Only 100 years ago, almost all food that was eaten was grown and harvested locally. It was prepared by those who were going to eat it and shared with neighbours and friends. Today we have very little knowledge of where our food comes from, and how it gets to our tables. We’re so blessed to have plenty to eat. We’re counted as the 1.1 billion people in this world who get too many calories. But there are billions who don’t get enough food to starve off hunger.
Food is of such value that Israelite law commanded that part of the harvest remain in the field so that the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow could glean what was leftover. It is this practice that leads the foreigner Ruth into her momentous encounter with Boaz. She, in turn, is able to feed her mother-in-law and from her genealogy eventually comes Jesus Christ.
After a day’s teaching the first question Jesus asks his disciples is how He will feed the thousands around Him. Food is of such value. So what would the world look like if we let others share from our enormous resources? Closer to home – what would our city, our neighbourhood look like? This past week the UK saw a big rise in child poverty. Some parents dread school holidays as they can’t give their children one hot meal per day. The Wolverhampton Foodbank can testify to the difference that can be made by feeding those on our doorstep: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” I want to thank you all. As a congregation you’ve really got behind this initiative and it’s wonderful to see that box in the corridor regularly full of food to be taken away.
Remember though that food is never just food. It can fill the stomach and change a hungry community, just as it did around the Sea of Galilee. But when we respond with the same generosity, kindness and justice, in Jesus’ Name, it can also fill the soul. That’s the true food – spiritual sustenance from the Gospel of life and something we all need to sustain us in this world and the next. Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn.6:63).
I usually have a healthy appetite; but when I’m feeling under the weather, I lose my appetite. No matter how tasty the food, I can eat only a few mouthfuls. I’m sure this happens to almost everyone. Experiences like this that leave us feeling hungry have strong parallels with our spiritual lives. We do “not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Dt.8:3).
The Lord has provided us with plenty of nourishing food, but at times we do not feel hungry. We do not want to open the Bible, and we have no desire to spend time with God in prayer and our relationship with Him suffers to the point that we are spiritually hungry. Walter Brueggemann said “When people forget Jesus is the Bread of Life – they start to eat junk food.” Faith is not a casual acceptance of the bread Jesus gave – (i.e. a metaphor for His body broken on the cross given for the life of the world); rather it is a consuming recognition that His sacrifice needs to be “ingested” – day after day. We cannot partake of eternal life without the Bread of Life!
Those who receive physical food from the Foodbank are crying out for good nourishing meals. So instead of grabbing our Bibles once a week and reading a few verses in church, may the Lord grant that we are never too busy or too tired to “digest” the nourishment He offers. May we stay away from “junk food” that provides no spiritual calories. May we always hunger for Jesus and allow Him to feed us.