Welcome to the Table

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Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

August 19, 2018

John 6:51-58

Our lives revolve around food. Food is a great way to invite people in and share in relationship with one another. Jesus is no stranger to food and enthusiastically welcomes all to the table where the feast has been prepared and Jesus welcomes us to feast on the bread of life.

The doubt and the questioning continue this week as Jesus explains further what it means to be the bread of life for the world. The promise that he lays out for those listening hedge on the more graphic side this week as he says those that feast on his flesh and blood will have eternal life. Imagine what they must be thinking as they are hearing these words for the first time. Israel is not immune to sacrifice. They know what takes place. However, this Jesus guy is now talking about the life that can be found in his flesh and blood.

We, of course, have reference in the eucharistic imagery and are familiar with these words. They, however, are not. There are no words of institution in John, like there are in the other gospels, yet it is here that Jesus makes the promise of eternal life for those that come to the table and eat of the flesh and drink of the blood.

They are having trouble with what they cannot understand. Yet, Jesus does not tell them that they must understand to take part in the meal that he is giving them. He just invites them to come and eat and enjoy the feast that is set out before them.

I will admit that every time I read this passage I twinge slightly. How am I to eat your flesh and drink your blood, Jesus? YUCK!!! I don’t even eat meat and now Jesus is inviting us in to eat of his flesh. The images that we conjure up in our minds is enough to make us pause. It is like being invited to dinner and you have the whole cooked fish placed on the table in front of you with the eyes still in place. Or the sheep’s head staring up at you with a look of innocence.

If we have not fully embraced this doctrine of the church, it is not surprising that there may be a little hesitancy. The church has been arguing what Jesus means in these words and the institution of Eucharist for nearly two thousand years. As long as Jesus has rose from the tomb. We argue and bicker among denominations over who can and cannot eat of the bread of life. As Lutherans we come to the understanding through Martin Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism: “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.”

Unfortunately, because of our disagreements, our various denominations argue over whose understanding is better and if we cannot believe in the same thing as others, then we are shutdown from joining them in the great feast that Jesus has set before us.  In the meantime, Jesus has to be shaking his head at our petty bickering.

In his words in John, or in the words of institution found in the other gospels, Jesus does not include any footnotes of who should be excluded from the table. It is our belief in these very words that reveal to us the grace of God that abundantly overflows the table. There is power in sitting down for a meal together. It is easy to forget that as young families, because we are constantly running children from one place to another. Quite often the meal is eaten from the drive thru in the backseat of the van.

Not only is there power in sitting down and being in relationship and talking with one another, there is power in the food that we consume. Imagine that meal that you sit down and eat with your family on Thanksgiving or any holiday for that matter. It usually is a filling meal that you can feel course through your body and provides nourishment in the form of fulfilling a hunger, but also something more. It becomes a part of you. You take in those relationships that are gathered around the table.

Those meals from around the world that I showed you earlier were just a glimpse of a culture and society. However, in each one of those meals is a relationship that is waiting to happen. A relationship with those gathered around the table and with the food itself.

There is that same type of power in the bread of life that can be found in Jesus Christ. The bread of life comes to us now and in it we find eternal life. Not an eternal life that we must look forward to in the future, but a life that we are already living into now! A life with Jesus that fulfills that promise that he made to his disciples that he will be with us to the end of time. The bread of life courses through our body like a good meal that we have with friends and family. It nourishes us and restores us. This bread of life is given for us. It is a gift. In this gift we receive the grace of God in which our sins are forgiven. In this forgiveness, we truly can begin to understand what it means to be disciples of Christ.

Let us pray. Feeding God, you are the bread of life, and in you our hunger is fed. May we continue to find fulfillment in your promise of eternal life as we live into it today and move towards the full embodiment of the kingdom of God. Amen.


By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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