Last week I did a sum up of where all this 'bread of life' stuff has brought us, and this week's Gospel reading of John 6: 56-69 STILL seems to be on the same theme - even some of Jesus' disciples have got fed up & gone home! As I had a baptism & communion I did my best to make sense of the 'eat my body' bit...
I would forgive you for finding the reading from John’s gospel pretty strange.
Jesus says to the people in the synagogue in Capernaum – people gathered to worship God, rather like we are, ‘those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them’. No wonder some people who until then have been following Jesus decide to top at that point. Jesus – this man who has shown himself to be a teacher, and a healer, and someone who can work miracles, seems to have complete lost it and is saying ‘you have to eat me’.
Before this, Jesus has said to people ‘follow me’ and it seems that quite a number of them have done that – they’ve listened to what he has to say, watched what he does, spent time puzzling about who he is – a man of God? Or just some kind of madman?
Then Jesus has started saying that he has come from heaven. He is not just a good person or a wise person, or someone who can teach about God – he is from heaven, from God – he is God come to earth.
And Jesus then starts talking about himself and saying ‘I am the bread of life’. He doesn’t just want people to hang around with him, he wants them to commit – to accept that he is who he says he is, and to become so closely associated with Jesus that he is in them and they are fed and nurtured by him.
You see, the psalm that we heard is all very well – it talks about all the ways in which God is with people and cares for people. God sees people’s needs, he hears their cries and he is near to them. But it’s all a bit general. As if God cares in some intangible, airy-fairy sort of way.
But Jesus says he is from heaven – he is God: and he’s come to show us God’s love in flesh and blood – God’s love which will die for us on the cross, God’s love which is greater even than death. Jesus shows us what God’s love really looks like.
And then he doesn’t just say follow me, copy me, try to be like me.
He says ‘eat my flesh and drink my blood’ – come and be joined with me – come and accept my love for you, come and accept my life in you, and give yourself to be part of my love for the world.
And that’s part of what communion is all about. We take bread and wine and we remember that Jesus said ‘do this to remember me’ – and by accepting the gift of bread and wine we accept God’s love for us and accept being part of God’s live in the world – taking Jesus right into us, to become part of us, to live in us.
And you might wonder what all that has to do with Leo’s baptism.
Here we remember that God’s love is for Leo – that he has given Leo the gift of life, and that God promises never to leave Leo, ever – he will always care for him – and has given him parents and god parents to help to care for all his needs.
And as Leo grows older and can start to understand, God’s offer of love will always be there. He might hear for himself the words of Jesus ‘follow me’ and I pray that he will eventually take up the offer of the love of Jesus – a love that can be in him, bringing peace and power and love.
That offer of love is there for each one of us today. We only have to say yes to have Jesus’ life and love within us. Thanks be to God. Amen.