At a recent Earthing Faith gathering Liz Baker, Director & Community Leader at The Well at Willen, shared a reflection on the Theology of Food:
Sleeping with bread’ here is a story from this rather lovely book by Denis, Shelia and Matthew Linn:
“During the bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit on the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow”.
This story fully illustrates the idea of daily food, daily bread as a sacrament, the means by which we live seen as an offering of grace from creations table. We eat, we drink, we live, our food supports every action we take, every decision we make, every thought we posses.
In the gospels we find Jesus constantly eating and drinking with friends, with sinners and tax collectors, he is charged with being a glutton and a drunkard and, in most of the resurrection stories about Jesus he identifies himself, proves himself with food. By breaking bread as on the road to Emmaus and by offering the cooked fish to the disciples on the beach.
So I like to place before you the simple truth that every time we break bread, in our church services, with friends or neighbours at our dinner table, at a barbeque on the beach or in the park, every time we share toast & coffee, tea and biscuits with our friends, family and colleagues, these simple actions create for us if we let them a commonplace Eucharist, we share the bounty of God’s table, and so we re-enact our sacraments everyday of the week no matter who we are.
The Eucharist for Christians is the ultimate expression of this and through it we can explain the theology of food. For in each Eucharist we take bread and wine, every day elements part of our earthly need to be fed, to eat and to drink and transform them into holy things representing the body and blood of Christ.
We represent the divine through the ordinary, through the things of creation which are a living, loving part of the web of life, the fabric of the universe, and when we understand this then it becomes apparent that every time we eat we are always in the presence of God the creator, at his table.
The American Author Wendell Berry puts it this way:
“We cannot live harmlessly at our own expense; we depend on other creatures and survive by their deaths. To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation”
Once we begin to realise this we can look upon eating and drinking as something holy, something sacred and something to be shared with friends and with strangers. For just as the Eucharist is part of our corporate worship, so our daily food is part of our life as community, not just as individuals. Our eating and drinking become part of our corporate life, part of the things we share; we cannot be selfish or greedy.
The point is, when we break the body & shed the blood of creation and do this knowingly, lovingly, skilfully, reverently, it becomes a sacrament it cannot be anything else; when we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration.
This ultimately leads us a more caring attitude, to where our food comes from, to the welfare of the people who produce it and the animals and the plants that feed us.
When you come to think of your food as sacred and your table as the daily altar then each meal becomes a gift of love, a gift of life and a gift of wholeness. A gift from creation and a gift from God himself to nourish and feed humanity, but this can only work when we begin to see the whole of creation as a sacrament. When we see it all as the body and blood of our Lord spread before us daily, given by God, freely, in love to nourish and comfort us always.