Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Nothing Is Ordinary

In tomorrow's Gospel reading, Jesus says,
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors 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. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
As the Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton notes, this is our third in a row reading from John's Gospel with Jesus talking about bread. She writes,
This is a good week for preachers to share a little good-natured griping about the seemingly endless stream of bread-centered (panecentric?) gospel readings. Ask them to stop you if they’ve heard this one before. Ask them if it’s just you, or if there's an echo in the room. Or just point it out wonderingly: tell them that today’s is the third bread reading they’ve heard in a row, with two more to come. Did the lectionary compilers reason that lots of people are away in August, so no one person in the pews will hear all five of them? Or was it because Mark, the shortest of the Gospels, needed a little padding, so they borrowed some from John and tucked it away here in August where no one will see?

It's not that there aren’t lots of good and interesting things to say about bread. You can preach about the Eucharist, drawing from a writer in one of the first communities that celebrated it, one who seeks to communicate the transformative presence of Christ in the sacrament: the Christians who receive him in the bread have eternal life already, he says, not just an endless timeline of life after they die, but a way of living the timelessness of eternal life now.

Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, says Jesus, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. Death—Jesus’ death, our death—is not the end of much, in this view; it is a moment in the midst of a much larger life. Eternal life consists of grasping this fact and living in it, living as if we were already there, in heaven itself at the moment we take the bread. No wonder the gnostics found John so appealing.

Yet the very bread-ness of bread, the simple physicality of eating it, prevents us from imagining ourselves out of this world altogether, as some early Christians longed to do. At my church we used to take turns buying pita bread for the Eucharist. One Sunday someone failed to look carefully at the package before buying it. As the plate made the rounds, person after person began to smile: it was garlic pita. That particular Eucharistic meal probably tasted more like the Last Supper than most of our Eucharist meals.

Garlicky or otherwise, we eat bread every day. It's nothing remarkable. Like all food, it ties us firmly to life. Look at the people Jesus heals who immediately reconnect with food: Peter’s mother-in-law, Jairus’s daughter. Look at Jesus on the shore, cooking a fish for his friends’ breakfast. Look at the two on the Emmaus road, inviting their mysterious new friend to eat supper with them.

Take and eat, Jesus says, and let your simple bread become me. Don’t let a single thing in your life, however ordinary a thing it may be, remain untouched by your new life in me. Don’t think for a moment that it is an ordinary thing; there are no ordinary things. Allow your eternal life to transform this life, so that the two are one thing, a seamless garment.
Here full reflection is above, but she adds a recipe in the original post which is here: Nothing is Ordinary.



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