“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” So it comes to us from Jesus in the gospel of John.
I just heard these words read at the Installation of LaVonne Alexander yesterday, as Pastor of the Columbian Memorial Presbyterian Church in Colony, Oklahoma. Yes, it was a busy day of driving and I am still recovering from being gone for 16 hours straight.
John has many “I AM” statements for Jesus: I am the resurrection and the life. I am the living water. I am the light of the world. I am the Good Shepherd. But being the bread of life is even more intimate and essential, for one does not live without bread.
While we didn’t celebrate communion at the Installation, there were many aspects of being tied to the Bread of Life. Just as we are bound together through the mystery of the table, so we are bound in service to God. Christ becomes a part of us just as the bread integrates with our body and soul. The bread then becomes living bread, moving out into the world.
In many ways this is the experience whenever we break bread together. The reception afterward, for instance, was a great representation of God being the Bread of Life for us. Here we were, ministers and congregants from all over the presbytery – “One Church in 47 locations” as I put it. And yet here we are, drawn together in table fellowship, experiencing the unity of the table and the bonds of fellowship – all brothers and sisters in Christ, united in purpose, united in love.
So maybe we did celebrate communion together! We just didn’t have it during Worship.
If we take the gospel of John as a whole, we come to understand that the one who claims all these “I am” statements is also the one who claims that he is in the Father and the Father in him. We also learn that he is in us, just as we are in him.
This mystical union is a fancy way of talking about the Holy Spirit and the body of Christ. If Jesus is the bread of life, then we become the bread of life in the post-Pentecost days. We become the hands of Christ. We become the mechanism for daily sustenance to the hungering world around us.