12th Sunday after Pentecost – The Living Bread
August 12, 2018

12th Sunday after Pentecost – The Living Bread

Passage: 1 Kings 19:4-8

And Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’”

This is my deep hope – that in the fullness of time, all shall be taught by God… all shall be drawn by God, that all shall eat of the bread of life that comes down from heaven.

But here’s an interesting thing: Jesus says that he is the Living Bread, and that all who eat of it shall live. And he says quite plainly that the bread he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. And yet, who is it that has actually eaten his flesh?

Now, at a sacramental level, it is we who take communion – we who eat the bread and drink the wine – that “eat his flesh.” And perhaps that’s what he meant. Perhaps this teaching was solely intended as an anticipation of the sacrament of Eucharist. But I have another idea.

In his time on earth there was just one moment (that you might say) when Jesus’ body was actually consumed – and that was when the earth opened its mouth in the form of the grave to receive the body of Jesus. And then the stone was rolled across the opening; the earth closed its mouth – like an animal on its prey – and consumed the crucified Christ.

And with this image we can perceive that it was for the whole earth that Jesus died, and it was the whole earth that consumed the living bread. So, please God, may the whole earth in its time live forever, having been made alive through you, its Living Bread.

And yet, our lives are being lived – not in the future – but in the present. We are living in this day when some believe and some do not; when some are living with eyes and hearts turned towards the hope of God’s redeeming, while many others regard the message of the church with derision or skepticism or doubt.

And so it is incumbent on us – who take the sacrament each week – to eat this living bread on behalf of our neighbors who have not yet learned to find nourishment in the mystery of Christ.

I once belonged to a church where – when you served at the altar – you had a unique view through a tiny window that nobody else in the church could see. Sunday after Sunday – with one eye on the altar and the other on the view outside – I would find myself telling the joggers running by, “I am eating this bread for you, until you discover it for yourself.”

What good did that accomplish? I can’t say for certain. But in the mystery of the Kingdom of God, as I was being made one with Christ, I found myself drawn in union to those outside.

I saw a documentary about koalas the other day. You know how they live up in the Eucalyptus trees of Australia, with eucalyptus leaves as their only food. Well apparently, those leaves are impossible to digest for any other creatures. Koalas have adapted a unique digestive system that’s able to break down their coarseness and acidity and find enough nourishment in them. But for baby koalas, their digestive systems are too immature. So the parents chew up the eucalyptus leaves and partially digest them, then they expel this food for their babies to eat.

It’s kind of fascinating and it’s kind of gross.

But I think for us, there’s a parallel. When we come to church each week to feed on the word and feed on the Eucharist, we’re being offered the whole mystery of the Kingdom of God: the nature of God, the forgiveness of sins, the deep compassion that is Christ for the world. Take it. And eat it. Chew on it and digest it.

Then go to the world and share it in ways that they can digest – in ways that are palatable for them. Be kind. Show mercy. Pay attention to your neighbor and be gracious unto them. Speak in tones that are soothing to souls that are wearied by the coarseness of this world.

For it is by these little graces that hard hearts are softened and skeptics begin to hope, until that day when we shall all be seated together at the banquet table of God.