So, we’ve been having this conversation of late, posing the question– “What’s in your faith closet?” What do you believe? What is at the heart of your faith? And with that, what do you find hard to swallow? What for you is theological junk food versus super food?
I sincerely hope you are experiencing a deepening of faith as you let go of some things, and fall in love anew with others. Sometimes we need a fresh review. Just as when we inventory any closet, making decisions about what we keep, toss or rediscover takes laying it out where we can look at it. So fasten your seatbelts. We’re going deep.
To help with this conversation I asked some friends what things they can no longer swallow. I also asked what is feeding their faith.
I knew I’d hear some interesting things but in the end I heard some doozies.
(Responses are put into a bowl for people to pick from and read out loud)
- Atonement theology; that life is fair; that suffering is good for you and that it makes you stronger.
- When I was a tyke, I was told that God kept a big tally sheet and made a mark on it every time I was “bad.” Then, on judgment day, He would review those marks and decide whether I got to go into heaven.
- Our pastor told us when we were in high school that races should not mix. And also, Catholics and Lutherans should not date each other.
- That only 144,000 people are going to heaven. The rest are cast out.
- That the earth is only 5000 years old and was created in 7 literal days.
- That God hated gay people or hates anyone for that matter.
- That unbaptized babies wouldn’t go to heaven.
- That the Native Americans are “lost Jews” that came over to North America on submarines before the time of Christ.
That list is only the beginning in what people would class as empty spiritual calories. It’s a good lead in to today’s gospel, a discourse I would class theological super food.
Jesus’ words in John 6 are different than in other verses where he also describes himself using a bread metaphor. But beginning in the 51st verse “Bread of life” has become “LIVING bread that came down from heaven.” This passage seems to move from descriptive metaphor, to asking us to eat this bread.
He says, “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The passage has an uncomfortable even cannibalistic tone as he adds, “for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” Is this a concentrated reference to the Eucharist, or is Jesus talking about something more?
But first, I don’t want to ignore an important distinction here. Catholics use this as a proof text for the belief that the bread and the wine literally become the body and the blood of Christ. They adopted transubstantiation as official doctrine at the Council of Trent in the year 1545.
Luther could not agree saying, “If you can explain how Christ is both fully God and man I will explain how the bread and wine are his body and blood.” This is an example of taking the bible seriously but not literally and why we say that Jesus is present, in, with and under the elements.
There are scholars don’t see this text as being about the Eucharist, but rather as Jesus going deeper and talking about the reality of who he is—the human incarnation of God in the flesh. You and I know how this story ends–that Jesus will give his Godly flesh-his substance- for the sake of the world. He knew that people (not God) would seek his death.
That makes Jesus’ invitation perhaps the greatest we will ever receive.
Jesus is asking us to chew on this truth, the truth of who and whose he is. He’s inviting us to consume his very substance, in fact take his substance into our substance? His body into our body. What would our life look like if we lived on a diet of Godly substance?
To fully receive him, we get to sort through what that means. Talk about de-cluttering your faith!
Jesus is not just asking us to believe. He’s asking us to take a filling bite of everything he stands for, all that he is and all that he hopes for the world! Put this mystery back into your faith closet and you move from a way of seeing… to a way of being–a way of living!
Through Jesus’ earthly ministry, God becomes directly involved in humanity’s suffering and joy. God in Christ takes shape in each of us through our baptisms, working intimately in, with, and through us-making you and I the mystical body of Christ. [deep breath]
So would you like to know what people said is at the heart of their faith, what’s feeding them?
They believe in love, in compassion and in community. They believe in sharing the gifts they’ve been given. They believe in kindness and that God and us are never separate.
And finally, here are the beautiful words of my friend Marie.
“My faith is in Jesus, who came among us as human and by the very act of incarnation redeemed humanity, not by blood sacrifice.
My faith is in God whose love is impossibly lavish.
My faith is in the Holy Spirit who dwells in and among us, breathing God’s breath into us.”
And so brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are what we eat, let us chew on that, in Jesus’ holy name.