Last Sunday I was "out of pocket", on retreat with some friends of mine in the great state of Indiana. Unfortunately that Sunday was also World Communion Sunday. I did find a church to worship at, the Congress Street United Methodist Church of Lafayette, IN...which they are doing some very "groovy" things in order to reach their community with the Good News. Since I missed WCS last week with my own charge, we will be celebrating this week.
When I consider all the passages that could possibly be used for WCS, such as the Syrophenican women, the feeding of the 5,000, the account of the Last Supper and Paul's instruction to the Church in Corinth, one specifically comes to mind. That would be the famous words of Jesus in the book of John, "EAT ME". Ok, perhaps it sounds a bit crude and might be a rude and nasty american colloquialism, but it's true, Jesus really did say, "EAT ME." Jesus also was not being suggestive or trying his hand at a Comedy Central special, Jesus really meant, "eat me." What Jesus was saying was to "partake of me."
The crowd that gathered to hear Jesus speak that day had just experienced a food miracle. In John there is no "Last Supper" moment, what there is, is a truly eucharistic moment. In John the feeding of the 5,000 takes the place of the last supper followed by this discourse in which Jesus says "eat me." John is a much younger gospel than the other three and has a much more developed Christology than the others. The issue isn't who Jesus is, or what Jesus did and the issue isn't what is the last supper, but rather how do we understand it as followers of the way of Jesus. Jesus's dialogue with the crowd followed the the greatest food miracle ever, where everyone who was hungry got their fill. This crowd was back for more and what Jesus had to give to them was not bread and fish this time, but rather himself. "EAT me." Jesus beckons, "I am the bread of heaven. Your ancestors ate mana, but died. If you EAT ME, you will never go hungry, you will live forever." Jesus knew the history, the background of a people who experienced the miracle of food out of nothing (mana) Jesus even repeated the miracle for them, and yet they were not satisfied.
What will it take for the world to be satisfied? What will it take for bellies to be full...not just sometimes, but all the time? The answer is Jesus. The great thing about how Jesus left everything is this, he left us his spirit, which in turn makes us his body. When we gather as the church on Sunday morning, there is the gathered body of the risen Christ, the same Christ who admonishes us to feed the hungry. In John, the Eucharist is about social justice, feeding the hungry, not once, but always. What makes that meal of bread and wine so special is what God does in it and in us. It's a sacrament, a work of God, sanctifying his people. Jesus is making himself present, as he did at so many meals, transforming us and sending us out as his resurrected body to feed the hungry, with with spiritual food and real food. He is reminding us that we are broken, we are community, we are healed, we are forgiven.