Friday, January 26, 2024

A Ministry of Food

When we think about Communion, we usually think about the Upper Room. About the Last Supper. About the moment when Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of Me." 

But what if, as some translations say, He actually said, "When you do this, remember Me?" 

I think sometimes, we get wrapped up in this one moment, in this one small thing, and we miss the bigger picture of what's going on. Yes, this meal is important, and we should not forget the importance of the breaking of bread before the sacrifice of the Lamb, before the final Passover when one final first-born Son would be slaughtered as a sign of God's glory, but let us not forget, either, how important food was to Jesus's ministry. 

Everywhere you turn in the Gospels, Jesus has food. 

He heals Peter's mother-in-law, and she gets up and prepares food for them all. He goes to Simon's house to eat dinner. He dines with Zacchaeus at his house. He feeds four thousand and then, He feeds five thousand, with plenty of leftovers. When He tells a parable about a prodigal son and a father's welcome, He tells of the father preparing a great, big feast for the lost son. He tells parables of eternity as a wedding with a fantastic table spread out for everyone, even those you have to go and drag in off the streets. He encounters a woman at a well while His disciples are in town looking to buy some food, and when they get back, He tells them He has food to eat that they don't know about. And when He comes back after His resurrection, He meets the disciples in the Upper Room - that very same place where they shared this very meal we put so much emphasis on - and He fries fish for them on the seashore. 

Jesus is all about food. 

But why?

There are, I think, two reasons. The first is the most obvious - food is nourishment. It gives us the strength that we need to carry on and to do the things that we are called to do in any given day, at any given moment. Without food, we would quite literally die. Our bodies depend on it. And in a spiritual sense, our souls also depend on it. Food is vital for life. 

But a second reason, one that's harder for us to understand in our hustle-and-bustle, 24/7 world of drive-thrus and DoorDash and UberEats, is that food gives us a reason to slow down. In Jesus's day, humans ate by reclining at tables together. The Gospels make reference to this when they talk about the positioning of disciples at the Last Supper and how John was closest and could whisper to Him from the correct side. Even when He feeds the masses - the four thousand and the five thousand - Jesus says, "Have them sit down in groups first." You must, necessarily, slow down to eat. 

Now, I know we don't slow down enough to recline together, but eating still clips our pace a little bit. If you've got a sandwich in your hands, it's hard to keep typing or texting. If you've got a mouthful of food, you have to take a pause before you can start speaking again. Even though we've become, it seems, masters at shoving food in our faces without missing too much of a beat, the truth of the matter is that it still slows us down a little bit, whether we feel it or not. 

Jesus, though, wants us to feel it. That's why food was so much a part of His ministry. He wants us to have that space not just to be nourished, but also to slow down. 

How can you slow down and savor this week? What would it take for you to, at least metaphorically, recline for a minute and let the Lord nourish your soul?  

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