Friday, September 4, 2015

Jesus the Bread of Life

Communion is coming this Sunday. We only have it once a month at our church.

Ever since my celiac diagnosis I have wrestled with what exactly the elements mean. How can I really experience communion as it is meant to be if I can only have a tiny crumb of the bread? I usually break off a tiny crumb and give the rest to my husband. One doctor said that would be ok. Another has said not even that much. I have thought about taking my own gluten free cracker. But it doesn't feel like it would be the same. To eat something different from what the others are eating seems like it somehow goes against the idea. And I admit there is a bit of self centered embarrassment--"what will people think??" Of course since the bread our church uses is not the same as what other churches use I can just pretend I'm in another church or something.

I'm not trying to be flippant here. It really matters to me. And it grieves me that I can't take the bread like everyone else. I try to spend the time focusing on Jesus and what he did for me on the cross. Feasting on Jesus in my heart is more important than how much bread I do or don't eat. But even that is often difficult. The time given to that portion of the communion time is very brief. It feels more like a "gobble, gulp and go" fast food experience than a communion. Also it seems sometimes that the focus is so much on teaching us what the communion bread and juice are NOT that, for me, it takes away from what they ARE. 

With that in mind I read John chapter 6 starting in verse 25 yesterday looking for more clues as to what Jesus meant when he spoke of being the Bread of Life.

After careful reading, I started to think that here he is primarily teaching about salvation and our need for faith in Him as our Savior. Though verse 51 says that "this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" so he did certainly allude to his crucifixion.

But mostly He seems to be using the analogy of bread and water to illustrate spiritual truths. Just as our bodies need physical nourishment and hydration to live so our spirit has needs.

He clearly says that he is the only one who can meet the needs of our spirit and give us life. When we come to him and believe in Him and abide in him, then He becomes our spiritual nourishment and hydration (to return to the physical analogy).

Just as our spirits are eternal and will live or die eternally he is the eternal nourishment we need. Food and hydration only meet our body's needs temporarily. But he meets our spirit's needs eternally and gives us eternal life.

So what about the Communion bread? There are lots of views and doctrinal positions on what the elements mean or become or don't become. I was always taught there were only two positions on that. But based on my, admittedly superficial, research I have concluded that there are many more than that. Or at least many variations on that--almost as many as there are denominations. I suspect even within a given denomination or individual church there are many more shades of feeling and belief. It seems to me that where we are on the doctrinal continuum from the "it becomes the literal body and blood of Christ" all the way to the "it's just a symbol" or even the one I discovered yesterday on wikipedia that says "it's not even meant for the church today because it comes from a Jewish tradition" is not as important as our faith in Christ Jesus and his atoning work on the cross.

Whatever we believe the elements to be or mean when we take them, or don't, we should be focused on thankfulness to God for His Son and the atonement and all that that means.

God please prepare my heart for communion this Sunday.

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