"'I am the living bread that came down from heaven...and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh...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...'" - John 6:51, 54-55
My three-year-old daughter is fascinated by the macabre. She came home from a visit with my parents invoking the name of Dracula and begging us to recite in our best Transylvanian, "I vant to suck your blood!" Thanks, Grandma.
This week she got hooked on a comic that features a sneering skeleton surrounded by flames. We decided to put that one away. It seemed a little too scary. A little too grim.
But then, we let her take communion every week.
Reading John, you can see why the early church was accused of cannibalism. This is gruesome stuff. Even as one who's old enough to read it, I'm not sure what to make of it.
I'm tempted to spiritualize, to say Jesus sustains us the way that other bread from heaven sustained God's people.
But it's more than that. More solid. More sordid. Less vegetarian.
It's incarnation at its roots: "in flesh." Jesus gives his body for the life of the world. His beefy heart. The marrow of his bones. His lifeblood.
And we, the Body of Christ, receive our own call bite by bite. To rise to new life and be consumed. To give our lives, our bodies to one another in the name of love.
Flesh and blood. Grim. Scary. A gift from heaven worth getting hooked on.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.