Just like that
Just like that: from leaden skies rain materializes, determinedly tracing a straight path to the ground. Then the trees begin murmuring louder as the raindrops grow larger and more percussive on the leaves, and the hummingbirds dash for shelter under the leaves of the Rose of Sharon, which are exactly the same size as their bodies. The bees tuck themselves inside the pink, white, and lavender blooms. And everything waits. This will pass.
Just like that: your heart beats a steady rhythm in your chest, you breathe in and out thousands of times each day, air scented with the slightest tinge of wet grass and jasmine and crushed marigold and maybe even wet dog if you’re lucky. Just for a moment you KNOW the beating of that heart, the miracle that drives it steadily on, bringing you each precious moment working in tandem with each precious breath.
Just like that: someone sings a song, and the words seem addressed directly to you. Or a painting glows with an inner fire, and you stop and take a really long look, so that when you close your eyes even minutes later, you can see a negative impression of the image against your eyelids, still glowing even as it fades into memory. Something inside you begins to unclench and unfurl and knit itself back together. And suddenly everything shifts in your perception, what was unclear comes into focus, and you feel a spark within you catch and begin to grow into a hopeful flame.
For five weeks now we have been taking a detour into the Gospel of John and the teachings on Jesus as the bread of life. Just like that, in John’s gospel for this Sunday, the disciples are confounded by Jesus’s sayings about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Some of them recoil in bewildered hurt, blinking their eyes as if emerging from a dream into bright sunlight. The dream they had awakened from was the dream that Jesus would be a warrior king like David, perhaps; and walking in the footsteps of his royal ancestor he would vanquish all the foes of the Jews and sit once again in splendor upon a throne. His glory would be the people’s glory.
Some in the crowd now wonder if they haven’t been following a madman rather than a prophet, a healer, a miracle-worker. Just like that, his sayings HAVE proven too hard for some of his followers. They have not signed on for this. To drink blood and to eat flesh is unimaginable. They asked for bread, and Jesus seems to be giving them stones. Worse than stones, actually, they think. Jesus speaks matter-of-factly to them about bewildering mysteries when they were asking for another miraculous sign. Moses, they said, laid out feasts in the wilderness. We want bread just like that. They wanted manna, the bread of angels, but to their minds Jesus instead gives them riddles. And so, many leave.
But a few remain. “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
The ones who leave and the ones who stay do not yet understand that, better than loaves and crumbs, Jesus is offering himself to them—and to us. Too often, we too, bustle about and want things NOW, and we miss the blessings laid before us. Too often we approach the altar and wonder if the wafers will be stale or the wine too dry or not dry enough. Yet Jesus, the Holy One of God, who was and is and ever shall be, stands before us, too, asking to be allowed in, to feed us in a way that sustains us. To see that all we have that really lasts is made not of flour or rice or grape, but of the wondrous, self-giving love revealed to us throughout creation. Jesus is calling us to the table not just so that we can be fed but so that we can love and know that we are loved ourselves. This love is what brings life to the world a true banquet spread before us in the wilderness. All that we need is here. Let us taste, and not just see, but believe and know. Just like that.
Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher and postulant for the priesthood in the Diocese of Missouri. She attends Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, MO. She is a member of and musician at the Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri, in the Diocese of Missouri, and tweets daily prayers and news of note @HolyCommUCity. Her blog is Abiding in Hope.
Image: Camp Phoenix Eucharist with Bishop Wayne Smith