51 I 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." 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53 So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."
6:00 a.m. Alarm sounds. And relentlessly, I might add. 6:10 a.m. Convince myself that there will be all sorts of issues if I do not get out of bed. 6:15 a.m. Not entirely sure if this is called “working out” or punishment for sins long forgotten. But we press on. After all, 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever other milestone is right around the corner, and there is no greater transgression in this culture than actually looking one’s age. 7:00 am. Hop in the shower. 7:10-7:35 am, self-care with all sorts of wonderful smelling and neatly marketed products, because, again, to look’s one age, well, let’s not even begin to explore just how depressing that all is, and let’s be honest, there is something invigorating about shampoo that smells like fruit I cannot even find in the supermarket. 7:35 am, another cup of coffee and realize that I am going to be late. 7:35- 8:00 am. Drive as though my break cables have been cut and my car is answering the call of a magnet the size of the moon. Listen to favorite talk radio show that confirms my political views and makes me skeptical, actually a bit hateful, of anyone I would not see at my local political primary. 7:55 am, get to work just in time to be given a workload that does not neatly fit into a 12 hour day, let alone whatever amount of time for which I am actually getting paid. And to think, this day has just begun.
And, end scene. This I think, is pretty close to how we all have come to experience the world. Even if the particulars are a bit different, on this one fundamental point, I think we all can agree: time is not something that we have too much of. Even for those in retirement, it seems as though the calendar remains nearly as full as when one was working, even if that calendar now affords a bit more selection in terms of what fills it. And so we race around from one obligation to the next, buoyed by the hope that, at some point, all this will slow down. Even if, in our deepest and most honest places, we are deeply fearful that this might not be the case. In the midst of all of this, in this running around, this working, this paying bills, this taking care of kids, this moving from one obligation to the next, it is nearly impossible to think of time as anything but a constraint, as anything besides that rare and beautiful thing of which we simply do not have enough. Our calendars, our day timers, our alarm clocks, they all tend to mock us, don’t they?
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” says the Christ, and this proclamation, this promise of his, well, this feels like it stands in pretty stark contrast to what we experience on a daily basis. Because it is my experience that it is a very difficult thing to make time for eternity. I mean, when we seldom have enough hours in the day, or enough minutes in the hours. And it is not as though participating in the Eucharistic feast somehow adds a few extra hours to the day, as if the minute the body and blood touched our lips, the clock somehow instantaneously wound back a few hours. So, then, I guess this is the question that we need to ask ourselves this morning: what could the life eternal possibly mean to a people who do not have enough of the life temporary?
But before we can begin to venture an answer to that question, we should be prepared for an answer that will always surprise us. Which is to say that, just because the flesh and blood might not add more hours to our span of life, that does not mean there is no disruption of our sense of time. Let me show you what I mean. As you well know, we have been in the sixth chapter of John for several weeks, gazing in on an inter-Jewish discussion between Jesus , his disciples and the religious professionals. This all begins with a miraculous feeding, but things get a bit testy when Jesus suggests that there is a deeper food, a more eternal food. And as if Jesus weren’t causing enough problems by challenging the religious authorities, he then makes the following comment, this eternal food is none other than his own flesh and blood, his own body to be broken for the sake of a sinful world.
Understandably, I do suppose, the religious authorities want a bit of proof in regards to these claims. And it is at this point that Jesus starts to say something very interesting about time. The religious authorities, you see, are interested in the way that God once fed God's people in the wilderness outside of Egypt. They have memory of a past event, an event that started and then stopped, and they are using this as a way of measuring Jesus. They want to make sense of the present, what is in front of them, by seeing if it conforms to the past. Jesus, on the other hand, is not interested only in events that have already been completed., nor is he, as God in the flesh, interested in limiting God’s activity to something that has already taken place. He simply does not understand time in this same way. God’s activity is not the sort of thing that starts and stops based on human calendars and histories. Instead, it is on-going,. And for this reason, Christ speaks of the “living Father” who has sent him, and speaks of an eating that is on-going. An eating that has no starting and no stopping. An eating and drinking, an eternal feast, that cannot be divided up into already having happened and happening in the future. And this, I think, gets us closer to what Christ means when he speaks of eternal life that comes through eating and drinking his flesh. You see, the invitation, the promise that Christ makes here is simply startling. It is the invitation to live in the very life that he shares with the Father, and that life is not something that happened once in the past. It is not the kind of life that starts and stops with alarm clocks, nor is it the type of life that we have to scurry after. In this way, it is entirely different from the way we experience time right now. And you want to know the most wonderful part? Though we will only fully experience this at the last day, when we are raised with Christ, we get glimpses right here, right now. Into this cruel world of chasing after time, Christ, in his time, chases you. . He gives you his flesh and blood, and in them, he gives you a time without end. And this is indeed the miracle of Holy Communion. That, in a few short minutes, we will eat and drink of God’s eternity. The life everlasting will come to you in small morsels of bread and a quick gulp of wine. But do not let the seeming everydayness of this meal fool you; for in, with and under it, is the very eternity of Christ, and even under the cruel march of temporary time, we will taste and experience an eternal life that cannot be started by the alarm clock nor ended by a too-long day of work. Instead, this eternity, this life everlasting, which is nothing other than Christ himself, this will be with you and in you. This much has the Christ promised to you. And while this might not make the alarm go off any later or make the day’s tasks any fewer, perhaps it will allow us to loosen our grip a little bit. Perhaps the in-breaking of God’s eternity will allow us to know that already we are loved by a God whose day never ends and that eternal enjoyment of Him is our destiny. Yes, you are more than your schedules, you are more than your busyness, you are more than a clock that ticks ruthlessly in the corner, reminding you of limited time. You are those destined for the eternal mercy of God in Christ Jesus. A truth for all times. In Jesus’ name, amen.