You Are What You Eat - Sam Buehrer - Sylvania UCC - Aug122018
August 12, 2018
Sermon “You Are What You Eat” August 12, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2
25So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil. 28Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
5Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever (faiths or trusts) believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not (trust) believe. 37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” 41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves.44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever (trusts) believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Sermon “You Are What You Eat” August 12, 2018
by Samuel Buehrer
In a daily devotional that Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Friar, writes, he made the comment when writing about communion, “You are what you eat.”1 I found that comment intriguing for I have heard it many times over the course of my life but never in the context in reference to the eating the bread and drinking the wine at communion. Usually the statement, “You are what you eat,” is used in reference to eating a healthy diet because the food that we eat has a direct effect on the quality of our life.
Cynthia Sass, nutritionist, writes that the phrase, ““you are what you eat” is literally true. Nutrients from the foods you eat provide the foundation of the structure, function, and integrity of every little cell in your body, from your skin and hair to your muscles, bones, digestive and immune systems. You may not feel it,” she writes, “but your constantly repairing, healing, and rebuilding your body…Every cell in your body has a “shelf life” – a stomach cell lives about a day or two, a skin cell about a month, and a red blood cell about four months. So each and every day, your body is busy making new cells to replace those that have “expired.” And how healthy those new cells are is directly determined by how well you’ve been eating.” She suggests that, “A diet filled with highly processed food that’s low in nutrients doesn’t give your body much to work with.”2 If what she writes is true, “You truly are what you eat.”
If I lay the spiritual writing of Richard Rohr over top of what Cynthia Sass writes, I find it very intriguing. Since I believe the spiritual is every bit as real as the physical, then one can say that we take in spiritually has as direct a bearing on our life as does the food that we eat. With that in mind, then let us take a closer look at this passage for if this passage were food that we eat it is food that is full of many nutrients that can enrich our lives.
The first thing to keep in mind regarding this passage is that is a continuing part of the story of the feeding of the 5,000. This story is key to understanding the Gospel of John. In the Gospel of John, there seven signs. The first sign was turning water into wine. The last sign was the raising of Lazarus. Whenever one encounters the number seven in scripture, we must remember that seven was seen as a perfect number in the time of Jesus. If there were seven signs, then that was all the signs needed. This was John’s was of saying that all is complete, or all is perfect, or this is the whole of the Gospel story. It just so happens that the story of feeding the 5,000 is the fourth sign in the series. That places it directly in the middle or in the central position. In this position, all signs point to the story of feeding the 5,000 as the key story to be told and to be trusted.3 What is very interesting if one looks at the symbols of art that the early church used in the catacombs and in their early worship spaces, pictures of bread and fish play a far more prominent role than does the cross. It wasn’t until centuries later that the cross became the central image of Christianity.
It is also worthy of note that in the telling of the story of the feeding the 5,000 that Jesus uses for the first time the “I am” statement, “I am the bread of life.” He goes on to say additional ones such as, “I am the light of the world,” as well as others like I am the gate for the sheep, the good shepherd, the true vine. Brian McGowan, an Anglican priest in Western Australia, whose scriptural insights I always find helpful writes this about the “I am” statements, “The "I AM" declarations have always had a deeper sense for me since I learned to understand them in Capitals. I have no doubt Jesus was playing on the divine "I AM". Because YHWH is "I AM", Jesus is "I AM". Because Jesus is "I AM, "I am" & "we are" too, at the human level.”4 Jesus’ “I AM” makes him very real and very present to us. Because God loved us God sent Jesus to walk among us, to be the “I AM” for us. Both Richard Rohr and Brian McGowan give voice to this love affair that God has with us, a love that is lived out through the earthly presence of the Christ as it came to us through the life and ministry of Jesus.
Rohr goes onto suggest that, “We made the Eucharist (Communion) into a magic act to be believed instead of a personal transformation to be experienced. We changed bread more than people, it seems to me. We emphasized the priest as the “transformer” instead of the people as the transformed. We made “Real Presence” into a doctrine…but we seldom taught people how to be really present. When you are really present, you will experience the Real Presence for yourself.”
He goes on, “The Eucharist is an encounter of the heart, knowing Presence (with Capital P) through our available presence…We must move our knowing to the bodily, cellular, participative, and unitive level. Then we keep eating and drinking the Mystery until one day it dawns on us, in an undefended moment, “My God, I really am what I eat!” Henceforth we can trust and allow what has been true since the first moment of our existence: We are the very Body of Christ.”5
Once we begin to trust in the presence of God being real in the bread, being real in the everyday part of our lives, then our eyes are opened to seeing that Jesus is still giving his life as bread for the world. When we trust in the presence of God in this way, we become the bread for others in the same way that Jesus became the bread for us. Until we become the bread and offer our lives to be a part of that great work of building the Beloved Community, we will continue to miss out on experiencing what Jesus meant when he said, “I AM the bread of life.” Once our lives begin to exude grace and love as Jesus’ life did, then we become bread for other in the same way that he became bread for us. Because of his “I AM,” “We Are.” (in capital letters.)
There is an ancient legend that fleshes out this “We Are” in response to Jesus’ “I AM.” The legend is of a man with a scarred face who in trying to hide his scars, he had a mask made to cover his face. The face on the mask was that of a saint. He falls in love with wearing the mask for it allows him to act like the saint and to do things that the saint would have done. Years later his past is revealed. In an attempt to reveal what he really looked like, the mask was removed from his face. The scars were gone and he had taken on the form of the saint's face.6
This next story also fleshes out this “We Are” in response to Jesus’ “I AM.” It is a true story involving Corrie ten Boom, a Holocaust survivor. In the book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom recounts the moment when she embodied grace in a way she could not have imagined earlier. It happened in a church in Munich where she was the guest speaker. Out of nowhere there stood before her a former Nazi SS agent who had guarded the shower floor at the prison camp where she and her friends had been processed and exposed to many indignities and cruelties. The man reached out his hand to shake hers as he expressed his appreciation for her message, but Corrie ten Boom kept her hand at her side. Angry feelings surged through her, but she realized how wrong they were. She prayed, tried to smile, struggling to raise her hand but nothing happened. She breathed a silent prayer, "Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness." She described what happened. "As I took his hand, the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand, a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that overwhelmed me. I discovered that it's not our own forgiveness that the world's healing hinges, but on his. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself."7
When we take in the presence of Jesus, over time we become that presence. It is true, “We are what we eat.” Whenever we participate in the work that Jesus did, when we feed the hungry, when we bring healing and comfort to the sick, when we welcome the stranger and foreigner, when we do justice we have become the bread of life. “We Are” because Jesus became the “I AM.” To the very depth of our being, at a cellular level, “We are what we eat.”
It is my hope that we all can at some point in our journey of faith that we not only come to the realization that we have become the bread of life but that we can say of ourselves, “I AM the bread of life.” Can you imagine how transformative being able to say that means? If everyone in this congregation could say that statement, “I AM the bread of life,” can you imagine what that would mean for the community around us? This is the great work that we are about as we live out the gospel message and become what we eat.
1Richard Rohr, Real Presence, Tuesday, July 24, 2018
2Cynthia Sass, Why You Really are What You Eat. S.A.S.S! Yourself SM – Blog
3Lectionary Blogging, John Petty, Progressive Involvement, 2012
4Marginally Mark, by Brian McGowan, Anglican priest in Western Australia
5Richard Rohr, Real Presence, Tuesday, July 24, 2018
6"Living in Love," the Rev. Dr. Wiley Stephens, Day 1, 2003.