“I am the bread of life… Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never thirst…” The meaning of these words has been debated for centuries… Is it literal is it figurative??? Just what did Jesus mean here??? How can a person be bread??? What exactly happens during the time of communion??? I am the bread of life… I’ve had different opinions on these words throughout my time in ministry… But just a few years ago… I finally came to what I think is an intimate understanding of what Jesus is saying here… I was reading a blog by a collogue of mine from Texas named Jason Evans. And in the blog, he gives what I am convinced is, an extremely well researched explanation on Jesus’ controversial claim of his body being bread for the life of the world. He writes, “In the Roman world of the first century, everyone was religious. There were a number of religions or possibly more appropriately a number of tribal spiritualities… and even more gods. It was a regular practice for people to offer a burned sacrifice; Usually meat or grains, to their god. And it would not have been uncommon for those people, and those who were with them, to eat a portion of whatever had been offered in sacrifice to their god… The belief, then, was that the essence of that god was within that sacrifice and when eaten was now within who ever ate the food that had been sacrificed. So, when Jesus said, “I am the bread of life… whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never thirst…” Jesus was telling those who heard him that day that if they ate of the spiritual bread that he gave they were partaking in his life, and that meant, they were partaking in the very life of God.”
I have to say, knowing this, that is, knowing the culture of what was going on behind the scenes of why Jesus would tell people that concreated bread and wine were his flesh and blood can be eye opening. People who lived in the Roman Empire during the first century would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about here… They would have known that Jesus was claiming to be God. And they would have been shocked at this claim…
And later in John’s gospel, when Jesus blesses and breaks bread at the last supper… When Jesus says, “take eat, this is my body…” Each of the disciples’ present would have had zero confusion about what was being said… Each of those disciples would have known that, when they received the bread and the wine of that first Holy communion, the elements were far more than just bread and wine… They believed that they were partaking in the life of God… They believed that, somehow bread and wine blessed and broken became the spiritual food and drink for all of humanity… That when we partake in the eucharist, we are sharing in communion not only with each other, but also with God… That God is becoming part of us… That our very souls are being fed in a way that sustains us both in this world, and into the next.
So, as I was thinking about all of this, I found an interesting story about the moon landing that I had never heard. A story that I think highlights the importance of the eucharist… Once they had touched down on the moon and before “One small step for man” was spoken, those of you who were listening in that day might remember that, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin announced that everyone listening in, where ever they were in the world should take a moment of silence and give thanks in their own way for the events that were taking place. For the Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, this meant taking communion.
Mr. Aldrin had brought with him a small communion kit from his church with consecrated bread and wine. Mr. Aldrin reported, “I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements…
And, just before he partook of the elements, Mr. Aldrin read the words which he had chosen to indicate his trust that as man probes into space, we are in fact acting in Christ. He writes that, he sensed especially strongly a unity with his church back home. And, with the Church everywhere. He then read: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”
Through that beautiful story and through the scriptures we read today, we are able to see just how we are connected in communion with Christ, with each other, and with the church throughout history. We can see how our spirits are fed and connected to the God of the universe… We can hear Jesus’ words echoing down through history I am the bread of life… We know that we are in him, and he is in us. For we are a community of believers joined together in the sacrament of the eucharist.
And as a community sustained in Christ, we believe that somehow through this spiritual food and drink, Christ dwells within us, inspiring us to love our neighbors, and live into the countercultural and sacrificial way of the cross that is Christianity… We believe that there is love, and grace, and mercy, and redemption, and compassion, and forgiveness, and love, and life… life, for all people… We believe that there is life in death. We believe that through the waters of baptism, we have died with Christ, and we believe that we live with Christ, sharing in the hope of his resurrection… And every week, when we celebrate this mystery of life in Christ at the table… Every week as we partake in the spiritual food of consecrated bread… we hear the words “the body of Christ, the bread of heaven” and we know that we are connected to life in Christ… That he abides in us and we are in him… Jesus said, “I am the bread of life… Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never thirst…”