When I was a kid I had a tradition at McDonalds of stuffing fries in my cheeseburger for two reasons; to have a ‘big’ burger like my Dad to get that ‘stuffed’ feeling quicker. Those type of eating habits unfortunately may stick with some of us into adulthood when extra fries don’t burn off as quickly as they did when we were kids. In our market driven society we are often convinced we ‘need’ things we don’t really need; convinced we’ll be satisfied by consumerism, things, gadgets, technology, entertainment, emotional surges, social media attention, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.
Through the marketing of religion the consumer now has expectations when they approach religion and/or church. The consumer may approach religion the same way if they’ve been taught that everything must be relevant to them in an immediate and quickly understood way. This is most pronounced in American Protestantism where great care has been taken in large part to cater to the congregants as consumers.
We have been conditioned to ‘stuff’ ourselves in nearly every respect, and without regard to what it is we’re actually stuffing into ourselves.
But in regards to christianity, the question must be asked, “what if Jesus were the only thing on the menu?”. This phrase was the slogan of a sermon I heard a protestant preach a few years back. It is a popular little title for sermons that many in the Holiness/Pentecostal tradition use. I appreciate what Pentecostalism and Conservative Protestantism taught me about God, and more specifically, what I believe the pentecostal with a true heart is reaching for; which is God.
The sermon slogan has been used as an appeal to the listener to place more believing faith in Jesus, however the hearer may personally interpret that for themselves in actual practice.
For the most part, the protestant pentecostal desires an experience of either sanctification or simply a tangible touch from God, realized or validated in an experience of sort. There is much more to be said of this, but for now let us admit that the pentecostal seeks to experience God as a result of true personal intention, desire, surrender and love for God, resulting in a greater union or connection with the Christ; the source of all Grace.
But now consumer driven marketing tactics have infiltrated the pentecostal tradition in America amidst the downturn in religion in general. Many conservatives within the ranks of protestantism in general have called for a return to a more pure version of the faith. This intention reminds me of the slogan of our recent presidential race, “make America great again”. Just when was she great? When did she quit being great? Who gets to define those things? The questions are endless but alas it is only a political slogan. Religion is of such greater importance and involves the most important of issues. And so returning to a more pure version of our faith is of the greatest importance.
So if we as Christians are to return to a more pure version of our faith, we must look back, way back. Look back past American awakenings, look past celebrity preachers, look past civil war related religious contention, look past Wesleyan Holiness traditions, look past the so called reformers, look past false narratives taught us about inquisitions and crusades, kings and empires. Look back to the church and it’s members that turned an empire upside-down. Look back to those christians brutalized by so many roman tactics and tortures, yet multiplied and reproduced as sand on the sea. Look back to those christians who peacefully converted pagan lands to christian lands, the lands of our forefathers.
What was on their ‘menu’?
We see in the New Testament itself, apart from any church tradition, a people gathered around the ‘breaking of bread’. This is Communion, Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord. There would be no more sacrifice of lambs, and no more slaying of the Passover lambs every year, for the lamb of God had come, St. John the Baptist even testified to it! This was the lamb God had promised Abraham on Mt. Moriah.
They ‘broke bread’! St. Justin Martyr in about 155 a.d. describes the Mass in a way I think many protestants would be surprised to read. Truly, the Romans of the time were accusing the Christians of cannibalism as the Christians continually spoke of consuming our Lord; true nourishment, source of Grace and strength.
So much writing and teaching from those first Christians has come down to us to day, even from the disciples of St. John himself. Here is a link to a summary of early church writings, but there is much more available.
For these Christians Jesus was the only thing on the ‘menu’. The Lamb who had offered Himself as a propitiation for sin, nourishes us continually, and mysteriously, Sacramentally, through the Communion. Our common-union, our Eucharist; thanksgiving!
I know right now that many protestants may be reading my blog due to recent attention given my returning home to the Catholic Church. I ask you a question; what if it is the Lord? Ask yourself, what if Jesus meant it when He said; this is my Body, this is my Blood? Ask yourself what He meant all through John 6. Ask yourself, if the Eucharist is truly our Lord, what would keep you from receiving the Lord in this most intimate and experiential way? Ask yourself, if you had not been taught otherwise, wouldn’t you desire the Lord in this Blessed Sacrament?
You may be one who has sought an experience; you wanted to touch God, you wanted to experience God. But what could be more intimate than receiving our Lord in this most Blessed Sacrament? What could be more experiential than physically receiving our Lord into your physical body as true nourishment? What could better Sanctify your mortal body than our immortal Lord?
If those first Christians needed this Bread from Heaven to turn the empire around, don’t we need this Bread for our own lives to be turned around? Let us gather around the table of plenty laid out by our Lord, the perfect and only Sacrifice.
Let us throw off the desire to ‘fill’ our bellies with other things. Let us be satisfied with this Heavenly Bread.