Trinity 11

Rev. Tom Mumford

 

Jesus said ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’

In church we use the language of ‘eating flesh’ and ‘drinking blood’ so often, that sometimes we can forget how bizarre and disturbing it must sound to everyone else. And if it is bizarre and disturbing to those outside the church in this day and age, after 2,000 years of Christianity seeping into our language and forming our culture, think how weird this must have been for the first century Jews we come across in our gospel reading today. ‘The Jews disputed among themselves saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”’

Well, it’s a very good question.

But luckily for them, and for anyone here still slightly unsettled by such stark language, Jesus is not setting up a very early pre-qual to the Silence of the Lambs. No, the eating of Christ’s flesh and the drinking of Christ’s blood is not cannibalism. Cannibalism would be to eat another fellow human being. No, to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ, that is to take God into ourselves, to enter into the mystery at the heart of Holy Communion. Because here Jesus promises us, as he did to Paul and the earliest followers, that in bread broken and shared, and in wine blessed and drunk from the cup, Jesus, God incarnate, is here with us. Here, God transforms himself, so that he can be as one with us, bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, closer to us even than the blood in our veins. It is through this abiding, this dwelling and participating in the life of God, that true life flows, that God’s life comes to us, and we get caught up in his life and love.

Jesus said ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’

But what does it mean for us to have life? To truly live? It’s something many of us have thought about in the last 18 months. A time when life has been transformed and radically altered by the COVID19 pandemic. It’s been a time when our ‘freedoms’ have been removed or restricted, a time of lockdowns, of mask wearing, of travel bans and COVID passports. It’s a time when everything has been stripped back, when the truth has been laid bare. I wonder what you learned? Have your priorities shifted? Have your relationships changed?

It was also a time where we saw most starkly the impact human life has had on the life of the world. In those early months, particularly in the first lockdown, the world remembered what clean air and water was like. We saw the impact our domination of the earth has had on wildlife and the natural landscape. I wonder if we as a human race will learn from this, and hearing the apocalyptic predictions of the climate change report earlier this week, take seriously what it might mine mean to live well on this earth.

So in the wake of the last 18 months, what does living well, having life, look like?

Is it having everything you want, going where you want, consuming what you can? Is it about being successful in your career, climbing the greasy pole for a few extra pennies and a bigger office? Is it about being popular, having the best position on a committee, having lots of power and influence? …Well if it wasn’t clear before COVID19, it’s pretty clear now. Life is not about what you can have, but what you can give, how you can love.

This is exactly what we see in the life of Jesus Christ.

He may not have faced the same temptations and obstacles as we do in here in Sudbury in 2021, but the model of his living upon this earth is no less instructive. In Jesus’ life we see that truly living, really, is self-giving. Or as Paul puts it, self-emptying. It is an attitude of giving, of generosity, of letting go for others, in order to let more of God in. In practice, this means choosing love and generosity over anger and suspicion. It means seeking and offering truth rather than lies or deception. It means giving up or giving to others what you can (which is often more than you would like), and in doing so modelling a hopeful version of what human relationships can be. This is a life of love, truth, justice and hope. It is a Christ-like life. It is life, life lived well.

But where do we begin? Well, just as Jesus tells us…. ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you’ And so we begin at the Eucharist, at Holy Communion, this morning. This is why we come to church on a Sunday, it’s why we pray together and share this meal. To quote Gillian McKeith from the tele, ‘You are what you eat’, or in other words, you become what you eat. And in a few moments, we will eat, we will share together in the bread of the Eucharist, in the body of Christ, and in doing so we will become more completely the body of Christ. We do so, to go away from this place more full of life, more ready to truly live. This is our first step, because God has given us a gift that is our being, and in return we must give him our becoming. Our becoming more deeply involved in his love and life, our becoming more fully and truly who we are called to be. Because in that, we will know love, truth, and life, life in all its beautiful and radiant glory.

Amen.