1 Kings 17:8-16; John 6:31-40, 47-58
October 4, 2020
— Finding Commonality in Jesus/True Communion
“You are what you eat.” Do they even use that expression anymore? Maybe not considering there is so much processed food out there, but there is also a good local-food push in many localities. We have a farmer’s market next door, as a matter of fact. But that expression “You are what you eat” is something that feels like it was made just for me and was engrained in my brain at an early age. It was very easy back then to think of myself as a Whopper with cheese which at one point was my family’s Sunday lunch ritual. The coup de gras would have been my years working at Pizza Hut through high school when for a while my favorite pizza – that is the only pizza that interested my taste buds – was a double pepperoni with anchovies. And it was better if the anchovies were slightly on the old side. You cannot cultivate a figure like mine without trying. I won’t even get into what I was capable of doing at a church covered dish dinner growing up. After all, you are what you eat.
The subject of eating is also one that pervades the Bible. Obviously, it is because food is essential to existence and always has been. Food is a way that people are able to relate to each other. The word “companion” literally means someone with whom you break bread. Sitting around a table with others is considered intimate space (think the Last Supper), but another interesting aspect of eating and food in the Bible is that no one ever dies of hunger. Have you ever noticed that? Of course, people did starve in biblical times, but I cannot find any record of that in the Bible. There are people who come very close – even going so far as to prepare to die from hunger, Hagar (Sarah’s Egyptian slave) is the other example beyond the Sidonian widow here. But have you ever noticed that no ever actually does die of hunger? It is almost as if God is trying to tell us something by this.
People die from hunger and malnutrition every day. It looks like between 20,000 and 25,000 people die from hunger around the world each day and at least half of those are children. This is exacerbated by places of war, famine, and illness. But this is not God’s intent. God does not wish for anyone to go without food. The world is capable of feeding us all. God has never intended for anyone to starve. Hunger ministries are always a good work of the people of God. This is a reflection of God’s heart.
That is what makes the story of Elijah and the Sidonian widow and her son so interesting. God certainly wants to make a dramatic point with this story. Elijah has previously called a drought to hold King Ahab accountable for the evil he was doing. This affected everyone, however, even Elijah, who was living on food supplied by ravens. Finally, even his tiny water source dried up and God sent him to this woman in Sidon which is the same people that Queen Jezebel came from (fun fact). It is a horribly tragic story with thiswoman, though, who is supposed to help Elijah, but she is preparing to die, herself – she and her son. As you heard, the rest of the passage is exactly a picture of God’s faithfulness: as she helped Elijah with her food, they would never run out. God saved Elijah and the widow and her son from starvation. When they had the inevitability of no more regular food, God sustained them. They were only nourished in God’s grace. People who were technically not friends, closer to enemies, were fed together in God. Later Jesus quotes this passage and is nearly killed for it in Luke’s Gospel. Still it was true. God fed God’s people whether we like it our not.
Jesus in John’s Gospel, however, sees the issue of eating in a very different light. Honestly, this is not a passage you hear very often. It is right near offensive to civilized folk. Ancient Romans used to make fun of Christians because of two things: first is that they were so poor they could only afford to make sacrifices one god; and two is that they were cannibals because they kept eating the body of their lord. But the Romans were kind of right. It is a strange thing to say that we are eating Jesus when we share in Communion. What’s more, today we have followers all over the world eating Jesus together with us at the same time, at least on the same day. This is what World Communion is all about. This is the point. We are all sharing in the eating of Jesus’ body and the drinking of his blood together. We all do want life in us, don’t we?
Jesus is really trying to hammer a point home, though. He had just fed the five thousand and others. People were astounded. Boy, God fed us just like God fed the people in the wilderness. They thought bread from heaven was manna; Jesus is trying to tell them that HE is the bread from heaven. Manna is only good for one day. It is only physical food. He is our eternal and everlasting food. If Jesus is our food, then we will live forever.
This gets back to the key that we are what we eat. Yes, friends, it has never been more true than in this case. Now, to be honest, I am not going to go so far as to say that someone who never has the chance or knowledge of Holy Communion is going to be condemned for it, but it does seem to indicate that someone who refuses to ever take Communion, someone who could but never does, is going to have to answer for this. Jesus really wants us to share in his very communion so much that he wants us to feast on his very self. He wants us to behim by consuming him. AS WE TAKE COMMUNION TOGETHER, WE ARE A COMMUNION TOGETHER. We are one in Christ as we eat together in Christ. It is one of the most beautiful statements or demonstrations of our Christian identity. Christ Jesus is our life, just as much and even more, as how we depend on food for life.
Does anyone here think the world is really better off or the kingdom is somehow more profoundly proclaimed, if one side conquers the other side? If Republicans could just hold every office and control every seat of power, then the world would be right. Or the same for Democrats – if they just held every position of influence, then the world would be the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Does anyone really think that? That is idolatry, by the way. That is putting our ideas, our beliefs, our personal faith as the ruler of the world instead of our Lord. Believe it or not, there are good faithful people on every side of this debate. There are good and faithful people on every side of this political division. The Kingdom of God is not demonstrated by our division but our unity. No, everyone is not going to want to share a tent with us, but God’s tent is for more, not less people. The Kingdom of Heaven is in our Communion – our shared space, our oneness, our willingness to work and live and worship and love together. That is actually what the Body of Christ is all about – being together as one. Jesus is actually about bringing people, all people, together. Actually, the only people who seemed to have an issue with Jesus were the religious zealots – the pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, those who were in positions of religious and political power. They were not about bringing people together and taking care of the children of God. They were about securing their power and building walls between people.
Holy Communion is the most basic and simple way of speaking truth to that power. When we take this bread and drink this juice, we are saying “no” to division, to faction, and to strife. When we partake the Body and Blood of our Lord, we are tearing down our worldly differences. The barriers come down and we are just Jesus. We are just beautiful Jesus our Lord. Our difference melts in the grace of our one Savior as we feast in his Spirit of love.
If you have no interest in reaching across the divides of this world, then I would encourage you to think twice about eating this Communion. You do not want to make a mockery of the oneness of our Lord. If you have no interest in being connected to ALL of God’s children, then you might want to pass this meal by. You do not want to make a claim to a body that you have no interest in sharing. If you have no intention of living out our Christ-given communion through the week, then be careful that you do not make a show of false faith. BUT if you wish to grow in our togetherness with our Lord and all of our Lord’s children, then come and feast in the goodness of our Lord. Taste and see that we are what we eat.
To God be the glory. Amen.