Today's Daily Office reading from the Gospel of John (chapter 6, verses 60-71) is a case in point. The reading is part of the larger "bread of heaven" discourse in which Jesus says:
"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" (John 6:53-56).In many Episcopal churches, we sing this as we receive communion using Hymn #335 ("I am the bread of life").
I once heard a respected organist/choirmaster say that when his congregation sings this hymn, they always omit verse 3:
Unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his Blood,His rationale for the omission was to say, "What kind of message does that send?!" He found it offensive.
you shall not have life within you,
you shall not have life within you.
It's fascinating how closely this reaction corresponds to the reaction to Jesus' teaching recorded in John's Gospel:
When many of the disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life" (John 6:61-63).Jesus' response to the complaints made matters worse: "Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him" (John 6:66).
Apparently, taking offense at this difficult teaching is still true for some of us today.