Communion Prayer

June 5, 2022

Tomorrow, of course, is the 78th anniversary of D-Day. There are not many people alive who were alive and aware then and fewer still who were there on the beaches of Normandy, but almost all of us have experienced that event through films like “Saving Private Ryan.”

The soldiers on June 6, 1944 knew that many of them would die, as every person dies. More than 6000 Allied soldiers perished that day, along with a similar number of German troops. Tomorrow we will commemorate that day.

But today we come as a body to commemorate the death of one man, Jesus. We do this through the act of eating and drinking, something that every one of us does every day.

There was a time in Jesus’ life soon after the event we call the “feeding of the 5000.” Having crossed the sea of Galilee, Jesus was in Capernaum, and the people came to him. In teaching them, he said “You came looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate all the bread you wanted. Don’t work so hard for temporary food, but apply your efforts for “the food that endures to eternal life,” which I will give to you.

This didn’t make much sense to them at first and they asked him questions and Jesus took them back to the crux of the issue – the need to believe in him. Strangely enough the audience saw a connection with the nation’s time in the wilderness in Exodus and Numbers and they said why should we believe in you? “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

And Jesus said the Father gave them “bread from heaven” as he is giving it to you now! “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” John 6:33. They understood he was talking about himself and they said “Lord, give us this bread always.”

  • Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:35-40.

That did not go over well with the religious establishment – because essentially Jesus is saying “I am God’s blessing like the manna was God’s blessing,” and if the truth were known the Jewish leaders were used to thinking of themselves as God’s blessing on the nation.

The conversation quickly deteriorated, with Jesus saying this

  • Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me . . . . whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

Now this was very offensive, and it got worse when Jesus said

  • Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. 

John 6:53-58.

This teaching was the context for Jesus’ last supper with the disciples, a Passover meal.

  • Physical life is sustained by physical food, but eternal life is dependent on true food and drink.
  • That true food and drink is Jesus – sent from the Father as surely as the manna was sent.
  • The person who feeds on Jesus will live.

If the deacons would come now and pass the bread. Please hold it and we will eat together.

[Prayer]

Luke writes:

  • And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

Luke 22:19.

And now the deacons will bring the cup. Please wait until all have been served and we will drink together:

[Prayer]

  • And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Luke 22:20.

The person who feeds on Jesus will live.

Good Friday

IV

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind us of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

 T.S. Eliot, “East Coker, pt. IV,” Four Quartets (1940).

The Endless Afternoon

It has seemed to me that the afternoon of Jesus’ crucifixion would have stretched out forever in the minds of those who were present, and in another sense the events of that afternoon stretch to our day as well. We consider the viewpoints of a priest, a thief, Mary, John, Simon, and others and the seven last words they heard from Jesus.

20190420 Service

For anyone in Jacksonville tomorrow, a service titled “The Endless Afternoon: Words and Witnesses at the Cross,” at 7:00p at Westside Chapel, 4541 Shirley Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32210, 904 388-5117.