1 Kings 3:4-14

John 6:51-58

Jesus says, “I will give you my flesh as bread, and you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” He says this like it’s a promise of eternal life. Try holding that symbol in your mind – eating flesh, drinking blood. That’s troubling for us, and it’s just as hard for Jesus’ followers as it is for us. We’ll deal next week with just how hard this idea is, but this week, we’ll try to make sense of it. It makes sense because, as we’ve always known, “you are what you eat.” Your life mixes with the life of your food. Jesus offers us something somewhere between desecration and veneration, more like some of both.

To put this underlying idea in less troubling terms, think about your ancestral foods – dishes that connect you with your ancestors, your ethnic heritage, or specific people in your past. Here’s a story about this: Alex’s grandmother made the most fabulous cherry pie (crust and all), and it just wasn’t Thanksgiving without that pie. She taught Alex how to make this pie, but she was the one who had to make it every year. The years went on, and Alex’s grandmother passed away. When it came time to plan Thanksgiving for that year, it dawned on everyone that they wouldn’t get to have her cherry pie, but Alex offered to try making it.

It’s intimidating for Alex to lay all the ingredients out on counter, like he’s intruding on sacred territory, but he starts working on the pie. He sifts flour, beats in the lard (a not-so-secret ingredient), and rolls out crust (which still looks good after chilling in the fridge). This is a tangible, visceral process. By the time Alex starts cutting those ripply strips of crust for the lattice top, he feels his grandmother’s hands guiding his. It’s as if she’s there, teaching him all over again. His cousins swore he even looked like her, setting the pie up to cool. They all shared that experience, eating this pie their grandmother would have made, sharing it with her because it was made of the same stuff she was.

What Jesus describes is like that, only more so. It doesn’t have to be literal (unless it does for you), but it’s a sign of deep imitation. Jesus promises, “as you live my life, I’m in you” – this from the one who gave us his very Breath, the Holy Spirit. When we take in Christ’s Breath and give it back, we practice his deep wisdom by living our gifts for others. Jesus taught, healed, and fed: when we teach, heal, or feed, we take part in life as Jesus lived, as Jesus gives life to us.

Here, Jesus names this as eternal life. That’s something many of us aspire to, but Jesus’ way of eternal life is through death. Not just Jesus’ death. He says we have to lose our life if we seek it. That’s the feast of taking Jesus’ life into ourselves. There’s no secret formula here, only an enigma to enter. If we give ourselves up in order to gain something, we’re just seeking to gain. I find that seeking to live forever means never being sure we’ll pull it off, because eternal life is too far beyond that great darkness.

The bread of life Jesus offers is wisdom. If we seek to live forever, we’re probably doing it out of the fear of death. If we seek goodness, on the other hand, forever doesn’t look so important (but it’s still there). Jesus gives us this bread. As Paul says, “when we eat this bread, we proclaim Christ’s death.” In doing that, we seek wisdom and proclaim eternal life. The enigma is the life of dying that Jesus lived. We can live that life with him into eternity, but that’s a journey into mystery. Mystery takes us deeper into wisdom. Eternal life is there, but it’s easiest to find if you don’t seek it.

Solomon saw this, that wisdom is more important than life. He has just come to the throne, very conscious that he rules Israel “in place of” his father David, and God offers him a gift. God would expect an ordinary king to ask for wealth, victory, or long life (the ideal king should “live forever”). However, Solomon chose differently. He wanted the wisdom to rule, a gift of discernment for justice, deep insight into life. God liked that request, so He promised the other things too: wealth, power, and long life. These all can follow wisdom, if you don’t seek them.

Solomon was famous for his wisdom, especially as a young king, before his riches, power, and legacy got in the way. We remember him for his penetrating judgment. Scripture teaches that Jesus never tripped on riches or power. He lived only for God’s wise way, giving himself in love. Love is a form of wisdom. It answers the question, “what’s best?” with the question, “what makes the world more blessed (not richer or faster)?”

That’s taking the long view, understanding that the best may not be good yet. Eternity is not any one moment, but each moment has eternal depth. Eternal life is a life filled with wisdom, listening for God’s creative Word. A life that sees beyond its own end. So every month when we feast on the bread of life, of eternal wisdom, it works because it points to a truth that is much greater than our life. We eat simple, ordinary bread, stuff that doesn’t last much past today – because neither do we. I’m not sure yet how to finish that sentence, but I don’t think there’s any real end to it. There’s just an eternal mystery to explore.