Shocking Words

2021-08-15 – Year B – Proper 15 – The Rev. Canon Christopher M. Klukas
Proverbs 9:1-6; Psalms 147; Ephesians 5:3-14; John 6:53-59

  • You may know John Wycliffe as one of the early reformers and one of the first to translate the Bible into English. You may not know that he had a very sharp tongue!
  • He once called the Pope “‘a poisonous weed’, ‘the head vicar of the fiend’ and ‘a simple idiot who might be a damned devil in hell’.” Shocking words!
  • You can imagine how he may have turned heads at a dinner party!

Flesh

  • Last week we left off with verse 6:51, “The bread that I will give…is my flesh.”
    • Following this, the hearers “disputed among themselves” (v. 52).
  • Today we hear these words about Jesus’ flesh and blood as words of comfort.
    • Imagine that you didn’t know these words. They would be shocking!
    • Jesus was known as a rabbi or teacher in his day. He said these words in the synagogue at Capernaum (v. 59).
    • Imagine if I as your pastor said these same words. How would you react?
    • “Unless you eat my flesh, you have no life in you!”
  • OT – God warns that if the people break his covenant they will become so desperate that they will eat their own children. Leviticus 26:27–29 & Deuteronomy 28:53.
    • Later, in the prophets, we see this come to pass (Lamantations 2:20, 4:10).
  • Of course, Jesus doesn’t literally mean that his disciples should eat his flesh…
    • or does he? Let’s hold that thought and come back to it.

Abide

  • Why eat his flesh? To abide.
  • John 6:56 – “Whoever feeds on my flesh…abides in me, and I in him.”
    • “Abide” – Meno – “to continue, to remain in…” Some translations use “live” (HCSB) or “dwell” (KJV) to translate this word in this verse.
    • If you dwell in a place, you have made your home there. Our family originally comes from Pittsburgh, PA, but now we dwell here in Clay County, FL.
  • St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria from 412-444: “If one joins two pieces of wax, one will see that one has become part of the other. In a similar manner, I suppose, the person who receives the flesh of our Savior Christ and drinks his precious blood … shall be one with him” (COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 4.2).

The Eucharist

  • Was Jesus literally telling those gathered to eat his flesh?
  • Cyril of Alexandria: “How he will give them his flesh to eat he does not yet tell them, for he knew they were in darkness and would never in that state be able to understand what is ineffable.… But the power of learning suitably follows on those who believe.… It was therefore right that faith should first be rooted in them before understanding.… For those who believed, however, he broke bread and gave it to them, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body.” …” (COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 4.2).
  • In the Eucharist, Jesus takes that which is common and ordinary, and transforms it as a means of transmitting himself to us that we might be united with him.
  • This is not just a symbol or a mere remembrance. Through this sacrament Jesus actually feeds us with himself. “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26).
    • Participation – 1 Corinthians 10:16
    • “A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. God gives us the sign as a means by which we receive that grace and as a tangible assurance that we do in fact receive it” (ACNA Catechism, Q. 121).
    • Through Baptism we are united to Jesus in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). The Sacrament of communion renews this union and helps us to abide.
    • Irenaus – For as the bread that is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so also our bodies when they receive the Eucharist are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity. (AGAINST HERESIES 4.18.5).
    • Don’t worry so much about the how. Instead behold the mystery for what it is and give thanks.
  • Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for feeding us with your Body and Blood. We pray, Lord, that you would increase in our lives and that we would decrease, so that we might no longer live, but you would live in us. Strengthen us to do the work you have given us to do and sanctify us by your Holy Spirit that we might lead lives pleasing to you. Amen.

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