Think communally about life-giving food

March 26, 2014 

I once served a church that housed a community food bank. It was a great relationship since it allowed us to provide space for a vital community service, and a number of our members volunteered in the food bank.

On Monday and Tuesday, they prepared the shelves, put out food and handled administrative tasks to prepare for Wednesday, when clients came for their once-a-month allotment of food.

That same day of the week, another group arrived. They, too, put out food-related items. There were boxed-reduced calorie snacks, packaged drink mixes, recipe books and even scales.

On Wednesdays, people waited to receive food at one end of the church while another group paid to stand on the scale to see if they had been able to reduce the effects of eating too much.

Pi day was earlier this month, and I heard it as pie day. I have food on the mind.

More precisely, this is what I have been contemplating about caloric intake: Many of us lead lives of excess that can lead to conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, while others lack what they need to be adequately nourished.

For those of us who follow the Western Christian liturgical calendar, we are in the season of Lent.

Originally, Lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptized into the Christian faith; a time of concentrated study, prayer, penitence and sacrifice before their baptism at the Easter vigil on the Saturday before Easter.

Since these new members were to be received into a living community of faith, the entire community was called to preparation.

As we move toward Holy Week, many churches will hear stories about Jesus’ life and ministry.

The story of Jesus feeding thousands of people with just a couple of fish and a little bread, when he says to the disciples, “You give them something to eat,” appears in all four Gospels.

In every Gospel!

This story generates much discussion on the nature of miracles — how did this modest bit of food become a feast for a crowd the size of a city?

There is another miracle in this story — everyone shared the same menu.

As the story goes, there was enough fish and bread for all with leftovers. Not a meal of fish, olives, lamb, dates, honey and bread for the inner circle and just some bread or crumbs for the crowd.

This story speaks to the importance of wholesome, life-giving food for all. Maybe a good Lenten practice is one that can be extended throughout the year? Especially as we think communally.

What comes to mind is supporting efforts to feed the hungry, along with initiatives local and foreign, that allows all of God’s children to lead lives where the fear of not having enough food to eat is banished.

No more deaths due to starvation. This takes work on a systemic level. I believe it’s also spiritual work as we pray for God’s guidance and direction.

Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, we remember that Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples before his death and the Easter resurrection.

God in the flesh enjoyed sharing a good meal with others.

Are we not called to do the same?

On Faith columnist Janet Matthews can be reached by email at janetkmatthews@ gmail.com.

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