bread of life
One thing that unites all humans – all living things in fact – is the need for food. We need it to build, power and repair our bodies, and our physical health depends on getting just the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and so on. Without it we become ill and die. And food is more than biological necessity. The preparation of and consumption of food can give great pleasure, establish and maintain relationships, celebrate milestones, and much more. Much of our human culture and social life is formed around food and meals; what we eat really does make us what we are.
October is a time when traditionally we celebrate harvest and the huge variety of food that we can enjoy. It is a time to recognise that the food that we need is a gift from God, and is an opportunity to give thanks to him for it, and for those who work to bring it to our tables. This year following our harvest services on 7th October our churches will be celebrating with a shared meal at Harwell Village Hall.
But amongst our celebration of material blessings, it is important to remember – as Jesus reminds us in his Sermon on the Mount – that life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. We are physical beings, and need those things, but we more than that; we are also spiritual beings, and spiritual health also needs nutrition, too. As well as seeking physical food, we should also be concerned about spiritual food. But where is that to be found?
At the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus spend time in prayer and fasting, during which he was tempted by Satan. When tempted to miraculously create food when he was hungry, Jesus replied “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3). The very words of God are spiritual food.
Words spoken or written by humans are powerful. They can be used to form our thoughts, transmit ideas, affirm, inspire and unite. And they can also be used for great harm, their potential to do great good or harm multiplied by the media and internet.
But the words that emanate from God are supremely powerful. Right at the beginning of the Bible we are told that God literally speaks the universe into existence. Like a powerful ruler, God speaks and things happen. As it says in the famous harvest hymn, “the winds and waves obey him, by him the birds are fed”. And in the life of Jesus we see the same authority and power. When Jesus speaks, critics are silenced, storms are stilled, people are healed, and the dead are raised.
The words of God create, heal and give life. And Christians believe that God’s words are to be found in the Bible, and made flesh in Jesus Christ, who is described as the Word of God. Jesus is God in person, word and action, revealing and acting for God. And as the Word of God, he brings spiritual life.
Jesus says of himself “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). Without spiritual nutrition we will die, but Jesus is given to humanity that we might live eternally with God. Our loving heavenly Father provides for us both bread of the earth, but also the Bread of Heaven. Let’s celebrate and give thanks for both this harvest time.