Chapel for 11/3
P&P, p. 260.
Reading: from John 6
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever."
Catechism (p. 327, top left)
What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?
These words, "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins," show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?
Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words written here: "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: "forgiveness of sins."
In the name of the Father and of the T Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
She snuck up behind Him in the crowd. She was afraid. She was desperate. She'd tried everything else and everything else had failed her. Her blood still hemorrhaged and nothing staunched the flow. But that made her unclean. And all she touched unclean. So she tried to hide as she did faith's deed. She reached out a trembling hand to touch the fringe, the hem of Jesus in the crowd.
And He stopped. Stopped just as soon as she touched. She felt it in herself. She knew her bleeding had stopped. But He felt it too. It's the only passage in the Gospels that gives even the least kind of hint about what went on in the God-Man when He worked His miracles. He stops dead in the midst of the crowd and turns and searches the faces, asking: "Who touched me?"
His disciples are quite convinced that it's an unreasonable question. He's in the middle of a crowd, for Pete's sake, and their bumping against him at every turn. How can he ask? But He explains: "Someone touched Me, for I perceive that power has gone from me."
What a curious and enigmatic statement. There is touch and there is touch. There is the careless brush up against that doesn't tap into what's hidden there in Jesus. Then there is the trembling hand that reaches out to receive, to be given to, and that hand withdraws the elixer of life from the touch even of His clothes. Jesus gives a name to that touch when He tells the woman, "Daughter, your faith has saved you, made you well, healed you. Go in peace." Faith is the hand that reaches out to receive from Jesus. Even to steal from Him, but He makes the stolen a gift. Luther said: "He likes to be stolen from."
Now take it all to the Eucharist. In the supper how many Sunday after Sunday bump up against the body and blood? They come forward and receive the Eucharist, but never expect it to do anything, to change anything. They don't come forward in faith that in this Sacrament you are coming into contact with the greatest power and force in all the world. He clothes Himself for you to touch. Power goes forth from Jesus to the person who touches His body and blood in faith and it transforms them. And as the touch has the name "faith" so the power has a name: Love. That love changes you, From the inside out, saves you, heals you. And to touch it in faith is to touch it in the sense of "for me." He meant and included me when He said: "for you, for the forgiveness of sins." Me. My sins. This body given for me. This blood shed for me. This is love.
These words ARE the main thing in the Sacrament because to have the body and blood of some man, even to have the body and blood of the Eternal Son of God who created all things, that's not yet good news. You could just be in the crowd bumping up against Him. But to have Him reach His body and blood to you because He loves you, because He forgives you all your sin, because He wants to plant inside of you a resurrection life that death will never rob you of: THAT is some good news.
And that's why John 6 alludes to the Eucharist but can't be applied directly. Because just touching or eating the Body and Blood does NOT guarantee receiving all the blessings in that body and blood. St. Paul makes it clear you can receive them in a way that instead of bringing blessing, brings judgment. That is, you can receive them without faith. Touch them, without touching them.
Said most simply: the Eucharist is not magic; it is a miracle. And the heart of the miracle is that YOU are loved, and He plants himself among us to let us touch in faith that body and blood so that the power of love can flow from Him into you all that is His is made yours and all yours His, and He holds you tight and says: "You touched me. You touched me and I'm glad you did. I love you. You are mine forever. Go in peace."
Hymn: 621 Let All Mortal Flesh
Allen, Jan, Kyle, Deaconess Gail (serving in Dominican).