The church is the body of Christ, and so it is our joy to be broken and shared to feed a hungry world. (Listen.)
Do you feed on success, or achievement, or excellence? How about winning, or seeing your team or country win? Do you feed on other people’s approval or praise or pity or love? Do you feed on wealth and power, or being followed on social media? What about the dopamine hit of other people’s ‘likes’? Do you feed on beauty? Do you feed on titbits of gossip, or righteous anger or outrage? Do you need to win every argument? Do you feed on being needed? Do you feed on your wounds? What do you feed on?
Our faith tells us what and how to eat; and yet, like the wilderness-wandering Israelites, we are so often reluctant; we divert our appetites. We insist on collecting more than we need and storing it away for ourselves. We long for the fleshpots of Egypt; we demand more palatable leaders. And we make golden calves: controllable containable handmade gods. Yet whatever we are devoted to, whatever we give pre-eminence to in our lives, whether that calf is goodness or family or work or nation or freedom or feelings or science, it has no eyes to see, no ears to hear, no tongue to speak, and no nourishment to give.
As long as we live like this—as long as we rely on hard work and savings, as long as we seek the food of exploitation, as long as we demand leaders with human charisma, as long as we bend our lives towards handmade gods—we will remain hollow. For we feed on the wrong things. We feed on golden calves; we feed on dark desires; we feed on each other; we feed on vulnerable people. We feed on winning and wounds and outrage and pride and so many other things, but the things we feed on consume us: and so we slowly die.
But there is one thing which will sustain us: Jesus Christ, the bread of life. Those who eat of him will never be hungry. They will no longer be deformed by their basic fears; they will no longer be driven by their dark desires. They will no longer be out for what they can get; instead, deeply nourished, they will offer their lives as gift. They will no longer bow down to idols of work and family and everything else; but will allow each aspect of life to come under the gentle loving rule of Christ. Life will take on its proper proportions and they will know life without limit, both in this age and in the age to come.
I began this brief reflection by wondering what you feed on. Now, let’s turn the question around: How do we feed others? For when we gather around the table, we affirm that we are the body of Christ; and this body is the bread of life, given for the life of the world. We have been drawn to feed upon him; when we do, we become one with Christ, bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. Consuming him, we are transformed into his image; with Christ as the centre and source of our life, we too become bread.
And so it is our joy to be broken and shared, that others might also eat.
So I invite you to prayerfully wonder: Who are the people pressing in on us now? How are they hungry? And how do we or the wider body of Christ feed them?
- People with autism, adhd and ptsd … fed by feeling seen, heard and understood, through shared experience and expertise
- Teenagers and young people struggling with disruptions of covid … fed by adults who offer soft hearts and steadiness and a longer perspective
- Others whose feelings of helplessness, bitterness and rage compel them to lash out at others … also fed by soft hearts and steadiness … but several of us are struggling here with such situations
- People living with hunger, conflict, climate change and extreme poverty … international humanitarian space … urgently need food and justice, money to international agencies who work with people on the ground e.g. Tearfund, and urgent climate action … the need is more extreme now than it has been perhaps forever
- People emerging from domestically and spiritually abusive situations … fed by interpretations of the gospel in which god is not a coercive controlling violent judge demanding obedience, but a gentle loving co-creator who enters into their suffering … but also urgently need justice, work, housing … and radical institutional change, that abused women (not violent men) are centred, protected, raised up, and granted voice and institutional power
May the God who sets a table in the desert;
who feeds multitudes from a child’s generosity;
and who feeds you with his own flesh and blood,
nourish and sustain you, and continue to transform you
into the very image of Christ: the Bread of Life.
With Christ as your source and centre,
go love and feed the world. Amen. Ω
A brief reflection on John 6:35, 41-51 by Alison Sampson given to Sanctuary on 8 August 2021 (Proper 14 Year B) © Sanctuary 2021. Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash. We vouch for Tearfund because members and friends of Sanctuary have a long history of working for and supporting it.
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