Sermon - August 23, 2015 St Timothy's Church, Burnaby, BC
Jesus is the Bread of Life
Jesus said some mighty provocative things, during his time on earth with us. Still, it was quite stunning when He said: "Iam the Bread of Life". But when He added: "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in your", there were people who said: "Who can listen to this?", and left Him. It got so bad for a while that Jesus even asked His disciples if they too were going to leave. Lucky for us they didn't. For Jews, who refused to eat meat that had blood on it --- such a saying by Jesus was very difficult to hear. They ate Kosher, after all.
So what did Jesus mean by saying that He was the Bread of Life?
In the life of the church there have been several explanations.
1) The first explanation was to accept it literally --- that is, that we have to chew on his flesh, and drink His blood --- and there was a time in the history of the church when priests taught exactly that. In spite of the appearance of bread, they taught that the Bread had been changed into the flesh and blood of Jesus. Pretty crude, I agree, but when you interpret the scriptures literally, that is one of the problems you face.
2) The second explanation was to accept it symbolically --- that is, to say that it is all just symbolism --- that the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist are just reminders to us of how much Jesus loves us. Or reminders that we need to share what we have with others. The Communion Service, according to this thinking, is sort of a quiet family reunion --- a time to remember what Jesus had done for us --- and the Bread and Wine are simply symbols for just such a remembrance.
Now this morning, I am going to reject both of these explanations --- one is too literal, and the other too symbolic. I think there is a better understanding --- a better way of interpreting what Jesus was saying to us. Because it is important. Jesus spent a lot of time teaching this to His disciples and others --- so we need to understand what He is saying to us.
At the Last Supper, Jesus took Bread (unleavened bread) and Wine, Blessed it with the long Jewish Prayer, Broke the Bread (as He was about to be broken on the Cross), and Gave It to His disciples saying: "THIS is my BODY; THIS is my BLOOD. The disciples were stunned at the time, because they were good Jews who only ate Kosher. But they knew, for Jesus, what He was doing and saying was vitally important.
Jesus was saying that when they received the Bread and Wine they were actually receiving Him, His Life, His power, His Grace. He didn't say "This is to remind you of Me". He said: "This is my Body. This is my Blood". And then He added: "Do this to make me present". Jesus was giving us the greatest service of Worship known to mankind. To Take, Bless, Brake, and Give the Body and Blood of Christ is to join with Him in the greatest Sacrifice of Worship we can ever offer to the Father.
Jesus did NOT say the Bread would be changed --- the Bread remains Bread, the Wine remains Wine. BUT, here is the key --- Someone is ADDED. When the Bread is consecrated at the Altar, JESUS becomes Present in and around the Bread ---- and from that time on, we should call it the Blessed Sacrament --- because that's what it is. It is not a change, but an ADDITION.
With this Addition, the Bread becomes a CHANNEL for Jesus coming to us. Just like an electric wire is a channel for electric power, so the Bread of the Eucharist becomes a Channel for Jesus to be directly with us. In fact, we believe that after the Consecration at the Altar, Jesus is as much Present there in the Blessed Sacrament as He was on the streets of Palestine.
To review: the Bread is not changed; the Bread isn't a symbol; the Bread is a Channel for Jesus Himself to meet us directly.
In a little while, we will join together around the Altar, as the priest consecrates the Bread and Wine. At that moment, Jesus becomes Present with us at the Altar. And if you could see with the Vision of the saints and angels, the Blessed Sacrament would be shining with a Radiance and a Glory that envelopes the whole of the Altar and all those close to it.
Oh I wish I could open everyones' eyes this morning so that you all could see the Radiance of the Presence of Jesus our Saviour there at the Altar. The shining of the Light coming from the Blessed Sacrament would fill you with a joy and a wonder that you would remember all your life. And amazingly, such a Radiance comes every Sunday the Eucharist is celebrated and the Bread and Wine are consecrated. For a short while, Heaven and your Altar are joined, and the Glory of Heaven fills your Sanctuary.
One last thing you need to know: When you come to receive Communion, you will be receiving Jesus Himself into your soul. And as you turn to return to your seat, everyone of you will have a Radiant light coming from your breast. Jesus is the Bread of Life --- and the Life of Christ will be shining through each one of you, to the glory of God. You may not see it now, but believe me, the Saints and the Angels can and will --- and they will be praising God that Jesus, the Bread of Life, is shining through you and me, and all of us, to the Glory of God.
Thanks be to God for His wonderful gift --- Jesus, the Holy Bread of Life.