“Food and Drink”
“Jesus Said What?”- Week 4
Rev. Tasha Blackburn
February 2, 2020
What a thing to say! The day after he multiplied the loaves and the fish for the 5,000 hungry people, Jesus shares these words and this startling image: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” What a scandalous thing to say. Especially to a people who are not allowed to eat any kind of animal blood. Drink the blood of the Son of Man? Absolutely it is a crazy thing to say, not to mention pretty gross as well. But try not to let the flesh and blood language trip you up. Jesus is talking about setting up house.
You know, “setting up house”? It’s what you do when you move into a new apartment or house and you want to make it, not just your house but your home. That’s setting up house. Phil and I moved 3 times in 4 years early on in our marriage so we learned a couple of things about what it takes to make those four new walls transform into your home. For us, setting up house means there is one picture we have to hang on the wall. Everything can be in boxes, we can sleep on a mattress on the floor but hanging that one particular picture starts the process of turning that house into our home.
What is it for you? What is it that takes a house and makes it home for you? Is it a certain chair? Or a set of dishes? Or a wreath on the door? What is it that has taken your house from a place you are going to dwell, a place you will bear, and transformed it into your home where you experience joy and purpose, where you thrive and live fully? How do you set up house?
The same way we can live in a house or we can live in a home, we can live in our life—dwell there and bear its passing days; or we can live in our life, experiencing joy and purpose and thriving. In all this talk of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, Jesus offers a way to fully live. He says to us “How about you make your home in me?” “Abide in me” is actually how he puts it later in John (chapter 15) and here he uses the term again: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me.” Abide in me, he says. Make a home in me.
When Phil and I would hang that picture on those bare walls, it was as if the place recognized us then and we recognized it. When we would hang that picture on those bare walls, we knew that we could face what this new life would bring because—in these walls—we were known. However you set up house, it did the same for you. Making a home in Jesus is like that but so much better than a picture on a wall. When he is your wallpaper and your ceiling and your floor then you are truly home; truly recognized and known for who you are. When Jesus is your door and your outlets and your driveway, you can face anything this life will bring. And you can gauge who and what you let in and who or what is not welcome to take up residence. When Jesus is your foundation and your framing, you will not be easily shaken by opinions that don’t matter. He is your home, your shelter, your home base out of which you are able to live each day.
A word of warning though. Jesus will not be satisfied to take up one wall in your life. He will not be satisfied with one room. He wants it all. Church leader Wil Willimon describes it this way, “Jesus intends to have all of us, body and soul…to consume us as we consume him.”
Not only does this mean that he wants to seep into each part of your life. It also means he gets each era too. He will not be kept in your past. He wants your present and your future too. He does not ask you to make a museum in him, hold him at a distance and look at him every now and then, remembering his old exhibits and rereading his former miracles.
Jesus is not something you felt once way back when. He is here right now. He is here in your life. He is here in this room. “I am the bread of life,” he said to them. Not the bread of the past like manna once eaten. Not the bread of memory or special occasions. He is the bread of life; each day, every moment; your life—each day and every moment. He wants it all and he wants to give it all.
We usually think of communion as a meal of remembrance. For goodness’ sake it’s in the words we say, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And that is part of what we are doing when we eat and drink but it is also a meal of presence. It does not simply remind us of something that happened once long ago. Jesus is present here and now, in the eating and drinking. He is here among us to ensure there is life in us! To ensure that we are not just dwelling here, not just bearing it, but that we have joy and purpose and life abundant. Life abundant in this world and life abundant in the next.
He is here with us. Present tense; full stop. Jesus is here. Now can he be present with us in the soup aisle of the grocery store or in the armchair in our living room? Of course he can. But it is harder for us to recognize him there. As humans we struggle with deeply spiritual and divine matters and so, over and over again, Jesus uses the physical, the tangible, to help us with the spiritual.
It is one thing to begin to meditate on the incarnation—that the Lord of heaven and earth, Master of the Universe, lowered himself to join creation in the form of a basic human being. And then that Lord of heaven and earth, Master of the Universe, chose to suffer and die so that we would get more than we could ever deserve. Try to think your way into these deep and divine things and soon your brain and heart explodes.
And Jesus knows this so he says, why don’t you try to taste it instead? Don’t just think but taste. Take me in. Chew on and ingest me. Let me burrow into you and join your creation. Let me make a home for you. Let us abide, one with the other.
There was once a joke a church history professor often made. He said: the reason we should have communion as often as possible is in case the sermon is lousy that particular day, nevertheless, the gospel would always be preached. A joke and not a joke.
In matters of faith we can make things too difficult. We can think and think it into the ground. Jesus says, “Abide in me” Make your home in me. And we say, Yes, we want to Lord but how do we do that? Where would we begin? It is simple.
We begin, Jesus says, by eating and drinking. We begin by chewing on him and taking him into our lives. We begin, not with trying to figure everything out in our heads but by tasting and seeing; tasting and seeing the Lord is good. Amen.