One of the most transforming passages in the whole of Scripture is John 6. I have lived here for several years. There is no way for me to adequately explain how this text has worked its way into my soul but it has and there is no mistake about the spiritual reality. 

I no longer "debate" the various ways that Christians explain the Lord's Supper. I find the entire debate unprofitable. If you ask me, "Is this Christ body and blood?" then my answer is uncategorically affirmative. If you ask me to "define" what this means and how this happens then I have no earthly idea. I also believe that you can make no sense whatsoever out of John 6 by denying that these words and Christ's intention here are related to the Eucharistic life that we share with Christ in the Bread and the Wine. 

If you want to debate this then I have no interest. If you want to share in this mystery by faith then you are quite likely to understand what I am saying and why I say it in this way. Since I have made the Eucharist a weekly (or more often) celebration in my life I have been transformed into the image of Christ in ways that are fresh and living. I am saddened that we fight over this simple meal Jesus gave to unite us in Him. I am delighted that God, in his great mercy, opened my heart to "see" the joy of this food and drink, his body and blood for the life of the world.  

One of my favorite songs, frequently sung in communion, is "I Am the Bread of Life." I include it here. If you've never heard it, enjoy. If you have you, like me, cannot hear it again without being deeply moved by the very words of Jesus himself. 

 

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Comments

  1. Ed Holm February 10, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Thank you. There is some irony in being asked to explain mystery!! Go ask the questioners to explain “being”!

  2. Rick Schnetz February 10, 2012 at 11:16 am

    On February 7th there was a post on Scot Mcknight’s “Jesus Creed” blog that has
    had me thinking along these same lines:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/02/07/god-between-body-parts/
    Amos Paul (in comment #6) says:
    “…The command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand.”

  3. John H. Armstrong February 10, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Thanks to you all. Rick is right, “Take, eat” NOT “Take, understand.” Amen.

  4. John Graney February 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I think that the real question, here, is whether or not the eucharistic elements may be worshipped (as God, with latria). This is an important question, and is, I think, the source of the other questions.
    Pontificator’s Eleventh Law: It doesn’t matter how vigorously you protest your belief in the eucharistic real presence: if you are not willing and eager to prostrate yourself before the Holy Gifts and adore, worship, and pray to the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, present under the forms of bread and wine, you really do not believe in it.

  5. John H. Armstrong February 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    John, as you might guess this statement goes far beyond the statements of Jesus, moving into very specifically conditioned interpretation, that I do not see as necessary. I know the Catholic Church says otherwise, thus creating what I see as a barrier to full communion with me and others like me who do see the real presence in the elements but would not use this language. I do not so much protest the language used as I see it as theological development not called for by the words of Scripture or the Fathers. The Orthodox Church would not use these words either but sees Jesus as really present in the meal.

  6. Greg Metzger February 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Blessings, John. It is good to hear a Protestant say this. It is my favorite passage and one that I know of no other way to interpret than as you say. BTW–I love eucharistic adoration, but I can’t explain it!! Nor would I try to hold it out as an apologetics issue. Blessings, brother.

  7. John Graney February 12, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I don’t see how the question “may the Eucharist be worshipped” moves into very specifically conditioned interpretation.
    The liturgy of St. James, the earliest Eucharistic liturgy, has everyone on the altar fall prostrate when the priest raises the Body. The Copts use this liturgy; the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom has prostrations here; the Syriac liturgies do too. The praxis of early Christianity is quite clear on this point.
    I suppose that I could be delving into too much theological complexity here, but in that case I share a flaw with the early protestant reformers. This question concerned them as well. It’s just that their answer was an emphatic NO! and the Church’s is an emphatic YES!
    “No one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.” (‘Enarrationes in Psalmos,’ 98,9) -Augustine

  8. John H. Armstrong February 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

    John, while I still believe what I wrote above your statement is very helpful to me. I think it comes down to whether or not certain practices of adoration are warranted or not. As for receiving the elements in mystery I have stated my faith in the real presence clearly. Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

  9. John Hochevar February 13, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Thanks John for sharing the hymn. One of my favorites also.

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