Sometimes I want to slip away
August 23, 2015
Sometimes I just want to slip away, to leave. When it feels like too much or it's too hard. When leaving seems like a better option than staying in or having a challenging conversation; when leaving seems easier than confronting my fears; when staying might mean I need to acknowledge my dependence, my feelings of not being in control; when staying means I need to acknowledge my own brokenness. Sometimes I just want to leave - before it gets too close, too real. And I suspect that many of you may sometimes feel this way, too.
These past five weeks of Gospel readings have been abundant with stories and images of bread, of the Eucharist. They have been drawing us deeper and deeper into the reality of a relationship with Jesus, and today is when the rubber hits the road - so to speak.
At the end of July, we began in the gospel of Mark with Jesus feeding the 5000. Transforming five loaves and fishes into enough for all.
The next week we moved to the gospel of John where Jesus appears as a patient but frustrated teacher - trying to get his followers to understand. "You are looking for me because you are full from eating the loaves. It is not earthly bread I give. It is eternal life. 'so how do we know you are the one, what signs will you give us. You gave Moses signs,' says the grumbling and disbelieving crowd. Jesus responds; “I am the bread of life. Come to me and never be hungry.”
The next week, the crowd is at it again, “how can you say you are the bread come down from heaven when you are the son of Mary and Joseph. How can God be your father?” And Jesus patiently explains it again. “I am the bread of life. Whoever eats of this bread will have eternal life.”
Last week, Jesus picked up where he left off the week before- “I am the bread of life, the true bread from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will have eternal life.” And now the argument becomes - how can we eat of your flesh? Yuck! What is it you're telling us? It's amazing that Jesus just doesn't pack up his bags and find a new crowd to work with.
And this week we hear the last of this “bread” series in our lectionary. “Eat my flesh, drink my blood, and you will abide in me and I in you. This is the bread come down from heaven.” No less than 8 times over the past four weeks has Jesus said - I am the bread of life, I am the bread of heaven. Each week, Jesus has been moving deeper and deeper into the true meaning of the bread. Come to me. Believe in me. Eat me. Become me. And still folks don't get or don’t want to get it. (and for the compilers of our lectionary, I'm thinking that they think we don't get it either) This week some find it so difficult to hear that they complain to Jesus about how difficult it all is and just leave.
Sometimes, I just want to leave, too. Do you?
When the words of Jesus seem too much, too hard?
When the world in which we live seems beyond hope.
Yet, in the midst of wanting to leave, of wanting to hide, I hear the voice of Peter (Peter, the one whom so often is bumbling his way to Jesus) Here, he’s spot on – when Jesus asks, “are you going to go, too” Peter responds – Lord, where would we go. … We have come to believe that you are the Holy One of God.”
Where would we go? Even when we don’t fully understand. Even when we’re scared and feel lost. Even when the risk of staying seems too much.
And this is why I love the Eucharist- Jesus comes whether we're ready or not, whether we get it or don't, whether we want to run away in fear or approach the table with joy. Jesus comes.
In our sacramental church, the Eucharist is often the place where we experience moments of intense grace, of overwhelming gratitude, of deep unworthiness, and of great communion.
"Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I abide in them." Jesus is telling us - eat me, ingest me, become me, really live.
Through sharing with us his body and blood, Jesus invites us into as intimate a relation and communion with him as we can imagine, perhaps a communion and relationship that is even closer than we want.
When I take in Jesus, what is he calling me to believe, to do. Might Jesus be calling me to live out of my comfort zone, to embrace a new way of being. These are important questions for us to reflect on and pray about. What and who does the bread of life, our holy communion, call us, as individuals, to be?
And there is another important side to this bread of life, this holy meal. We do not dine alone, we don't experience Jesus just singularly but in community. My fear at the table can be bolstered by someone else's immense faith. My belief in the life changing power of the Eucharist can sustain that person who wants to run.
The bread binds us together. In Book 1 of the Hunger Games, before the reaping that sees Peeta and Katniss chosen to represent their district in the games, Peeta’s saves a starving Katniss and her family when he throws her two loaves of bread. Loaves which Peeta’s mother had said to give to the pigs. Instead, Peeta chooses to share those loaves with a starving girl, huddling in the darkness. Later, in a moment of despair during the horror of the games themselves, she tells Peeta, “it was the bread that gave me hope…” The bread that Peeta gave, that gave Katniss hope creates a bond between them which remains long after the bread is gone.
The power of the living bread is not only what it calls us to be individually but as a community. It strengthens, challenges, and builds us up to be Christ for the world. When answering Jesus's question, Peter doesn't say I believe. He says, we believe. We believe and know that you are the holy one. We're all in this together.
The invitation to be in relationship, the demands of a relationship with Jesus become clearer. And "real life, life lived, abundant life is hard to fathom, hard to accept, hard to imagine that it could be ours." (Karoline Lewis)
Sometimes, I just want to slip away. It's too hard, too much. It's easier to walk away before it gets too close.
And yet, no matter what I do, the Bread of life is still there.
And there’s no need for me to run.