One of the complaints that Rome held against the early Church was a charge of cannibalism. I don’t know all the intricacies of 1st century society, but I’m pretty certain that one thing our two, very different, cultures hold in common is that the eating of fellow human beings is wrong. This charge, of cannibalism, then is one that was very serious, and a charge that at least linguistically, held enough merit to make life difficult for early followers of the way. Read again the pericope from John appointed for Sunday.
Jesus said, “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.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 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. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 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.”
With language like this in the hand of an accuser, it would be difficult to wiggle one’s way out of a charge of cannibalism. And yet, despite this most heinous of accusations, the early Church continued to grow. People partook of the bread and wine, transformed by the Spirit into the flesh and blood of Christ and had their lives profoundly changed.
And it continues to happen today.
Sure, most of us don’t focus quite so heavily on the flesh and blood stuff, we leave that to high-church Anglo-Catholics and the Romans, but we still believe that in the Eucharist, bread and wine are changed, just as we who eat of it are changed, and eternal life is possible. If the early Church could get over the charge of cannibalism, then we shouldn’t have much trouble with epithets like “boring” and “hypocritical.” Instead, by way of Christ’s body and blood, we should be inviting the world into an active, loving relationship with the Risen Savior. It worked in Acts, why not now?