By Virginia S. Saunders
IT WAS WHEATIES who first coined “Breakfast Of Champions” as a commercial slogan to advertise their popular cereal. It was author Kurt Vonnegut who wrote in 1973 the novel BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, in which he quoted his imagined character, a cocktail waitress, who announced “Breakfast of Champions!” every time she served a martini to her customer. It was Bruce Willis who starred in a 1999 movie, “Breakfast Of Champions”, who transformed Vonnegut’s character, Dwayne Hoover, into a neurotic madman.
But “Breakfast of Champions” has biblical origins. It is the manna in the desert, referred in Psalm 78:25 as “angel food”, eaten by angels who are endowed with supernatural powers inherent among champions. No one in 3,000 years has seen what manna looks like. But footnotes in the Bible described it as “hoar frost”, the white ice crystals or frozen dew that forms as white coating on the surface during cold weather. Every morning the Israelites would gather the manna that magically fell during dawn, and this was their staple food. They were told not to gather more than they could eat on that day, for it rots past its daily expiration date.
It is not difficult to understand why the Israelites would soon reject this breakfast of champions. Exodus 16 described them as getting bored of eating manna morning after morning for 40 years. They told Moses how much they hated this “loathesome food”. That loathesome food disappeared as soon as they crossed the Jordan River. Exodus also said that three things were placed in the Ark of Covenant carried by priests wherever the fleeing Israelites traveled in the desert. In the ark were Aaron’s staff, the second set of stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, and a golden pot containing manna. Had the Ark of the Covenant not gotten lost, we would probably know today what an authentic manna looks like.
But there is a better, more lasting Breakfast of Champions. Jesus Christ Himself, the Bread of Life which we receive every Holy Communion. Matthew 26:26-28 said, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it. All of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”
It was in Luke’s gospel where Jesus said “do this in memory of me”. Luke 22:14-20: “When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”
Bible footnotes said that the words “do this in memory of me” have been omitted in some Western text manuscripts and a few Syriac manuscripts. Other ancient text types, including the oldest papyrus manuscript of Luke dating from the late second or early third century, contain the longer readings presented in the New American Bible. The Lucan account of the words of institution of the Eucharist bears a close resemblance to the words of the institution in the Pauline tradition.
The Bread of Life discourse of the Last Supper is well explained in 1 Corinthians 11:23-31, defining this as a tradition that disciples and Christian followers should establish as an institution. Paul said, “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”
The Catholic Church has made this institution the center of all its worship services. But many Christians have misunderstood the second paragraph of Paul’s teaching on the Bread of Life. “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment, but since we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
Christian preachers and teachers have taken the above verse as a signal to condemn sinners. And yet, condemnation is not what Paul meant. Jesus died for sinners, and he told sinners to come as they are to him, for he is the cleansing bath of salvation. In my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I wrote about how the redactors of 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 explained what this verse meant. Discern is the operative word.
“It follows that the only proper way to celebrate the Eucharist is one that corresponds to Jesus’ intention, which fits with the meaning of his command to reproduce his actions in the proper spirit. If the Corinthians eat and drink unworthily, i.e., “without having grasped and internalized the meaning of Jesus’ death for them, they will have to answer for the body and blood, i.e., will be guilty of a sin against the Lord himself.”
“The self-testing required for proper eating involves discerning the body which, from the context, must mean understanding the sense of Jesus’ death, perceiving the imperative to unity that follows from the fact that Jesus gives himself to all and requires us to repeat his sacrifice in the same spirit.”
There are also wordplays in the word “judgment” which the redactors said is “concretely described as the illness, infirmity, and death that have visited the community in Corinth. These are signs that the power of Jesus’ death is not yet completely recognized and experienced. Yet even the judgment incurred is an expression of God’s concern; it is a medicinal measure meant to rescue us from condemnation with God’s enemies.”
Two thousand years since Jesus instituted the tradition of receiving his body, He is still being misunderstood because the Bread of Life is being given only to those perceived to be without sin, or as Catholics would described, “under a state of grace”. And yet Jesus meant for all sinners to come and receive Him without condemnation and judgment, because receiving Him will mean healing and transformation into the people Jesus wants us to be. After all, we become what we eat.
It will help us, friends, to receive the body of Jesus as often as possible. Partake of this “Breakfast Of Champions”, the body of the Lord. It has the power to heal, renew, transform, and mend the broken. It is supernatural, it is biblical, and it is Lord Jesus Himself whom you are receiving.
By Virginia S. Saunders
December 4, 2013
First posted on December 4, 2013 at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2013/12/04/bread-of-life-breakfast-of-champions/