12th Sunday after Pentecost, August 15, 2021, Proverbs 9:1-6, John 6:51-58
The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas
As individuals, as seekers of truth, as people of faith, and as Christians, we live in a world where many will see and relate to us from their own frame of reference and reality, which may not be ours. It therefore becomes important in the course of your life to figure out who you are as a physical being in relation to the world around you but, more so, as a spiritual being and child of God; to heed the advice of Shakespeare’s Polonius: “To thine own self be true.” (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)
This character of being requires insight, which is the ability to intuitively understand yourself and others; to go beneath the surface and social facades we create to protect ourselves to discern the heart of who we are and others.
Insight may also be needed in our comprehension of God, whose feminine character may have been lost in translation.
You might be interested in noting the similarity between John’s concept of Christ, as the embodied male “Logos” or “Word” of God, and Proverbs’ concept of Wisdom as the feminine inseparable companion to God. This is because Proverbs’ Wisdom inspired and gave birth to John’s Word. Hear first what John says regarding the Word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-3)
Compare this now with the Wisdom concept of Proverbs that inspired John’s Logos.
The Lord created me at the beginning of his works…before the beginning of the earth…I was beside him like a master worker…And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. (Proverbs 8:22,23,32)
It is this same proverbial Wisdom that calls from the highest places for all to “Come, eat my bread, and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live and walk in the way of insight.” (Proverbs 9:5-6)
Jesus, in fact, might have fared better with his audience had he adhered to the more ethereal, metaphorical language of Proverb’s Wisdom instead of employing the stark and upsetting bodily likeness of himself with the bread of heaven saying, “Whoever eats me will live because of me,” (John 6:57).
This stomach-turning statement repulsed all who heard it, including his disciples, hearing more of what seemed an indulgence in cannibalism than an invitation to feed on his spirit. If Jesus had a campaign manager, that person would have motioned for him to stop talking immediately.
Now, most likely, these bread-of-life statements did not occur in the public context John’s gospel places them, where they are easily misconstrued, but rather in the intimate setting of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion. However, John deliberately places these statements in the public eye to reveal the starkly different ways the world regarded Jesus and the movement he led.
Minucius Felix, a 2nd century Roman Christian, describes how many non-Christian Romans perceived the Lord’s Supper as the cannibalistic easting of an infant. (Octavius, 8:9-19) Such misconceptions fueled the hostility directed toward Christians for many years before it was finally accepted by Emperor Constantine.
Even today, the many iterations of our faith confuse non-Christians as to what we truly believe and represent. The many iterations of our faith may even confuse you. Martin Luther serves as a viable example of one trying to make sense of who he was within the context of a faith tradition that seemed to say one thing and do another. This confusing environment of faith has changed very little.
And so, as a fellow seeker, I therefore advise you to explore the Bible, Luther and other Christian writers as a means of helping you to discern who you are as a spiritual being and child of God. This church will seek to assist you in that endeavor.
For ultimately, when we gather about the table of the Lord’s Supper, it is with a craving for the food of spiritual insight, that we may be one with Christ, and embody the wisdom and word of God. Amen