August 19, 2018

Music:

Romance, C. Saint-Saens– Ross Miller, Flute

The Amorous Cannibal by Chris Wallace-Crabbe
Suppose I were to eat you
I should probably begin
with the fingers, the cheeks and the breasts
yet all of you would tempt me,
so powerfully spicy
as to discompose my choice.

While I gobbled you up
delicacy by tidbit
I should lay the little bones
ever so gently round my plate
and caress the bigger bones
like ivory talismans.

When I had quite devoured the edible you
(your tongue informing my voice-box)
I would wake in the groin of night
to feel, ever so slowly,
your plangent, ravishing ghost
munching my fingers and toes.

Here, with an awkward, delicate gesture
someone slides out his heart
and offers it on a spoon,
garnished with adjectives.

spring song by lucille clifton
the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

Didache 9:2-3
You shall give thanks as follows: First, with respect to the cup: “We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your child, which you made known to us through Jesus your child. To you be the glory forever.” And with respect to the fragments of bread: “We give you thanks our Father, for the life and knowledge that you made known to us through Jesus your child. To you be the glory forever.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is [broken] for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:15-18, 19-20
[Tradition A: Alternative Source] And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” (Luke 22: 15-18)

[Tradition B: Mark Source] And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood (Luke 22:19-20).”

John 6:51-58
[Jesus said]: “I am the life-giving bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the world’s life is my flesh.”

At this point the Judeans began quarreling among themselves: “How can this guy give us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus told them, “Let me tell you this: if you don’t eat the Human One’s flesh and drink his blood, you won’t have life in you. Everyone who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has unending life, and I will raise them on the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood real drink. Those who feed on my flesh and drink my blood remain in me, and I in them. The living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father. Just so, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the break that comes down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate manna and then died, anyone who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Every Mom to Her Baby Everywhere
I love you so much! I could just eat you up!

The Yoga of Mysticism   Bhagavad-Gita

Whatever someone gives me
In true devotion:
Fruit or water,
A leaf, a flower:
I will accept it.
That gift is love,
One’s heart’s dedication.

Whatever your action,
Food or worship;
Whatever the gift
That you give to another;
Whatever you vow
To the work of the spirit…
Lay these also
As offerings before me.

Thus you will free yourself from both the good and the evil effects of your actions. Offer up everything to me. If your heart is united with me, you will be set free from karma even in this life, and come to me at the last….

The one who loves me
Shall not perish.

Everything spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John is spoken with a wink.

When the Jesus Seminar did its analysis of the sayings of Jesus, they determined that virtually nothing in the Gospel of John went back to the historical person of Jesus. It appears that John’s gospel is an extended parable in which Jesus is the central character.

So that is the first wink.

The second wink is that as a character, what Jesus says is also said with a wink.

I am the bread of life. Wink.
I am the true vine. Wink.
Before Abraham was, I am. Wink.
You must be born again. Wink.
For my flesh is real food, and my blood real drink. Wink. Wink.

Winks are hard to translate into church doctrine and practice. As the winking Jesus became the second person of the Trinity and the host at mass and the object of veneration, the subtleties of the winks were lost.

The Gospel of John playfully presented a mystical Jesus.
Not unlike the child Krishna playing his flute. Look into his mouth. See the universe.
The playful, mystical Jesus took a different turn over the centuries and became rigid.

Communion, for instance. What is that about?

According to New Testament scholar, James Tabor, the words of institution that are to be spoken at communion did not originate with Jesus at all, but with Paul. Paul’s letters are older than the gospels. Paul comes up with this. He isn’t repeating a tradition. He is recounting a personal revelation:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is [broken] for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

This, in turn, becomes embedded in a narrative in the gospels.

That is one tradition of the meaning of the cup. There is another tradition in which the cup is the Passover cup that has nothing to do with his blood, but a symbol for the coming kingdom of God. It is kind of a next year in Jerusalem, kind of thing. Next time we drink it will be in the kingdom of God.

Then another tradition is in another first century source, the Didache. Again, nothing to do with body and blood but rather the life and knowledge of Jesus. Jesus is the true vine and the gatherer of the scattered bread, the broken and scattered people.

Then, there is John chapter 6.

Let me tell you this: if you don’t eat the Human One’s flesh and drink his blood, you won’t have life in you. Everyone who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has unending life, and I will raise them on the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood real drink. Those who feed on my flesh and drink my blood remain in me, and I in them.

Does that have anything to do with the revelation Paul had in mind, or the Passover meal, or communion at all? The church thought so. To this day in the Roman Catholic Church, once the bell rings, the wafer and wine are magically transubstantiated into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus as they are consumed by parishioner and priest.

The Reformers, Luther and Zwingli, struggled and ultimately disagreed over the extent to which the actual flesh and blood of Jesus is present in communion. I think the Presbyterian/Reformed version as best I can gather is that Jesus is really present, but not really.

Various other Christian groups went their own way in interpreting communion, such as a memorial feast. Jesus isn’t present in this. We are just remembering him.

What do you do? The guy says you need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. How do you make that work?

I wonder if Jesus were to come back and see what we did in his name, he would shake his head and say, “I was just kidding. Didn’t you see me wink?”

My personal belief? I don’t think the historical Jesus ever said that wine or bread was his blood or body in either a literal or symbolic sense. If there is an historical memory of Jesus eating with his followers before he died, I think it probably went along these lines.

“It looks like they are going to kill me, friends. Don’t let that kill the movement for peace, love, and justice. Keep together and don’t lose hope. To life!”

What about the Gospel of John’s playful, mystical, winking Jesus? What is this Jesus saying?

First of all, I don’t think Jesus here is talking about eating the flesh and drinking the blood of his corpse, literally or symbolically. He is alive. Eat me now. When he tells the woman at the well that he has living water, it isn’t someday, it is now. Drink it. Born again? Not someday. Now. Eat my flesh and drink my blood. Not someday. Now.

The language here is playful and teasing, goading those who don’t get it.

There is no reason to take this metaphor for mystical connection any differently than any of the other metaphors for Jesus in the Gospel of John. They are all present tense and impossible at the literal level. Whether you are to be a branch on the vine of Jesus, the sheep of the shepherd Jesus, a drinker of the living water of Jesus, born again from the womb of Jesus, or an eater of the bread that is Jesus…wink.

Eat the body of Jesus as if you are going to eat the belly of your baby granddaughter. Give her a raspberry. I am going to eat you up. These are playful, mystical, symbols inviting us to love.

I found a great way to read the Gospel of John is to read it alongside the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is the “Song of God.” The setting is a conversation between Krishna the god and Arjuna the warrior. It is playful, mystical, winking, delightful, and instructive literature about living life as opposed to living in fear or living in boredom.

At one point Krishna says:

Whatever someone gives me
In true devotion:
Fruit or water,
A leaf, a flower:
I will accept it.
That gift is love,
One’s heart’s dedication.

Whatever your action,
Food or worship;
Whatever the gift
That you give to another;
Whatever you vow
To the work of the spirit…
Lay these also
As offerings before me.

Thus you will free yourself from both the good and the evil effects of your actions. Offer up everything to me. If your heart is united with me, you will be set free from karma even in this life, and come to me at the last….

The one who loves me
Shall not perish.

That is Krishna. But it could be John’s Jesus. It is the same thing. Love is stronger than death. Forgiveness is real. Whatever we do on earth, it has transcendent meaning. What we do to the least of these, you do to me. Be conscious of that. Your life matters. What you do matters. You matter.

Eat me up. Consume me. Breathe me. Drink me. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says,

“Split wood, I am there. Lift up a rock, you will find me there.” Saying 77.

Or in the words of one of my favorite poems by lucille clifton:

the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

If you don’t want to play, that is fine, too.
If you don’t want to dance while Krishna plays his flute, no pressure.
If you don’t want to turn in the body of Jesus, OK.

But, if you need a playful incentive to get out of the doldrums,
To put the propaganda into perspective,
To reflect on where you are at this point in your life,
And where you would like to be.

Then here is an invitation.

Whenever you eat… Whenever you drink…
Know that the universe itself has conspired on your behalf to feed you.
Know that the mystical Jesus is real food.
He has come down from heaven just for you.

This is life. Your life.
Eat it up.
Wink.