Archive for the ‘Eucharist’ Tag

Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Holy Innocents December 20, 2015

Above:  Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia, December 20, 2015

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

The Bread and Blood of Life

JULY 19 and 20, 2022


The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 9:1-18 (Tuesday)

Deuteronomy 12:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:97-104 (Both Days)

1 John 2:1-6 (Tuesday)

John 6:41-51 (Wednesday)


How I love your Law!

I ponder it all day long.

–Psalm 119:97, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The assigned readings for these two days instruct us to choose divine wisdom, not human folly.  The former is holy, but the latter resembles a prostitute.  One is also supposed to worship God alone, not practice idolatry.  Furthermore, we read about the importance of worshiping God properly, out of respect and humility.  Out of the humility by which we acknowledge our sinfulness we follow God–in Christ, in particular.

In my tradition all of these components come together in the Holy Eucharist, which my church tells me is the body and blood of Jesus somehow, by which I understand to be so via Transubstantiation.  If I am what I eat and drink, I hope that the sacrament will make me a better person, one who follows Jesus more closely.







Devotion for June 9, 10, and 11 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Perry, Georgia, January 29, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Proverbs and John, Part III:  Wisdom and Jesus

JUNE 9-11, 2022


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:1-21 (June 9)

Proverbs 8:22-38 (June 10)

Proverbs 9:1-18 (June 11)

Psalm 110 (Morning–June 9)

Psalm 62 (Morning–June 10)

Psalm 13 (Morning–June 11)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–June 9)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–June 10)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–June 11)

John 12:36b-50 (June 9)

John 13:1-20 (June 10)

John 13:21-38 (June 11)


I invite you, O reader, to compare and contrast the Proverbs readings to the prologue of the Gospel of John.  You might notice the imagery of divine wisdom (personified as feminine) and how it influenced the imagery of the Word (Logos) of God in the Gospel of John.  There is at least one major difference:  wisdom is a divine creation; the Logos is not.  (I am not an an Arian.)  Yet theological cross-fertilization is evident.

Wisdom raises her voice from the topmost height and calls to all people.  She encourages them to avoid folly and says,

For he who finds me finds life

And obtains favor from the LORD.

But he who misses me destroys himself;

All who hate me love death.

–Proverbs 8:35-36, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

And wisdom has st the table, offering food and wine.  She continues:

The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD,

And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

–Proverbs 9:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Meanwhile, in John 12 and 13, Jesus models and encourages an attitude of service to God and of help for each other.  I suspect that he did not intend to inspire an annoying song,

They’ll know we are Christians by our love,

with its few words repeated often, but at least the sentiment holds true.  And the caution in John 12:47-50 sounds very much like Wisdom speaking of those who reject her.

Jesus is about to set a table in the Gospel of John.  The Synoptic Gospels offer details about the Last Supper; the Gospel of John does not.  No, that meal comes and goes early in Chapter 13.  In the Synoptic Gospels the Last Supper is a Passover meal.  Yet, as well-informed students of the New Testament know, the barely-mentioned Last Supper in the Fourth Gospel occurs before Passover.  Jesus dies on Passover, so he is the Passover Lamb.  The food and wine he offers us are his body and blood.  I, as an Episcopalian, accept the language readily.

Wisdom raises her voice and invites all people to follow her precepts.  She also sets a table.  And Jesus offers himself to us and for us.  May we obey, eat, and drink.










Devotion for May 22 and 23 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionist

Image Source = Library of Congress

Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part III:  Violating Social Norms



Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 6:4-7:5 (May 22)

Song of Songs 7:6-8:14 (May 23)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–May 22)

Psalm 97 (Morning–May 23)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–May 22)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–May 23)

John 6:22-40 (May 22)

John 6:41-59 (May 23)


The Song of Songs ends with a note consistent with the rest of the book:  this love violates social norms.  To consumate it is risky, and the lovers must be prepared for a risky parting or a flight together; the Hebrew text is ambiguous regarding whether the lovers will remain in each other’s company.

Speaking of violating social norms, the discourse of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood violated Jewish social norms.  Such potent language offended sensibilities.  It sounds like cannibalism, does it not?  And more is happening in the narrative.  The Greek text in John 6 echoes the Greek text of the Septuagint in reference to grumbling Israelites in the desert after the Exodus.  So those who complained regarding Jesus received especially negative press.  And Jesus was (and remains) far more than manna.

In my North American context celebrations of the Holy Eucharist are routine, with no legal attention paid to them.  Yet, a few centuries ago, Roman Catholic priests risked their lives to say the Mass in England.  Following Jesus violated social and norms at that time and place.

Sometimes I think that following Jesus has become too respectable, not that I favor religious persecution.  Early Christianity, like the love in the Song of Songs, had an edge an element of risk to it.  And it had value.  As Thomas Paine wrote,

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:  ‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.

The American Crisis, Number 1, December 23, 1776

And, when religion becomes respected–the establishment even–it loses its prophetic edge.  I think of the uses of Christianity in  U.S. history to justify slavery then segregation and to criticize prostitutes while affirming the sexism and patriarchy which pushed many women into that situation.  Such hypocrisy, in the case of these women, blamed the victims.  Simply put, Jesus did not die because he was respectable and affirmed social injustice.  No, he died because Roman imperial officials considered him a threat to Pax Romana, a desert called peace, as Tacitus referred to it.

Respectability is overrated.







Week of Proper 19: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 19: Tuesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  A Table Set for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Image Source = Jonathunder

Bad Corinthians!

SEPTEMBER 12 and 13, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.



1 Corinthians 11:17-28, 33 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now that I am on the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that you do more harm than good.  In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it–since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted.  The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk.  Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in?  Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed?  What am I to say to you?  Congratulate you?  I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you:  that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said,

This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.

In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said,

This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.

Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, and so anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily towards the body and blood of the Lord.

Everyone is to recollect himself eating this bread and drinking this cup….

So, to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another….


1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because of all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ.  In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and the one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its member parts.

Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it.  In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages.  Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers?  Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing?  Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?

Be ambitious for the higher gifts.  And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.


Psalm 40:8-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold, I come.

9  In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.’”

10  I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11  Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

12  You are the LORD;

do not withhold your compassion from me;

let your loving and your faithfulness keep me safe for ever.


Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.


Luke 7:1-10 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When he [Jesus] had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum.  A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death.  Having heard  about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant.  When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him.

He deserves this of you,

they said,

because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.

So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends:


he said,

do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured.  For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man:  Go, and he goes; to another:  Come here, and he comes; to my servant:  Do this, and he does it.

When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning around, said to the crowds following him,

I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.

And when the messengers got to the house they found the servant in perfect health.


Luke 7:11-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now soon afterwards he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people.  When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her.  When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.

Do not cry

he said.  Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said,

Young man, I tell you to get up.

And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying,

A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.

And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over his countryside.


The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Only Begotten, Word of God Eternal:

Bread of Heaven, On Thee We Feed:

Thanksgiving after Communion, 1917:

At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing:

Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honor:

Humbly I Adore Thee, Verity Unseen:

Deck Thyself, With Joy and Gladness:

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:

Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face:

Become to Us the Living Bread:

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

Body of Jesus, O Sweet Food!:

Shepherd of Souls:

Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured:

The King of Love My Shepherd Is:

I Am the Bread of Life:

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist:

Prayer of Humble Access:

Break Thou the Bread of Life:

After Receiving Communion:

Before Receiving Communion:

Novena Prayer in Honor of the Blessed Sacrament:

O Bread of Life:

A Eucharistic Blessing:


The Corinthian church seems to have been a troubled congregation full of people who behaved quite badly.  Anyone who has read 1 Corinthians consecutively should know much of the contents of the catalog of sins, including backbiting, committing idolatry, failing to control one’s sexual impulses, and engaging in predatory sexual practices (sometimes with minors).  Why would anyone not already Christian become one of the faithful, based on these bad examples and role models?  As Ron Popeil says,

But wait, there’s more.

Instead of a rotisserie chicken machine or a nifty knife set, however, we get drunkenness at the Holy Eucharist and excessive pride in one’s own spiritual gifts combined with a dismissive attitude toward the spiritual gifts of others.

Our unity is in Christ, from whom we derive the label “Christian.”  Mutual support was supposed to mark the Corinthian church, but the opposite did.  Mutual support is supposed to mark us in the Christian Church today.  Sometimes it does.  I belong to a congregation where I feel accepted, but I have firsthand knowledge of some where I have not.

Now, to change the subject….

My usual purpose in these posts is to maintain a devotional tone and ponder practical lessons from readings.  Yet now I turn into a teacher.  There is a well-supported hypothesis which holds that the authors of the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke, and Matthew) drew from various sources, including Q, a collection of Jesus sayings.  Paul’s writing on the Holy Eucharist, in which he quotes Jesus, confirms that there was some source of Jesus sayings, for Paul could not have quoted any of the four canonical Gospels.  He died in 64, prior to the composition of Mark, the earliest of that genre in the canon of scripture.

Speaking of the Holy Eucharist…

Indeed, the altar is the table of God, and nobody ought to abuse its sacred elements or take it lightly.  Paul, writing regarding food sacrificed to imaginary deities, claimed that

Food, of course, cannot bring us in touch with God:  we lose nothing if we refuse to eat, we gain nothing if we eat.–1 Corinthians 8:8, The Jerusalem Bible

Here I must argue with Paul.  I have come in close contact with God at Holy Eucharist since I was a child.  My only complaint when I was growing up in rural United Methodist congregations in the South Georgia Conference was that I had these opportunities too infrequently.  Now, as an Episcopalian, that is no longer a problem.  Eucharist is, as The Book of Common Prayer (1979) tells us,

the central act of Christian worship.

So one should partake of it as frequently as possible, always with reverence.

God calls a wide variety of people with diverse spiritual gifts to form and maintain Christian communities in which people love and support each other.  We all have our foibles and other failings, so patience is a great virtue.  But together we can support each other in righteousness and be visible faces of Christ to each other.  That is our calling; may we embrace it and continue to do so.


Proper 13, Year B   22 comments

Above:  Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

Image Source = Junior

The Bread of Life and the “Ick Factor”

The Sunday Closest to August 3

The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 1, 2021



2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a (New Revised Standard Version):

When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD, and the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him,

There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

Nathan said to David,

You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

David said to Nathan,

I have sinned against the LORD.

Psalm 51:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.


Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 78:23-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

23 So he commanded the clouds above

and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens

and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust

and winged birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp

and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

for he gave them what they craved.


Ephesians 4:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it is said,

When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;

he gave gifts to his people.

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)  The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  We must no longer be children, tossed to and from and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.


John 6:24-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him,

Rabbi, when did you come here?

Jesus answered them,

Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.

Then they said to him,

What must we do to perform the works of God?

Jesus answered them,

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

So they said to him,

What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Then Jesus said to them,

Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

They said to him,

Sir, give us this bread always.

Jesus said to them,

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 13, Year A:

2 Samuel 11 and 12:

Exodus 16:

John 6:

Humbly I Adore Thee, Verity Unseen:

Break Thou the Bread of Life:

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:


There is an obvious link between the Exodus and the John readings.  The Israelites, needing food in the desert, received from God a sufficient amount of manna and quail.  Many people have wondered what manna was, in a scientific sense.  It was probably the crystalized excrement of scale insects and plant lice who had injested the sap of tamarisk trees.  (The Jewish Study Bible, page 140)  There is an “ick” factor to it.

There is also an “ick” factor to Jesus as the bread of life.  John 6, to Jewish sensibilities of the time, contained objectionable material, for consuming a person’s flesh and blood was (and is, in most cultures) taboo.  This being the Gospel of John, there is a highly symbolic layer to the text, but the text is not entirely figurative.  There is manna symbolism, indicating that God is the source of this bread of life.  Yet the manna was, as Father Raymond E. Brown wrote in his Anchor Bible commentary on the Johannine Gospel,

a foreshadowing of the real bread from heaven, which is Jesus own teaching.  (Volume 1, page 266)

So this bread of life is spiritual sustenance.  And Jesus himself, God incarnate, the living embodiment of these teachings, identifies himself as the bread of life in verse 35.  If one reads verses 51-58, one reads a text which identifies the flesh of our Lord as the bread of heaven itself.  Yet, as Father Brown documents in great detail, there has been disagreement about the precise meaning of “bread of life” in Christian tradition since the Patristic Era.  (Volume 1, page 272)  Should one focus more on the physicality of Jesus (as in the Eucharist) or on his teachings?  Or should one consider both equally?

I favor the latter option.  There is much playing out in the Greek text of John 6.  There are Passover and manna references, allusions to different types of bread of life, and a host (pardon the pun) of other details which brilliant scholars have poured over with excruciating attention.  The text is, simply put, subtle and rich in meaning, capable of meaning more than one thing simultaneously.  Being more of a “both and,” rather than an “either or” person much of the time, I ask,

Why not focus on both Jesus (as present in the bread and wine of Eucharist) and his teachings?

One misses a critical element in the absence of the other.

Jesus–the historical human being–was a great moral teacher.  He was more than that, of course, but he was that.  His teachings remain pertinent today.  It is also true that I encounter the Christ of my faith every time I take communion, which I consider to be the transubstantiated body and blood of Jesus.  As a Eucharistic Minister in The Episcopal Church, I hold a chalice containing consecrated wine.  I say,

The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,

to those who come forward.  I mean it literally.  If I am what I eat and drink, may I become more like Jesus through the Eucharist.  And may you, O reader, do the same.