Joh 6:47-58 NKJV Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (52) The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (53) Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. (54) Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (55) For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. (56) He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (57) As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (58) This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

I have to say, that I can understand why this is a difficult saying for those who heard it. Cannibalism is not something that anyone can work through very quickly or easily. The early church had a very hard time with this, because the folks who were not members of the church heard that they ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus. They of course accused the church of being cannibals, eating flesh and drinking blood. The Eucharist was not clearly understood, and of course the explanation was not available to those outside the church. We do have a problem with that, we speak of the Nave, the Chancel, which includes the Altar. The Nave is actually the area where you are sitting today. Behind you, in the entrance hall is actually what is called the Narthex. The Chancel and the Altar are of course here.

When things get in the way of understanding it becomes a stumbling block to others.

Many folks have no idea what you are talking about when you refer to the table as an altar, the Nave is really the congregational sitting area. The Narthex is an entrance hall. Much better to use language that is understandable. It is the same thing with the Eucharist, Holy Communion, or, the Lord’s Supper. When we forget that Jesus, spoke in ways that people understood that he told stories that they saw as life stories. He spoke of farming, ranching, merchants and of course other parts of life such as tax collectors and priests and lawyers.

The important thing for us to remember is that we are living in this world, even though we are part of the Kingdom of God, we have to do those things that will make folks want to be a part of our Kingdom, not scare them off with $10 words.

Salvation, is very simple, there is only one thing that is a prerequisite to salvation, that is belief in Christ as Lord and God. We see that those who he was speaking to in this portion of scripture had a real problem understanding what he was talking about. When he told them, some of them decided they could not follow him any more. I would rather tell folks plainly and simply about Jesus and the church and what they mean to me and to those who are followers of Jesus. There are enough problems for those who follow Christ today, without muddying the waters.

So to make clear with the issue of the Eucharist, it is really a service of remembrance and thanksgiving. We remember the grace of Christ, his action to bring salvation to all who will believe. We remember too that he has promised to return for the Church. We eat the bread which represents the body that was hung on the cross, and drink unfermented wine (grape juice) which reminds us of the blood that was spilled by our God for us.

In other words if someone hears us talk of the service of Communion as a service of remembrance of the acts of grace that the Lord performed for us, makes it easier for others to understand what it is we are doing, and then if we explain that it is a remembrance of the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples, before his death, it makes it even easier. If we want people to come and be a part of our fellowship, we need to make it as easy as we can for them to do so. Once someone begins to come and worship with us, they will begin to get a better picture of who we are, and how Jesus has changed us.

I used to play a lot of golf, I don’t play since I had some physical problems, but I still love the game and watch it when I can. When I started to play, I had a friend who showed me how to play, he would tell me that I was slicing the ball, and I finally had to ask him what he meant. My ball kept going to the right, usually into the trees or the high grass, he explained to me that this was known as a slice for a right handed golfer. I asked then what if I sent the ball off to my left, and he told me that was a hook. Then I began to look for what was going on when a golfer would hit the ball, and I began to understand that golfers would cut the grass from under the ball when they hit it on the fairway, that was taking divot, looked like ripping out some grass to me, but to them it was a divot. In other words we church folks aren’t the only ones with our own language.

I enjoyed the golf a lot more when I understood better what it was they were talking about, just as I think people who are not familiar with church, are much more comfortable when they understand what Church folks are talking about. So when we talk about these things, we need to put them in language that folks who may visit our Church, will be able to understand. It makes them comfortable and I personally think it is better for you and I as well. After all we don’t refer to the entrance to our home as the narthex, it is just the entrance. We sit at a table, or in a living room, not in a nave, and our dining or kitchen table is just a table. When Jesus and the disciples ate their meal, they sat at a table, not at an altar. Why don’t we speak and act as they did?

Well of course for one thing, we are not just a bunch of people enjoying a meal together, we are the CHURCH, and we have our own way of remembering the actions of our Lord. That is true of course, but I think we may have gone a bit overboard, and it is much better to make things simple for those who don’t have a clue what we are about. Listening to what Jesus says in today’s reading makes it clear that he made it as simple as he could, then he explained to them in even simpler terms. They understood and some left, while the others stayed.

It was even clearer to them at the supper that they celebrated, and we remember, bread represented the body of Christ that was literally ripped in shreds by the whipping he sustained. Wine represented the blood that was spilled by that whipping and by the cruelty of the crucifixion. So we celebrate by eating the flesh (bread) and drinking the blood, (wine) so we can remember what the disciples remembered. This was the first actual celebration or holiday for the church.

Holy Week, the celebration of the entire week from the triumphal entry until the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Thursday night is the celebration of this last supper, the teaching of the new passover if you will. This is the night that Jesus changes the passover meal into a meal of remembrance of his mighty acts of death and resurrection. This is God’s next step in the story of creation, the movement of God’s plan for those who will be His people in His kingdom. The final sacrifice, there can be no more for this is THE perfect sacrifice.

Let us then remember, that Christ died that we might live eternally, and that our eternal life is not sometime in the future but it is now, and eternally in the presence of God, who gave Himself that we might be reconciled to Him, and join again with Him. As it was in the beginning, and will be forever.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, as you gave the first man life, and loved all of your creation even when we walked away from you, may we today begin again the journey we shall be on with you for all eternity. We have seen your grace in our lives and we praise you for all that it means in our lives. May we reflect always your love for this your creation, that your creation may see you in us. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.