The Living Bread

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalm 72 (Morning)
Psalm 119:73-96 (Evening)
Gen. 22:1-18
Heb. 11:23-31
John 6:52-59

The Living Bread

In today’s reading from St. John, the people’s hunger pangs are back. The crowds that Jesus miraculously fed want more bread–real physical sustenance–like the manna God sent down to the wandering Children of Israel, not this “Bread of Life” that Jesus keeps telling them about.

Jesus’ words are startling and difficult:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any one eats of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

At these “hard sayings,” many left off following Jesus and turned back for home.

This passage has given rise to speculation, argument, and even wars over what Jesus meant. Whether the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus as the priest speaks the words, or if they become so when we consume the elements, or if they only commemorate Christ’s last meal with his friends, the act of taking the bread and the cup, as recommended by St. Paul in Corinthians, unites us so closely with Christ and our brothers and sisters that the argument becomes almost irrelevant.

In the Baptist church of my childhood, which taught us to take the Bible literally but excused this passage as metaphorical, the Lord’s Supper was minimized to four times a year on a Sunday evening, when the miniscule crackers and tiny cups of grape juice were passed among us. Yet it is in just such a little country church in the Depression-era movie, “Places in the Heart,” that the Presence of Christ is made real. In the last scene, the cup is passed by the Black laborer (in this racist community) to the blind man, on to the children and the widow of the slain sheriff, then to the sheriff himself, and from him to the young Black man who was lynched for having accidentally killed him, symbolizing how we join with believers in all places, past and present, as the living Christ continues to make himself known to us in the breaking of the Bread.

Written by Kay DuVal

Kay, a retired teacher with a PhD in English, found her spiritual home in the Episcopal Church, where she has served on the Vestry and on the Seven Hills Board. In 2007, she organized the St. Elizabeth Flower Guild, and, earlier, the Recycling Ministry, which, with the work of dedicated volunteers, has now saved reusable resources from the landfill for over fourteen years.

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