Proper 16, Year B: John 6:56-69: A Choice

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 16, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

In today’s reading, Jesus says again that he is sent from the Father and that people must  eat his flesh and drink his blood and they will live forever.

He heard his followers complain of this (admittedly weird-sounding) teaching and challenged them. He asks what will they think when they see him go up to where he came from. He tells them it is the Spirit that gives life and the body is of no value. I think this is maybe a clue that even though he has been talking of the physical (body and blood), the key is in the spirit. With this hard teaching, many followers left him and he asked the twelve apostles if they want to leave also.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. We believe in you. We know that you are the Holy One from God.”

John 6: 68-69 (Easy-to-Read Version)

We can choose to turn away when it gets hard to understand or hard to follow Jesus, or we can choose to follow Him, whose words give eternal life. We can choose to believe and live as he would live. What do you choose?

Proper 15, Year B: John 6:51-58: Living Bread

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 15, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

Today’s passage just carries on from the previous week–Jesus expounds on being the  living bread that came down from heaven” and talk more about the bread being his body and drinking his blood. One can only imagine who weird this must have sounded at the time. It sounds a bit weird now if you step outside of a knowledge of church. The people basically wondered if he wanted them to be cannibals.

This is a very challenging passage, and I’m not sure how to explain it fully–I know it is of a piece with recent passages that all deal with the Eucharist experience. It is a mystery and a communing with God and with one another. It is difficult to explain the love and faith and beauty of such an experience. There is nothing simplistic and tidy about it.  Our Christian life is visceral and physical even as it is spiritual. God is with us. In him we live and move and have our being.

Proper 14, Year B: John 6:35, 41-51: Bread of Life

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 14, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

In today’s story, people begin to complain that Jesus said he was the “the bread that comes down from heaven” but they know him as a local boy, son of Joseph. Jesus tells them to stop complaining. He goes on to talk about being sent from the Father and that anyone who believes has eternal life. He compares the bread of life to the manna sent down for the Israelites in the Old Testament.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my body. I will give my body so that the people in the world can have life.”

Those of us who participate in the weekly Eucharist are familiar with the imagery of the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, but it can sound strange to people new to it, as it did to the people of that time. It can be a hard teaching–to understand and share the full and loving life Jesus calls us to, and the community we experience together in the Eucharist–a community reaching out to each other and up to a God who loves us and breaks bread with us.

Proper 13, Year B: John 6:24-35: Spiritual Bread

You can see all the lectionary readings for Proper 13, Year B by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss the passage from the Gospel of John.

After Jesus feeds the five thousand, he leaves the people behind. Then the people go looking for him and find him on the other side of the lake. He asks why they are looking for him–if it is only because they saw miraculous signs. He tells them they liked that he fed them, but earthly food doesn’t last long. He tells them to work for the food that gives them eternal life.  The Son of Man will give you that food. He is the only one qualified by God the Father to give it to you.” 

So the people ask what God wants of them and he tells them to believe in the one God sent. Then they ask for more miracles and talk about the manna God sent the Israelites in the desert.

Again, they seem focused on miracles but also mostly on physical food. As I said about last week’s passage, Jesus does care about their physical well-being, but he also cares about their souls.

I can assure you that Moses was not the one who gave your people bread from heaven. But my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. God’s bread is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

John 6:32-33 (Easy-to-Read Version)

So the people say,  “Sir, from now on give us bread like that.” I think they still probably don’t get it.

Jesus responds that he is the bread that gives life, and those who come to him will never be hungry or thirsty. This, again, seems to be about spiritual hunger and thirst, rather than physical. And again, this passage forecasts our Eucharist, when we receive physical bread but also the spiritual bread of Christ and his grace.

Easter 3, Year A: Luke 24:13-35: On the Road to Emmaus

Man in cloak tearing bread into two

Man in Cloak Tearing Bread in Two – Source: iStockphoto.com/fotograv

You can see all the lectionary readings for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A by clicking here. I have chosen to discuss only the Gospel reading.

This week’s Gospel lesson occurs shortly after Jesus’ resurrection.  Two of his followers are going along a road to a town called Emmaus.  It’s 7 miles away—a long walk by modern standards, probably not too bad back then.  These two men are talking about what has occurred in Jerusalem.  While they’re walking along and talking, Jesus comes up and joins them on their walk.  The scripture says, “But the two men were not allowed to recognize Jesus” so I guess they just think he’s some random dude.  He asks them what they’re talking about and they stop.  It says they looked very sad.  One named Cleopas says, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what has just happened there.”

Jesus said, “What are you talking about?”

They tell him all about Jesus, how amazing he was, but how he was killed on a cross.  They say, “We were hoping that he would be the one to free Israel. But then all this happened.” Then they go on to tell him that some women told them that Jesus’ body was not in his tomb and that they’d seen angels who told them Jesus was alive.  Then they say that they went to the tomb and it was indeed empty, but they didn’t find Jesus.

Then Jesus tells them they are foolish and that they haven’t believed the prophets. He says, “The prophets said the Messiah must suffer these things before he begins his time of glory.”  And he goes on to explain everything about him that was in the Jewish scriptures.

Finally, they come near to Emmaus.  Jesus acts like he is going to keep going but the men beg him to stay as it’s getting dark.  So, he goes to stay with them.  As they’re eating supper, Jesus takes some bread and gives thanks and then breaks it and gives it to them.  I like this part:

 “Just then the men were allowed to recognize him. But when they saw who he was, he disappeared. They said to each other, “When he talked to us on the road, it felt like a fire burning in us. How exciting it was when he explained to us the true meaning of the Scriptures!”

So, then they go straight back to Jerusalem to find the followers of Jesus who tell them Jesus has indeed risen, and the two men tell the other followers of their experience talking and sharing bread with Jesus.

It’s kind of mysterious and interesting how they men at first were “not allowed” to recognize Jesus and then they saw who he was as he broke bread—much like he broke it at the last supper, or how we break it today during our Eucharist.

This reminds me of the previous story of Mary Magdalene we read on Easter Sunday, who at first does not recognize Jesus outside his tomb.  And just as it moved me that she turned toward him and knew him upon hearing her name, I am moved by this story—the men see Jesus for who he is in the simple act of him giving thanks and breaking bread.

This week I want to think about being on the road of life, a journey with Jesus by my side, but I hope I can recognize him day-to-day and see what he sees.