The Word Became Flesh, the Flesh Became Bread – 8,27,06

If you’re like me, at some point in your life you have held the idea that our faith has to do with our souls and that our bodies are not much involved.  I don’t think anyone ever told me this directly, but I sort of picked up the idea through the way people talked about their faith.  Or maybe you’ve even thought or been taught that the body is a bad thing, something to be overcome, something to push aside as we try and be led by the spirit.         

Two weeks ago I asked that we consider this series to be a process of discovery in what Jesus would have us know about becoming bread.  This week we are reaching a bit of a climax in this conversation.  It all started with real physical bread feeding a bunch of hungry people.  Jesus’ act shows God’s desire that all people have enough to eat and be satisfied.  We were then asked to go deeper, with Jesus directing us beyond the physical back to the Source of our food, the source of our very life…Godself, which is offered as daily bread from heaven.  Elijah had experienced this God as present in the fire and destructive forces around him, but he learned that this was not where God was to be found.  God was in the silence, in the still small voice, and Jesus said that God was present in him, as bread given for the life of the whole world and that we could all be taught by this same God.  So if you’ve missed the last three weeks, there’s all the sermons packed into one paragraph.

  Now I’m usually not one for the extended metaphor.  There’s only so far you can carry a certain image before its time to move on and get another topic.  But this sixth chapter of John keeps going on and on about bread.  And there is actually something new being said this week.  After starting with real bread and moving more into a spiritual nonphysical heavenly understanding of true bread, Jesus is pointing us back to something that we can feel and touch and taste and it has to do with bodies, his body and our body.  And just so you don’t miss the point, he takes the liberty of using the graphic, somewhat disgusting language of eating flesh and drinking blood.  Initially, this whole thing had a nice G or PG rating, a story about a family gathering where a little boy shares his food and everybody ends up sharing a big meal together.  Now I think we’ve moved into the territory of R…contains disturbing and upsetting images.  Yes, coming from the mouth of our blessed Lord Jesus, v. 53 “Unless you eat the flesh of the Human One and drink his blood, you have no life in you…for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”  It’s OK to be put off by this.  That was exactly the response of the people who were listening to Jesus.  Jesus must not have been up on reading the latest church growth strategies.  If you want people to follow you, rule #1, don’t tell them to do something disgusting and confusing.  But there it is, right out of the mouth of one for whom the church exists: v. 56 “those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”            I’d like to suggest that this physical, visceral language is meant to guide us toward one of the central realities of the Christian life.  A reality about how we use our bodies.  We are used to the bread and the juice as being symbols for us of Christ’s body and blood.  They represent Christ to us and we receive them as the mystery of Christ’s presence with us.  And this is true.  But the movement of the life of the church takes us beyond symbolism and actually moves in the opposite direction.    We usually think of symbols as taking something concrete, like a person, or a house, or a bike, or whatever, and making it abstract, like a picture or a word, or, in the case of communion, bread.  It moves from the actual thing to a sign for that thing.  John’s gospel moves us one step further, and it is a crucial step.  In this gospel it is the Word that became Flesh (John 1:14).  It is the abstract, the sign, the Word, that becomes actual, bodily flesh.  It is the word of Wisdom that Proverbs 9 talks about that takes on flesh and becomes a teacher and guide to the world.  It is the word bread, that takes on flesh and becomes the bread of life to the world.  It is the invisible God, who begins to look very much like a human.  God in 3-D.  Flesh and blood doing the actual work of God. 

This is why Jesus was so emphatic that his flesh was real food and his blood was real drink, as off-putting as it may sound.  This is real.  You are to actually take this flesh into your flesh. And just as Jesus has become the bread of life, you are to feast on him and become bread for others.  And all this is from the Undying God of heaven, the source of life, the giver of bread. 

This is about God alive in our bodies.  Jesus active through our living and breathing and thinking and doing.  It’s all about not just receiving the gift of bread, but receiving the very being of Christ into our being and in turn becoming that living flesh and blood.  God moving through us, reaching out to the world with our hands, embracing the stranger, speaking words of comfort and healing with our mouths.  The flesh of Jesus on our bodies, the blood of Jesus circulating through our veins. 

Its sort of like the mystical meets the practical meets the charismatic meets the social activist.  All these streams of spirituality are wrapped up in the Word becoming flesh and ourselves becoming bread.  And as grand and spectacular as this sounds, it’s a mystery that gets worked out in the ordinary world of daily living.  I read an article this week by a woman who spends a lot of time caring for people.  She said she often felt that she was doing no good.  Sometimes she would spend hours by someone’s bed, not talking much, but just being there.  She went on to say that she didn’t realize how important this was until she herself experienced a sickness that kept her in bed for several weeks.  She expressed her deep gratitude for people who came to be with her, simply to be present.  This is about as ordinary as you can get!  Just putting your body alongside another person, sometimes saying very little.            There is a bumper sticker-type slogan that friends of ours have posted above their kitchen sink.  It says “everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to wash the dishes.”  Eating the flesh and blood of Christ will lead us into the public arena where we act and speak for what is right, but it will also take is into the ordinary world of the kitchen and beside someone’s bed who is sick.  What’s key is that this all happens with our body, and that our body is not so much our body, but a part of the larger body of Christ in the world.  So this is ultimately where Jesus leads us in our search for bread.  Instead of constantly looking for a sign from God, we are called to BE a sign of God.  In our search for a revelation of God, we are called to BE a revelation of God.  As we look for bread to fill us, we are called to BE bread, to become bread, to nourish the world.  We consume the bread of life and we allow our lives to be bread for the sustenance of the world.  This is not a symbol as we normally think of symbols.  It is the symbol come to life, taking on flesh and blood.  And we are that symbol.  That is the call of Jesus on our life. Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship, you are a sign of God to the world.  When you offer meals to the community, you are a sign of God’s table where all are welcome and well-fed.  When you initiate and maintain the work of Ten Thousand Villages you are a sign of God’s good economy, where all give and receive in fairness and dignity.  When you gather to worship, you are a sign of the new humanity God is bringing about in the world whose unity is based on its love for the world and not its hatred for an enemy. The picture John gives us with is Jesus, with all his sisters and brothers, bridging heaven and earth, offering the bread of life to the world.  We feed on the bread and we become bread with our bodies that God has given us.    I’m going to let my words be few, because the focus here isn’t on words in themselves, but on moving from the word as symbol to the Word as flesh.  We have the chance to take communion together today.  We have bread and we have juice that represent Christ’s body and blood to us, which are on their way to becoming part of our own body and blood.  Let this be a time of reflection, a time of repentance, a time of receiving this gift and a time of allowing our own flesh and blood to be transformed by the flesh and blood of Christ.  ————-Let’s begin this time by praying together the prayer of preparation

May the body and blood of Christ
which alone can satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst

Fill us with peace

May God bless us tomorrow with daily bread for strength

  And sweet water for refreshment

Just as Christ has become bread for us,

   may we become bread for a hungry and hurting world. 

May we, together, become the body of Christ, living in hope and joy.

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4 thoughts on “The Word Became Flesh, the Flesh Became Bread – 8,27,06

  1. SOME THOUGHTS on flesh and blood and wisdom and proverbs

    it is when the carnality of flesh is controlled by submission to the will of the father that the blood is kept pure..in other words when the conscious mind chooses in all cases properly and fully the will of the creator then the subconscious mind resonds and develops habits based on the dictates as determined by one’s conscious decisions…
    as i recall fairly surely ..the spirit in the old testament is said to be in the flesh and the soul in the blood…and the only shed blood that could bring forgiveness is one who was god’s spirit in the flesh where the flesh was not ruled by a rebellious spirit. thus there is a full union of heart and mind …that is brought about one whose conscious mind unites the word of mind and heart as one….
    the conscious mind i think is symbolized by man and the subconscious by woman…if one has wisdom as one’s subconscious habits it comes from the conscious mind that is consciously chosen .. when one is cleansed by the shed blood of jesus if one remains on the milk..a fluid parallel i think to the blood then one does not move fully on to the solid food ..the flesh of jesus..one remains immature and not yet able to be a fully empowered matyr for the sake of others….and there can be impairment in part that comes from a false matyr complex..but one matures then one has passed thru the dark night of the soul that i think much of revelations is teaching what is involved there…and as jesus says in the gospel john will be able to be one with god as he was..if not one can still enter the kingdom of heaven but not yet the kingdom of god…
    and might need further incarnations for perfection but the perfection of souls will be different once the millenial rule of christ and his saints begins…

    in terms of wisdom in proverbs some find it difficult to see the relationship of christ as male to wisdom as female in proverbs…
    and not necessarily that both were present before the creation of the world and the heavens but what their relationship was…
    i think it is can be resolved in an understanding of genesis says LET US CREATE MAN IN OUR IMAGE AND AFTER OUR LIKENESS…christ is the conscious mind function of imagination from which the patterns or likeness to be followed in creation..the wisdom of these patterns established by christ conscious imaging is how the holy trinity works under the guidance of god the father ….also see colossians in relationship to wisdom as spoken of in proverbs 8 and 9…

    that the holy spirit in the new testament greek is masculine does not mean that wisdom of the old testament to is not the holy spirit and god the mother ..what is added by jesus that makes it masculine in a sense is that it is connected now to god the father thru jesus so that it can teach all things to all who are convicted of their old sin nature and repent and accept the holy spirit in asking god the father in the name of jesus for that which can teach all things to the seeker

  2. in regards to my previous comment here on spirit in the flesh and soul in the blood….
    the biblical passage that to me suggests that the spirit is in the flesh in the old testament is genesis 6:17..here is young’s literal translation..Genesis 6:17  “And I, lo, I am bringing in the deluge of waters on the earth to destroy all flesh, in which is a living spirit, from under the heavens; all that is in the earth doth expire.

    in the old teatament i could not find readily any other verses that make the point as precisely…
    in the new testament i think there are many interesting passages about how the spirit is in the flesh…

    the soul being in the blood, i think there are more passages in that regard in the old testament..the one perhaps most ofter referred to might be.. lev 17:11…
    (KJV+) ForH3588 the lifeH5315 of the fleshH1320 is in the blood:H1818 and IH589 have givenH5414 it to you uponH5921 the altarH4196 to make an atonementH3722 forH5921 your souls:H5315 forH3588 itH1931 is the bloodH1818 that maketh an atonementH3722 for the soul.H5315
    THE NUMBERS ARE FROM STRONGS… ODDLY IN A WAY I FOUND NO TRANSLATIONS THAT TRANSLATED LIFE ABOVE AS SOUL..BUT IF YOU NOTE THAT THE STRONG NUMBER FOR SOUL IS THE SAME AS FOR LIFE…

    another interesting issue of the translation of life for soul …
    is in the new testament about those who love their life[soul] shall lose it…
    which is probably connected to the concept in paul of the problem of SOULISH POWER.. which tho the greek word for soul is not usually used in most translations…

    very key to discening the word,, i think is the dynamic relationship of soul and spirit ..which often seems not to be well considered

  3. here is the url of a site with what looks like some good information on soul and spirit…

    http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/jessiepenn-lewis/soulspirit/soulspirit.c.htm

    OH FIRST THO,
    A THOUGHT ON FOOD:)
    IF THE CARNAL FLESH MINDED BABY CHRISTIAN IS ON MILK AND THE SPIRITUAL MATURE MINDED IS SAID TO BE ON SOLID FOOD … DOES THE BIBLE SAY WHAT KIND OF FOOD THE NATURAL OR SOULISH MINDED IS ON…PABLUM MAYBE?
    and a paste of some what is in some of the chapters indicated on what initially comes up ..
    WELL THE URL FOR THE CHAPTER ON SOULISH OR NATRUAL MAN…
    http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/jessiepenn-lewis/soulspirit/chapter%203.htm
    AND SOME STUFF FROM THAT SITE..

    CHRISTIANS who have arrived at the stage of knowledge of the Cross where they cease to walk ” after the flesh “, think that they are now “spiritual” believers, entirely renewed and led by the Spirit of God; but then comes the most important lesson, says Dr. Andrew Murray-the lesson concerning the danger of the ” inordinate activity of the soul, with its power of mind and will the “greatest danger” which the “Church, or individual, has to dread”.(* Dr. Andrew Murray. Note in Appendix to The Spirit of Christ. )

    The believer who has been quickened in spirit, is born of the Spirit and the Spirit of God dwells in his spirit. He has had the revelation of the Cross which has shown him the way of victory over the life after the flesh and he now walks in newness of life and victory over sin as manifested in the “works of the flesh”. But at this stage the question must be asked: What about the “soul” the man himself in his personality and intellectual or emotional activities. Which power is animating the actions of the man himself apart from the “works of the flesh”? Is he animated and governed by (I) the spirit life which comes from above-from the Risen Lord as the Last Adam, the Life-giving Spirit, or (2) by the life which comes from the lower realm-the fallen life of the first Adam ?

    We have already pointed out the error of the prevailing idea, that when the believer has apprehended his death with Christ to SIN, and ceases to walk habitually “after the flesh”, he becomes a “spiritual man”, and is “entirely sanctified!” But to be delivered from the domination of the flesh, or carnal life, does not mean that he ceases to be ” soul-ish” or ceases to walk after the life of nature; for the “death to sin”, and crucifixion of the “flesh”, is only one stage of the work of the Spirit of God to be done in the redeemed man. He may cease to be “sarkiko” or fleshly, and still be “physical” -or “soul-ish”, i.e., living in the realm of the soul, instead of the spirit, or God-conscious sphere.

    The soul, we have seen, includes intellect, and emotions, as well as the central personality which makes it the seat of the self-consciousness. The believer may be entirely freed from the manifest “works of the flesh” as described in Galatians 5:19-21, whilst his intellect and emotions are still moved by the “psuche”, or ” animal-soul” life-i.e., they are not yet renewed and fully animated by the Holy Spirit working through the regenerated human spirit. The soulish Christian is therefore one whose intellect and emotions are still governed by the first Adam life and not by the Life-giving Spirit of Christ (see I Corinthians 15: 45) bringing the intellect and emotions under full control as the believer walks after the spirit, i.e., The Holy Spirit may dwell in his spirit, and enable him to ” make to die the deeds of the body ” whilst his intellect and emotions are still “soulish”.

    If we take, for instance, the question of the intellectual life, a passage in the Epistle of James very clearly shows the distinction between the heavenly, and the soulish or natural-wisdom. The Apostle writes that the wisdom which is not “from above” is (I) earthly(2) soulish (psychikos. The R.V. m. gives “natural” or “animal” i.e. pertaining to the soul; (3) demoniacal (R.V. m.)and produces jealousy and faction, division and partisanship. Whilst the wisdom which is from above, that is from the Spirit of God dwelling in the spirit of man, is characterised by purity, peaceableness, gentleness, mercy and good fruits and so partakes of the Divine character that it is without partiality (James 3:17) The pure heavenly wisdom is without any element of the soulish life-the place of self-consciousness, self-opinions, and self-views and therefore causes peace instead of strife and envy. The third statement of the soulish wisdom being “demoniacal” will be dealt with in another connection.

    Again, it is the soulish element in teachers and professors of holiness, which is often the cause of separation and disunion. There may be, it is true, love in the heart to those who “differ” but the “differences” divide nevertheless, because the demoniacal powers, able to work upon the soulish element in the believer, always emphasise or exaggerate the differences in “views of truth” instead of magnifying the points of union, and even drive eager believers to “fight” for their view of truth, under the name of “witnessing for God”. Devoted believers, alas, think they are seeking the blessing of others,whilst unknowingly doing the same as the Pharisees in compassing “sea and land to make one proselyte . . .” (Matthew 23:15).

    It is also the soulish element in Christians which insists upon the minute correspondence of others to its “views of truth” and “tithe mint and anise and cummin ” in words whilst leaving “undone the weightier matters of the law” which in the gospel dispensation is the law of Christ and places love and the unity of the Spirit between believers as the condition of their growth into “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4: 3,13).

  4. i think i had posted something that was not yet okayed for being included…

    it was from something online by a jessie penn-lewis. that dealt with the question of carnal natural and spiritual as aspects of the christian..

    i was thinking jessie meant that natural or soulish was an in-between between carnal yet babes in christ and mature spiritual christians but reading more of this on this site… http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/jessiepenn-lewis/soulspirit/chapter%203.htm ….

    but now i think the points is more that after the carnal babe in christ stage, there is various degrees of lingering soulish energies where the person can still be christian but might turn into non-christian professing as christian…
    pasting something here from the site on this issue..
    “We have already pointed out the error of the prevailing idea, that when the believer has apprehended his death with Christ to SIN, and ceases to walk habitually “after the flesh”, he becomes a “spiritual man”, and is “entirely sanctified!” But to be delivered from the domination of the flesh, or carnal life, does not mean that he ceases to be ” soul-ish” or ceases to walk after the life of nature; for the “death to sin”, and crucifixion of the “flesh”, is only one stage of the work of the Spirit of God to be done in the redeemed man. He may cease to be “sarkiko” or fleshly, and still be “physical” -or “soul-ish”, i.e., living in the realm of the soul, instead of the spirit, or God-conscious sphere.

    To understand this clearly, we must consider what are the evidences of the Christian being “soulish”, when he ceases to be “carnal” or living “after the flesh”…”

    i think then it is suggested that too much soulish energy can render some no longer christian but professing christians..
    as suggested in this paste from the site
    “In brief, the soul-life, influenced by evil supernatural powers, is the main cause of divisions and separations among the professing and even the true children of God. “These be they who separate, men governed by soul …” writes Jude (5:19). ” Separate themselves” is the A.V. and “make separations” the R.V. text. “Arrogant setting up of themselves, as having greater sanctity and a wisdom and peculiar doctrine, distinct from others is implied,” writes Fausset in his commentary. Fausset also translates the words, “sensual” of the A.V. and R.V. text in this passage, as literally “animal-souled”.”

    but then this passage suggests that there can be degrees … where the person remains yet possessing the holy spirit despite being soulish…
    “”Separate themselves ” as ” having greater sanctity “, is always a mark of the soulish life, for the Lord Jesus said, ” Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you … for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22, R.V.). The Apostle Paul also said in answer to a question about separation, ” Let each man abide in that calling wherein he is called “, and therein ” abide with God “. God Himself will ” separate ” those who walk in light, and those who abide in darkness, by His Presence as the Light, and often the one who elects to walk in the ” darkness ” will either cast out the one abiding in the light, or himself be brought into the light. Men can be ” governed by soul “, even when they have the Holy Spirit, and these soulish ones always ” separate themselves “, and ” make separations “, proving that in some degree they are ” soulish “, and not ” spiritual “.”

    oh okay i got it now maybe…

    u all probably knew this 🙂
    “3. There is a vital distinction between the two classes who make up the professing Church.

    “The wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” The foolish “took no oil with them.”

    Oil is typical of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord was anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power (Acts 10:38, Luke 4:18).

    His people are also anointed and sealed with the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:21, 22). It is by the work of the Spirit that they are washed, sanctified and justified (see 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:3-7). He dwells in them. The presence of oil with the wise virgins indicated that they were regenerated, sealed and indwelt by the Spirit.

    The absence of oil in the case of the foolish virgins indicated that they were destitute of the Spirit, and hence, they had no life, no light, no faith, no holiness, no power, no comfort and no hope (see Rom. 8: 9).

    here is the url for the above ..
    well the google url that will highlight some stuff on professing..
    http://72.14.205.104/search?q=cache:pUe6gcVbFJYJ:www.pbministries.org/Newsletter/1999/Nov/houghton_11.htm+professing-church&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=10&gl=us

    the regular url is
    http://www.pbministries.org/Newsletter/1999/Nov/houghton_11.htm

    still i am kind of wondering about the question of some in between states of the babe on the milk [carnal minded as i understand it in certain regards] and the spiritually mature on solid food

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