Bread. The simple sustenance of flour, oil, eggs and maybe yeast. It transcends culture and time. Either bread or rice still nourishes the majority of the world. Yet, I don’t fully grasp the implication of Jesus’ words in John 6:22 and following.
In chapter 6, John recounts Jesus’ feeding the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish. Then, there was after dinner excitement for the disciples on the lake, only to be rescued by Jesus, walking on the water. Verse 22 opens the next day with a crowd remembering their miraculous meal.
The idea here, as expressed by Jesus, is that as bread is the central physical dietary staple for the ancients, he would be the central spiritual dietary staple for the ancients and those after them. But Jesus is even better than bread! Yet, looking at my own life and the lives of others I know, I wonder if Christ has become the tortilla chips at La Parota [insert favorite Mexican restaurant].
When I think of approaching the Communion Table, is my partaking of the bread/body central to my life as a Christian? Most of evangelical American churches dole out something more akin to the corner of a saltine, rather than bread. And a saltine is definitely not what I think of as the Bread of Life. It would more likely be a nice hearty multi-grain peasant loaf, or a beautiful Challa. I can remember visiting a church in east Tennessee shortly after I was married. There, they gave visitors small loaves of real, delicious bread! It stuck to my ribs and to my heart. I work for a University, and I know what foods sustain college students: things like Raman, pizza, beer. But I don’t think most college students would see saltines as a staple of their physical diet, but evangelicals accept a corner of a saltine all the time for their spiritual sustenance. Shouldn’t we expect, want more!?!
I can remember being fascinated by GI Joe when I was younger. The fun and adventure of martial arts fighting, kung-fu grip holding, twisty-armed army guys was more than my mind could conceive. Growing up in the country afforded many outdoor scenes to enact the envasion of the mainland by the Killer Whale, especially if you had a pond, which I did. It was just that the Killer Whale seems to have been already killed – it floated about as good as lead. I was thinking to myself, “Shouldn’t this float? How could they win with sinking watercraft?” At that point, the mystery of the adventure faded a bit, and instead of being a passport to a new world of adventure, it became instead another piece of plastic in a largely plastic-toy world. Once cleaned up from it’s foray into the murky waters of the pond, it largely sat on my shelf, not to be enjoyed much more.
Maybe it’s the newness of Christ, and the relative disappointment of the eucharist that leads us to accept so little a representation of something so grand. After all, isn’t this ‘communion’ supposed to be something quasi-magical? Well, it’s not. The mystery rubs off a bit, after a while. But as I am rediscovering the mystery, I would say it’s not at all like the non-floating Killer Whale hovercraft, but instead, it’s our largely plastic-toy laden minds that lead us into disappointment. We are accustomed to the tangible and hold the intangible to be lesser in some way. But Christ is surely greater than your blinged computer, your X-Box, DVD player and collection, (insert favorite toy here).
So, the next time I am privileged to partake in communion, I will be praying and concentrating on the greatness of Christ, instead of the (in)significance of the bread. After all, should it matter how much actual bread you receive when you are spiritually feeding on the Son of God? And that is the wonder of John 6:35- Christ is our sustenance, regardless of how we view him. The more I think through this passage, the more I realize the truth of the statement in light of my skepticism.
Solo Deo Gloria,