16 August 2009/Proper 15B – Proverbs 9:1-6/John 6:51-58
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, MD
Have Eternal Life – Now!
When our oldest daughter, Harper, was in about the fifth grade, she had a teacher who gave the children a Hershey’s Kiss as a reward for good work and good behavior. There was one condition – they had to savor it. They could not chew it up or swallow it whole, but they had to let the chocolate linger in the mouth, slowly melting, even more slowly giving the pleasure of its deep, dark chocolatey flavor to ease itself into a lingering moment of pure pleasure.
Long before that I recall learning from the culinary discipline of Macrobiotics that one ought to chew each mouthful of food at least 30 times, not simply to savor the flavor, texture and delight of the meal, but to better digest the food so that it might better nourish our bodies and souls.
This penultimate portion of the sixth chapter of the Fourth Gospel, when paired with the portion about Lady Wisdom in Proverbs chapter nine, is an invitation to stop, savor and be more fully nourished by the very “daily bread” for which we pray in our Lord’s own prayer.
For those who “eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood,” there is the promise of eternal life. And as it had been said before by Lady Wisdom: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity and live, and walk in the way of insight!” Proverbs 9:6
This talk about drinking blood and eating flesh is not about some kind of Twilight vampire kind of thing, or any kind of flesh eating aliens or bacteria – we are not talking cannibalism here either. Or, as Martin Luther so quaintly put it, “this is not the sort of flesh from which sausages are made…nor as such as purchased in the butcher shop.” Although, at the time Jesus was alive, and in certain tribal societies to this day, people eat certain animals specifically to acquire the attributes of said animal. So one might eat a lion to acquire strength and courage, or one might eat a gazelle to acquire swiftness and speed, and so on. As odd as it sounds, this is not so far off-base from what is being said here in Proverbs and John.
The promise in these two invitations to feast at Lady Wisdom’s and Jesus’ table is 1) of a spiritual maturity, and 2) eternal life.
The spiritual maturity piece asserts that there is something more than just bread and wine available to satisfy our hunger and thirst. There is the Word of God, identified by John as Jesus, the Word made flesh. The Word can satisfy deeper hunger and deeper thirst. In fact the Word satisfies our deepest hunger and deepest thirst. This has everything to do with our spiritual maturity and life as we live it here and now.
Similarly, eternal life has nothing to do with “timelessness and death, but is full-filled life here on earth that makes us yearn it will never end. Living life to the fullest as disciples brings great joy in the present and a hope for the future.” Jurgen Moltmann, The Coming of God, p 291
As one preacher once put it, “We are on the road to heaven now if today we walk with God. Eternal life is not a possession conferred at death; it is a present endowment. We live it now and continue it through death.” William Sloan Coffin, Credo, p170
It is life lived with, in and through God in Christ here and now – this is eternal life.
And I suspect it comes about only as we savor the meal. I suspect it only comes about if we savor the Word of God. I suspect it only comes about if we take the time to sit down at the table and linger awhile. We need to savor His flesh and savor His blood if He is to live in us and we in Him.
Christian faith would be so much easier if it were a matter of mere belief or intellectual assent. Our rather scandalous, carnal and incarnational gospel reminds us that Jesus intends to have all of us, body and soul. He intends to course through our veins, be digested fully, and nourish every nook and cranny of our hearts, bodies and souls! He wishes to consume us as we consume him.
This is why we come to the table week by week, day by day. This is why some of us gather weekly on Thursday evenings to gaze upon our Host, to linger in His presence, to savor each moment we do nothing but experience the Word of God made flesh.
He wants all of us. He wants us to have all of him.
Like the manna in the wilderness, those who sit at table with Him, those who linger and savor each moment, there will be enough. For every one there is enough to go around. There is sufficient bread and wine that gives eternal life for all of us.
We moderns are not usually inclined, says John Booty, to give thanks for that which is sufficient. But this is exactly what Lady Wisdom and Jesus have in mind here. This is why we call this Eucharist – literally Greek for Thanksgiving.
The real question for all of us is whether or not we are willing to take time out of our daily lives and even on our Sundays to linger with the Word of God? To savor the fullness of life He means to give us?
Give us this day our daily bread – this we pray. After our prayers will we give God in Christ – the Word of God – the necessary time to give us the bread we need to satisfy our deepest hunger and deepest thirst? Will we linger at the table and savor His presence? Not even God knows the answer to this question – only we do.