Reflection and Hymn: Medicine of Heaven

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, I tell you, the bread of God is that which comes from heaven and gives life to the world… Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.’”—John 6:32-34, 51 (NRSV)

Jesus Mafa, The Lord’s Supper

Early Christians thought Jesus was talking about Holy Communion here. Of course, at this point Jesus didn’t know what Communion is—he hadn’t given us that gift yet. But our forebears heard that meaning in Jesus’ words anyway.

They’d come to experience Christ’s Body as truly life-giving and even spoke of Communion as medicine for what ails us. They believed that partaking of the Bread shored up and mended our frail human condition. To approach Communion was to be diagnosed, admitted, treated, and released to a new regimen of health, body, mind, and soul.

Regularly partaking also vaccinated you against the estrangement that destroys human solidarity. Being in communion with the Healer and all our convalescing siblings in the church staved off deadly infections like a divided heart, moral indifference, and an evasive life.

Communion was also a foretaste of the permanent health of the life to come. Exactly what such a fully wholesome life would be like, no one knew, but it had to be at least something like Communion— the beloved as one in the Beloved, feasting.

But the most important thing was how you knew the medicine was taking. The proof lay in service. The church’s body was healing when it found itself caring about and tending the bodies of others. It could claim health only when it was putting its own body on the line.

Which is why examining the life we lead in our bodies has traditionally preceded Communion. It’s a wellness check, and if it shows we’ve been indifferent or hostile to our neighbors’ bodies, we know we need to come to the table again. And again, to eat the Bread that heals us go and do otherwise.


Words: Mary Luti


Bread of Life from heaven’s hand,

nurse our pain and sorrow.

Pardon for our aching past,

healing for tomorrow.

Bread of Life from heaven’s hand,

brace our weak condition.

Keep us from all sin and harm,

guardian, physician.



Bread of Life from heaven’s hand,

fill our friendless longing.

Seat us at your table home, 

feed us with belonging.

Bread of Life from heaven’s hand,

end of all our fasting,

life as it was meant to be:

wholeness everlasting.



Bread of Life from heaven’s hand,

in the body find us.

Towel and basin at our feet,

neighbor love, remind us.

Bread of Life from heaven’s hand,

bond of flesh revealing

countless wounds to kiss and mend

with you, Jesus, kneeling.


For DISTLER, see

“Weary of All Trumpeting”

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal, No.428

The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 442