Docetism is defined as the “phenomenon of Christ, the historical and bodily existence [that was] altogether a mere semblance without any true reality” (N. Brox).  That he was more Christ than Jesus, more heaven than earth, that God will be God but only from a distance.


The first heresy of the Church was not that Jesus was divine but rather that he was pretending to be human. And people have been arguing about it ever since, especially in today’s text, and their favorite place of dispute is around the Table of loaf and cup.

What’s so upsetting about communion?

John 6:51-58 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.”

Congregational Responses:

That Jesus would think he’s the Passover.

It sounds too much like cannibalism.

He’s living bread and water in a way manna wasn’t.

That God wants a relationship that personal.


Sara Miles was an atheist, a left-wing journalist in San Francisco when she followed a reporter’s curiosity into church one Sunday.  After all the Episcopalian standing and sitting, waiting and listening, a woman said, “Jesus welcomes all to his table.” Sara found herself at the altar where a piece of fresh crumbly bread and a goblet of sweet wine was offered along with these words, “this is the body of Christ” and “this is the blood of Christ.” Then, she said, “something outrageous and terrifying happened. Jesus happened to me.”  He was “lodged in me like a crumb. I [was] being entered and taken over, completely stirred up by someone whose name I’d only spoken before as a casual expletive?  I knew what was happening… Jesus was real, and in my mouth…” (Take this Bread paraphrase)

What’s so upsetting about communion?

That in spite of our attempts to de-humanize- with cubes of bread and thimbles of juice, sanitizers of cleanliness and napkins of neatness- we can never strip off all of the skin or drain out all of the blood. That through the commandments and covenants, poets and prophets, rainbows and clouds, words and water, God is relentlessly incarnational, refusing to be a mere semblance without any true reality.

The problem with the Eucharist, says Matt Fitzgerald, is that “it makes me feel too close to God.”

Even more than standing vigil at the bedside, swaddling a child out of the womb or sharing sex with the lights on, eating is the most intimate thing we do.  Taking nourishment into our bodies that literally becomes part of our being, a union with and full participation in what we put in our mouths.

Of all the ways to be with us, God chooses to rise in the loaf and ferment in the cup, to become a palatable Savior in this sacrament of sensuality that satiates the appetite, reveres the flesh and reminds us that our faith is affirmed by what we swallow.