"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." - John 6:55-56
Have you ever listened to the communion liturgy, as you may have yesterday, and thought to yourself, "Jeepers, shouldn't we downplay all the creepy, cannibalistic, 'flesh and blood' talk? This is exactly why I don't invite my friends and neighbors to worship!"
It's a fair point. Thing is, you and your neighbors need that body and blood like nothing else.
The Hebrew expression "flesh and blood" is like our expression "body and soul." If I say, "I love you, body and soul," it means "I love you with everything I've got." Can you imagine telling your lover, "Hey honey, let's keep this thing platonic and skip all the physical intimacy"? Heck no! When you love someone you want to drink them in and eat them up. You crave a complete merger, body and soul.
The American expression "you are what you eat" is common to many cultures. Some believe if you eat a lot of chicken you will move around in a scattered state. If you eat lots of beef you will move powerfully and deliberately. If you eat lots of potato chips you will move sluggishly but you will be well preserved.
Becoming what we eat is exactly the effect Jesus is after in the Eucharist. Jesus wants to be your body and soul mate. He wants to take on your flesh and blood by having you take in his. Faith in Christ is a passionate love affair.
Communion, consumption, consummation, conception; it's all in there. That might be too much to explain to your unchurched neighbors on their first visit. But you can at least invite them to "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 34:8)
Dear God, I want you. I need you. Take me, I'm yours!
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.