Note: For the past several weeks we have had guest writers contributing our weekly column. I would like to thank these writers for sharing their experiences this summer. All three are students at West Virginia Wesleyan College. So thank you to Jason Rock, Nathan Weaver and Grace Rapking.
Food is a pretty amazing thing isn't it? It makes us all equal in one aspect: everyone must eat. It has a huge impact on our lives. We use food in so many ways. We eat for specific moods: we eat to celebrate when we are happy; we eat when we are sad; we eat when we are bored, stressed, lonely or tired. We will eat when we are alone, and we love to eat with others - weddings, funerals, church functions, reunions, dates, a cup of coffee to catch up with a friend or just because. Food brings us together.
Food is an everyday aspect of our lives; but if we stop and think about it, our food touches the lives of many others as well. Most of our produce has several people involved in its production. Food provides us with life, but it also provides others with a livelihood. Food links us together in a chain of its production.
As Christians, food brings us together in one major way: communion. Every so often, whether it's once a week or once a month, we gather to remember in a meal of bread and juice or wine. What occurs to me is that a sort of communion can occur outside of the church building. Jesus even did it before the Last Supper, right in the Gospel of Mark.
Mark 6:41 says, "while they were eating, He took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it He broke it, gave it to them, and said 'Take, this is my body.'"
I love the similarity of the language of the Mark 6 verse and the story of feeding the 5,000. He took the bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Jesus was creating the same atmosphere in both the feeding of the 5,000 and the Last Supper.
Communion is a meal, not to satisfy our physical hunger, but a meal to receive spiritual food.
Yet in another way, the feeding of the 5,000 is similar to communion. The people who followed Jesus and the disciples to this deserted place did so because they expected to get fed. They did not know this miracle was going to happen. They went because they had heard what Jesus had done. They wanted to know what He had to say. Jesus satisfied their spiritual hunger that day. Jesus used this food to create a community among these thousands of people. Food brings people together.
I've witnessed this firsthand this summer at the farmers' market at Community United Methodist Church in Morgantown. While working at a farmers' market, you see people from all walks of life. You see the farmers who believe in selling locally; the people who swear that these "garden-grown" vegetables taste better; the young, hippie sort of people who bring their reusable shopping bags; parents with children; young couples; single moms; college-age kids with piercings and brightly dyed hair; and retired folks - all in the same place. I could sit there and watch them all talking about what they will make with their purchases, exchanging recipes and getting tips from the vendors. Food really does bring people together.
I've also seen it working in food pantries in Preston County. Volunteers build relationships with clients and greet each other like old friends, because they are. They create a community where everyone is helped. They are concerned for the well-being of one other. They have whole conversations, each inquiring about the other's family. They remember each other from month to month. Everyone is on the same level.
As part of my internship this summer, we read a lot. One of the books that really stuck out to me is a book called "Take this Bread" by Sara Miles. Miles is really able to hit home about how communion can and does occur outside the church service. Looking back on her life, she was able to see communion in the meal she shared with a South American family that offered her all they had left to share, and in a hurried meal with her co-workers between shifts while working in a restaurant. But the way communion inspired her to share with others really created a community.
While food may be equal in that we all need to eat, it is very unequal when it comes to how much. Very few of us have just enough to eat. Most of us either have plenty, or not enough. Miles knew this. She had seen those without enough, knew them, had lived with them. So she started a food pantry right around the altar at her church.
She witnessed through this pantry that a community was started. Those who came to receive, those who volunteered - everyone - they all had each other. She did not feel the "power" of being the one helping the "less fortunate," but understood that, in this community, those coming to the pantry helped her as much as she helped them. The food brought them together, and - whether spiritually or physically - they were able to feed each other.
Miles is able to show that we as modern-day Christians can continue to create a community like Jesus did and can share aspects of communion with those around us, all while using something as basic as food.
The feeding of the 5,000 can be one of two things for us. It can be a nice story of Jesus doing His thing and performing miracles, or it can be a challenge to us to continue feeding the thousands. What better way to show others that love of Christ than feeding them when they are hungry?
Whether that means giving someone a can of soup, or showing someone love who is starving for it, we are called to create a community by feeding others.
On the parish calendar:
September is Recovery Month! Everyone is welcome to brunch following signing of the proclamation to kick off the celebration from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. today at the Hall Neighbor House.
The UM Men's Retreat at Jackson's Mill is set for Sept. 7-9. Contact Darroll Courtney at 304-366-2709. Friday dinner is at 5 p.m. and worship begins at 7 p.m. Spiritual events all day Saturday with dinner with scouts at 5 p.m.; half day Sunday includes communion service with scouts. Retreat concludes with lunch at 12:15 p.m. Prices vary with length of stay (commuters are welcome) and type of room. A link to the brochure with full information and registration form can be found at www.wvumc.org/UMM.