Sermon: Previously Untitled now “Jesus is your Sandwich”

August 16, 2009

John 6:51-58 NRSV

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’
——————
I love to cook. I don’t even really remember when I started. It just seems like something that I always did. From mixing up kool-aid to cutting boiled eggs with a safety knife. In middle school I had this signature dish that I got from watching an Italian cooking show on PBS on Saturday mornings. It was called black olive pasta, and was basically black olives tomatoes and garlic sautéed together and served over bowtie pasta. It got rave reviews from my family. And we ate it enough, until we all eventually got sick of it. But you can still find the recipe in the back of one of my mom’s cookbooks, even though I can’t remember the last time we ate it.

When I was in high school, and not away at drama practice, and when I was home from college during the summer, I took up a lot of the dinner cooking duties at home. Mom was working and she’d always say that if you want dinner when you want it, then you’ll have to cook it yourself. So I may have been a little begrudging in the beginning, but I eventually grew to love being able to pick meals, try new things and make what I wanted to. I didn’t like stir-fry so we didn’t ever have it. It worked out great.

Now days I don’t cook a lot because I live by myself. I fix things, but I don’t do a lot that requires chopping measuring or more than about four ingredients. I guess it something about cooking for other people that makes me happy. Preparing food is like giving a gift. I think that’s why I like doing it. It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling.

So whenever I have the opportunity I like to try new things out on people. I’ll see something new I want to try or I go in search of just the right thing. I made mushroom asparagus risotto for the thanksgiving potluck, I made dill yogurt dip for a cast party, I made couscous salad for our last United Methodist Women’s circle meeting, and on our young adult retreat I made a four bean salad that turned out to be a hit.

One of my favorite places to find new recipes is on a website called “Love and Olive Oil.” It is written by a girl about my age, and she has some of the best sounding things and the loveliest pictures of them: Proscuitto, Pear and Goat Cheese Panini, Chipolte lime glazed shrimp, halibut with grapefruit berblanc. Yum.

And now I even know what a berblanc is. It’s a white wine butter sauce. I learned this from the movie Julie and Julia that I saw last weekend when I was home with my parents for my mom’s birthday. It’s about Julia Child, the famous cook, and Julie Powell the woman who wrote about cooking all the recipes from her book in one year. Through cooking and following there passion, both Julie and Julia find a new zest for living.

There’s just something about food. It means love. The best part about the Love and Olive Oil site is the cupcake recipes. There are all sorts of colors and varieties. It’s amazing. And when the author’s now husband proposed to her, he did it by spelling out “Will You Marry Me?” in rows of mini cupcakes. We take dates to fancy restaurants; we give food as gifts to people we love. We make our children’s favorite meal when they come home to visit.

The bread that Jesus offers comes out of love too. The disciples and the audience here did not get it yet but we know the rest of the story. Jesus’s love was willing to go all the way to death. The bread he offers cost him more than some time and hardwork. If he’s the food then it would have to cost him his very life.

That’s the way food works you know, living things eat other living things. And just like the high priest would eat the sacrifices offered to god as a burnt offering. We get to eat off of the ultimate sacrifice. To participate in a love that goes to the furthest that it can go. Giving up everything, even unto death on a cross. Love Death Food then Everlasting Life.

It sounds weird though. Eating Jesus. The Old Testament talks about eating scrolls of god’s word, to take it fully into your life. But it’s something else when you are talking about eating a person. The Jews did not get it. ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ Jesus said. No… really unless you chew on my flesh, you won’t have a place with me.

Folks this something that you are going to have to participate in.

Food is not meant to just be pretty. It’s no good unless you take it in. You chew it up and swallow it. It has to become part of who you are. Not something detached. It’s like Jesus is saying, “This is not going to work if you treat me like a rubber bunch of grapes or a plastic pork chop. This is the real thing.”

We have to take a bite. We have to let him become a part of us. To let him come alive through us. And even better for us to become alive through him.

Julie Powell said that before Julia’s cookbook no one really cooked anything for there family, it was all frozen dinners. But then this thing came along that showed them a better way. “You can have real food… right at home, anytime you want.”

And just like that, Jesus is offering us something that’s real. It’s not the second rate stuff, the substitute for what is really possible. When I would come home from college I’d always be so excited for a home cooked meal. My parent’s would ask where they could take me out to eat. But I’d say I’ve had plenty of the industrial cafeteria food for a while I want the real stuff, stuffed shells, meatloaf and baked potatoes. My favorite things. Things that reminded me of home.

It’s easy to live your life just on the fake stuff. Stuff that’s all about this world. It could be career ambitions, fleeting relationship, mindless hobbies. Filling up on momentary success, temporary happiness. And you could miss out on the stuff that’s home-made. From our heavenly home. Because when you eat the bread of life that means forever. Your concerns change, the way you fell about other people changes, the way you spend your time changes. And you are less willing to make due with the imitations.

I had creamed spinach once that was made with non-dairy creamer and it was awful. It wasn’t the same. And just like there is imitation chocolate and cheese, and even imitation creamed spinach out there, there’s also imitation joy, imitation love, imitation hope. And when you’ve had the real thing you won’t settle for less. We won’t settle for shadowy, half existence, being alive for only a moment. We need to be really alive.

Food means life, in a very real way. Countless people in the world and even in our own country will die today because they don’t have enough food. There’s no getting away from that fact that we need it. Food means providence, sustenance. The passage talks about the food that the ancestors ate. Jesus is probable talking about the manna that God provided in the desert when the Israelites were fleeing Egypt and had run out of food. But Jesus said that even this gift from God was not the real bread because it only saved their earthly life for a moment. They all eventually died. So it’s not that the fake stuff in inherently bad or sinful. It’s just less than. When you live only for now there’s a infinite set of possibilities that you can’t even see.

The food that Jesus offers means life forever. It means giving up the old ways of this world and letting Christ live in you. It means yearning for heaven. It means working for the kingdom of God now. It means giving more than you can. It means living like Jesus, loving like Jesus, and sacrificing like Jesus.

This bread is about sharing. We share food with the people that we share our lives with. Jesus invites us here to share in his life. To become part of his family. To become fully alive.

Today we will be taking communion. Jesus told us to do this to remember him. To remember his love, his sustenance, his gift, his sacrifice. But here comes our end of the bargain. Are you going to take a bite? Because things are going to be different. Your life is going to change.

They say you are what you eat. Come chew on a piece of Jesus.

“Jesus is your sandwich” by Erin K. Thompson
August 16, 2009 Saint Pauls UMC Tallahassee: Vespers Service 7pm

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