As I reflected on Jesus’ words this week, it was Queen that played in the background —
Who wants to live forever? Who wants to live forever? Who dares to live forever…when love must die.
Who wants to live forever? It’s a fair question actually. I know when I was young, I thought heaven was a place where you had to just sing God’s praises, like in a choir…basically sitting in church forever. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect of living forever like that. And one of my confirmation classes also wasn’t particularly attracted to the idea of eternal life…because they already found life so anxiety ridden and difficult…that they figured when they were done….they just wanted it to be done. Eternity isn’t exactly something we can easily wrap our heads around …and the idea of doing anything forever…kind of sounds exhausting….particularly life as we know it in this current age.
Yet that is the promise Jesus makes to his followers. He promises them that whoever believes in him….whoever eats of his flesh and drinks of his blood…will have eternal life. They will never die. That’s what he says.
What’s interesting …is how they respond. If we kept reading a few more verses….you’d find out that after Jesus said this…many of his disciples who had been following him checked out. This was too much for them. Maybe it was the grotesque imagery….the idea of eating flesh and drinking blood…that was over the top for them. I don’t know…But personally, I think it’s like the story of the rich young man in Mark and Matthew’s gospels…who asked Jesus how to get eternal life….and when Jesus told them to sell everything he had and give it away to the poor…he walked away, sad…he just couldn’t do it. He had an idea of what life was…what he needed in order for life to be good…and it included his wealth and way of life and he couldn’t walk away from it. I think that’s what’s happening here….what Jesus is saying here is too hard…too much for some people. Jesus is making a claim about what is going to give us life…and what won’t. What truly matters…and what doesn’t. What gives life meaning…and what doesn’t. And the bread and water..the daily “things” we need to survive…aren’t what gives us life that has meaning. Jesus wants to completely change the way we see the world…the way we see our lives…the way we see ourselves.
You see…here we realize Jesus isn’t just a rabbi…a good teacher…he is the savior of the world. The savior of us all…who wants to rescue us…to bring us back to ourselves….to bring us back to God. And some people aren’t ready for that.
One of the issues many people struggle with in our day and age is a feeling of disconnection from our own selves. Sometimes it is because we are so busy with work and other commitments, we don’t give ourselves time to remember what is important. Sometimes it is because we spend too much time on our phones, or watching tv or other ways of avoiding our own bodies and souls. Sometimes it’s because we never feel at home in our own bodies…too concerned about how we look or what others think of us. Sometimes we are so busy grasping after the next new thing…new toy, new adventure, new relationship, new diet, new outfit …that we never actually recognize where we are….we never actually live this moment. We’re feeding ourselves constantly with things that don’t last.
Jesus wants us to feed on him…on God with us. Jesus wants us to realize that even the things we think we need to survive…aren’t really the things that give us life…life that matters. Life with meaning. Eternal life. That only comes from filling our hearts with Jesus.
That is a hard thing to grasp…a hard thing to believe. Because most of us are pretty focused on those things that don’t last…the fleeting things. And Bread and water are just the start of it. We need bread and water — food, nourishment. But we also need shelter — we need homes, family and friends. We need jobs and money…and the safety and security they provide. These are basics…and we are terrified of losing them. We’ve seen in our own community…how many folks live on that thin edge of survival….people living in campers and tents…people who need help to feed their families…and often people who don’t seem to have anyone to help. And we all strive to help in many ways….but even more, we do not want that to happen to us. We want to know we have money in the bank, insurance to cover catastrophes, food in the pantry, a family and friends that care. These are basic needs. And, honestly, most of us are rich in those ways. Our needs are well met. Compared to nearly ¾ of the world…we are rich. And so when Jesus says that He is all we need. …that what he gives us is truly life…life that matters, abundant life, eternal life. And all the other things…are secondary?….Well, it’s sometimes hard to accept.
You see, Jesus doesn’t want our faith to be something we ‘fit in”…around the edges of our jobs, friends, family, food, home. No — Jesus wants to change our understanding of life itself. Our life is in God. Our security is in God. Our hope is in God..…God who is in every atom of the universe. In believing in Jesus, we are knit together in Jesus to life that has no end. And we can have peace, whatever life brings…because all the things we think are everything — the jobs, friends, family, food and home… They come and go. They succeed and fail. They cannot last…that’s not how it works. But the life Jesus gives does not change…even if we lose everything. The life Jesus gives us…is rooted in knowing we belong to God and nothing…nothing in all creation…no height nor depth…can ever change that. The eternal life Jesus gives us isn’t about singing in a heavenly choir…and it isn’t about life as we know it, with all it’s anxieties and stresses, continuing on forever and and ever. The eternal life Jesus gives us, is meant to remove us from the anxieties and stresses and fears of life right now. We don’t have to fear what is to come…we don’t have to prove ourselves or save ourselves or save the world. Jesus invites us simply to trust him…to trust God who sent him…to be our savior and the savior of the world. Jesus came to give us peace…now. Jesus came to give us life…now. Jesus came to be bread and water for you…sustaining you and giving you life and breath …now. Jesus didn’t come to teach you ideas…or creeds….or belief systems. Jesus came to give you life …life that doesn’t end, even when you lose everything and your grief is overwhelming.
When the weight of the world is heavy…trust Jesus. When the weight of your family…when the weight of your future is heavy…trust Jesus. When the anxiety takes over….go to Jesus. Sit with Jesus. Sometimes I pray the Jesus prayer — Jesus Christ, have mercy on me., a sinner. Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner…..until I remember what life is again. Other times I simply Breathe Jesus …breathe spirit in…and the fear out until I remember what life is again. Our life is in God. It’s not on our phones…and it’s not in our careers or our homes or our health or even in our families. In fact, more often, all those things only feed our fear and insecurity, our worry and anxiety until we remember our life is in Jesus…who holds all things together…who holds all creation together — the atoms of God’s breath and being. Our life is in Jesus…whose love never dies. Amen