Perhaps we should be seeking to grow better instead and, as I pray for the children I baptise, aim to grow up good instead of just big?
The key to our spiritual diet, just as it is for our physical diet, is found in what we eat. Looking for nourishment to help us grow up good today we hear Jesus say:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ (John 6v51)
In Him we will find all the nourishment we need to become the Body of Christ. And if we can learn to do this correctly then ‘You eat it, you wear it’ can become a mantra for holiness.
Jesus’ words about being the Bread of Life and ‘consuming’ Him (though often read to be so) are not about Holy Communion – although they do affect how we receive that sacrament. They are much (if it is possible) deeper than that.
Firstly, Jesus is not speaking about bread but about God’s provision.
When he compares the gift of His very self to those who would follow Him in the same way as his accusers describe the ‘manna which came down from heaven in the desert’, Jesus is saying to them look beyond satisfying the needs of the body to the feeding of your life. The Bread of Life is God’s gift to enable us to journey towards the Promised Land and as such is to be consumed day by day in faith, hope, and the sure and certain knowledge that we are indeed God’s children who are cherished, protected, and provided for daily.
Secondly, Jesus is not speaking about food but about nourishment.
He reminds us that depending on manna alone leads to death and decay:
Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
The story of Exodus tells us that none of those who left Egypt entered the Promised Land. If we come to Jesus to feed ourselves alone, we too will find it difficult to cross the Jordan into the land flowing with Milk and Honey. To partake of the Bread of Life is not so much about going out to fill our tummies but to tone our souls. Jesus is God’s gift to us to enable to grow up good and we must seek daily opportunities to be nourished by Him.
Finally, Jesus is not speaking about Body (corpus) but about Being (sarx).
Jesus, when describing himself as ‘The Bread of Life’ does not use the Greek word for body (corpus) but the one which describes his very being (sarx) – translated in the Bible we use as ‘flesh’. This is critical. Too often Christians have confused the two. So, when St Paul speaks about ‘the sins of the flesh’ we easily think it is about ‘bad’ things we do with our bodies when in fact ‘the sins of the flesh’ are not so much about deeds as thoughts, actions as mindset. When we come to Jesus to consume the Bread of Life, we are not in fact eating bread at all, but are consuming all that Jesus is and calls us to be in the fervent hope that we, too often prisoners of our ‘flesh’ are transformed into the very Body of Christ, the Church.
When Jesus says, ‘Eat Me’, He calls us to become the Body of Christ and so grow up into the image and likeness of God which was marred by our first parents in Paradise.
At the giving of Communion, we use the words ‘The Body of Christ’. These words are, at the same time, a statement, a question, and a greeting.
It is a statement – for Jesus tells us that when we gather to break bread in memory of Him, He is always present with us.
It is a question – When we say ‘Amen’ to the question ‘The Body of Christ?’ asked by the Minister as they hand the wafer to the communicant and, only in so much as we are aware that Christ is present with us, does the sacrament become real. If it is not that all we are doing is eating bread.
It is a greeting – committed to growing up good, when we come forward to receive communion, the words ‘The Body of Christ’ refer not only to the sacrament but to ourselves. Our ‘Amen’ is our commitment to not only feed on bread but to grow to become who we are, Christ’s own Body.
Today, when you receive communion, say ‘Amen’ with gratitude, joy, and a determination to become a little Christ (a Christian) to a sad, lonely, sin-sick, and hungry world.
[This blog ‘Eat Me – Jesus’ Adventures in Wonderland’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2021 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]