Recently, and for several Sundays, the gospel readings have been sections from the sixth chapter of John. It is a familiar chapter in which Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life!” As he continues to teach from this identity, Jesus reinforces the idea that you are what you eat.
This is consistent with other teachings attributed to Jesus such as “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” and “no one can serve two masters.” In disciplines such as African and African American Studies and African Diasporan Studies, there is a parallel concept to the living bread. That concept is decolonizing the mind.
Broadly understood, decolonizing the mind emerges from the belief that Mother Africa is the bread of life for African-descended people. Further, African-descended people have been malnourished for centuries, consuming a diet of the colonizer’s straw.
In the world broadly and in the United States particularly, Black bodies continue to be insecure bodies under siege. Minds showing signs of transformation, minds beginning to emerge and enter into a state of awareness and decolonization are actively discredited, disenfranchised, and destroyed lest such minds become the yeast leavening the whole loaf.
How interesting that something as simple as bread is so essential, so powerful, and so potentially dangerous. Living bread cannot die.
For those who are truly formed and informed by Jesus, they are part of the single loaf that is blessed, broken, and given to others. For those who are disciples of the one who declares, “I am the bread of life,” they must reinterpret their whole approach to life. It is true for those who would embrace the ancient ways and wisdom of Mother Africa. Her truths are the bread of life for Black bodies and for all.
In another place in Christian sacred texts, disciples are exhorted to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewal, the decolonization, of your mind.
I draw deeply from African wisdom even as I speak from a Christian position. We who are the disciples of Jesus, transformed into the very nature of Jesus by feasting on Jesus who declares I am the bread, are an odd people.
And as we go out into the world bearing witness to Jesus in the living of our lives, the world will not understand. Remember, you shall know the truth and the truth will make you odd. Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world … the world hates you.” We in the African Diaspora experience a similar reality.
When we engage the one who is the bread of life, we submit ourselves to be broken, to suffer, to die, and to be raised up with the same living bread in the world. With minds transformed, decolonized, and liberated, we become powerful instruments of healing and wholeness. We bring much needed nourishment to a malnourished and starving world.
Jesus says later in the sixth chapter of John, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in that person. As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever feeds on me will also draw life from me.”
We have the witness of the ancestors, to practice gratitude to the creator by cherishing what we have received through wise stewardship. In Eucharistic liturgies, we offer a pray of thanksgiving for what we have received and for the reassurance that we are living members of the Body of Jesus Christ, and heirs of the eternal kingdom.
We continue to pray, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of the rich heritage, which is the source of our life.” And then we are dismissed to go forth into the world in the name of Christ; to go forth in peace to love and serve The Lord; to go forth rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.
Cush will stretch out its hand to God. Jesus said, “I am the bread.” As disciples, as those marked as Christ’s own forever, we too are bread sent forth into a world famished and weak from hunger. Freely have we received and freely we must give declaring to the world, “O taste and see that this living bread is good!” Amen!