To abide Jesus is to live out
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Wow, Jesus said some pretty weird shit, doesn’t he? This is a perfect example of how weird he is willing to go to get our attention. Eat my flesh? Drink my blood? Who says crazy stuff like that?
Not only did it shock and confuse the people who were following him, but the imagery was offensive and disturbing. Finally something Jesus and I have in common.
Many years later, a bunch of Jesus freaks will develop this whole “flesh eating, blood drinking” stuff into a beautiful and sacred ritual. Today I’m not going to talk about the Eucharist, or the doctrine of transubstantiation, or any of that stuff. I think if we focus our attention there, we’ll miss out on the bigger point Jesus made.
“If you do this you will abide in me and I in you.”
And so the question we ask out to be “What does this means for you to abide in Jesus? Or the other way, to have Jesus to abide in you?
By today’s definition, it means that you accept or act in accordance with a rule or a decision…that’s religion.
But a more archaic definition, which I believe is more appropriate in this case, is ‘to live,’ or ‘to dwell’…and that’s God.
For some, home is a great place to be. It’s filled wonderful memories of family life and the stories that shape who you are. A community bond that you yearn for when you’re away at college or have been shipped off to war. For you, home equals safety and security; a place where the bad stuff in the world is locked out by the same front door that is always open to welcome you in.
But that’s not the case with everyone. There are those for whom home is nothing less than a hellish nightmare that you couldn’t escape quickly enough. Instead of safety and security, it’s abuse, dysfunction, and brokenness, which follow you out the door and haunt you wherever you go. Your heart yearns, but in different way.
After the ‘94 earthquake I had this unusual yearning to go back to my parent’s house. It wasn’t the main earthquake rattled my nerves. It was the earthquake-size aftershocks that had me on pins and needles for weeks. Any time a truck would rumble down the alley, I’d brace myself for another jolt. After each one I longed to return to Washington, DC where nothing bad or unusual ever happens!
Friday, ABC studios transformed our house by sending it back to the 1970’s. Yet no matter how hard we try we cannot change where we come from, but we can change how we live and abide.
Jesus invites you to move in with him. He wants you to be his roommate, and to share all the goodness of his life. Leave your baggage behind. All you need to bring is yourself.
But you may not want Jesus as your roommate. Not only is he a goody-two-shoes, but he is prone to saying some weird shit. Like, “I am a gate.” He once said to a woman, “I am living water.” And he is often heard saying, “I am the light of the world.” In John’s gospel alone Jesus makes seven of these “I Am” statements – each one offering a deeper, more personal perspective of the incarnate Christ.
Today he said, I am the bread that came down from heaven. He’s comparing himself to the manna that God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. That stuff was temporary. It had a shelf life. Jesus said his bread is everlasting. And if we eat it, we too will live forever.
You might be tempted to think Jesus is offering us a way to be immortal like Count Dracula or Kenny from South Park. This is a perfect example of how strange Christian faith can sound even to the most seasoned believer.
Amy Howe writes, “Jesus uses these familiar symbols of bread, wine, flesh, blood, and water to teach us about the gift of life, eternal life - not immortality, but a way of living that deprives fear of having the upper hand.”
I agree that for us to abide Jesus allows us to live out a way of life that moves us beyond our brokenness into a home where forgiveness and healing are plentiful, and love and joy abounds.
Jesus offered his followers this great gift: a home they’ve always yearned for. Now here they are – standing on God’s doorstep. The door is open, but do they embrace Jesus and walk into the house? No, they complain, “it’s too difficult.” And they walk away.
Maybe Jesus’ crazy words aren’t so easy to understand. But to deny his life-giving gift seems like a crazier thing to do. But little-by-little most of the people begin to move out until only a few of his closest disciples remain.
Why is that? Why do we walk away from such love? Why do we abandon the very thing our heart desires the most?
Jesus turned to his disciples and asked them what they’re going to do. And Peter said, “Where would we go? You have the eternal words of life…you are the Holy One of God.”
You see, Jesus said some beautiful things too, like “You are forgiven” and “Give me your burdens and I will give you rest.” That’s a good roommate.
When we live with Jesus, we live with God. When our home and heart dwell with God, we ourselves become a place where love and peace can flourish. Faith calls us to not simply consume the body and blood of Christ (practice religion), but to also emulate his manner of living and dying for others (practice Christ-likeness).
When we abide in Jesus, we cannot separate our flesh and spirit from one another. It is, by it’s very nature, a communal act. So just as Jesus is the incarnation of God in the world, so too are we to be the incarnation of Christ wherever we are.
Let’s face it, we know how easy it is to turn away and go at it alone. But like the manna in the wilderness, self-sufficiency only goes so far. Jesus said our flesh is useless. It eventually dies.
When we feast on his words we are fed both spirit and life, and become part of God’s divine flesh in all of its eternal fullness. When our life becomes one with Jesus’ life, so to does our death become a part of his resurrection.
The Twelve chose to pursuit a life of faithfulness in God through Jesus Christ because they had come to realize that a life in and with Jesus is a full life. A true life. And as hard as it was to practice, it was a way to everlasting life where fear and hurt are transformed into peace and kindness.
When we share this life with Jesus, we do by serving others as he did; healing those who are suffering even if it means suffering to do so; to always seek justice, mercy and forgiveness no matter the cost.
By abiding in Christ we see how God’s everlasting love and grace moves throughout the world and throughout the ages.
Jesus offers you this great gift. He’s calling you home. The door is wide open. But will you walk in? Will you leave your bags behind and find your peace in the welcoming light and love of God?
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year B, Vol. 3. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox) 2009. pp.380-85.