In a week, I will leave for Denmark with our two sons. We will enjoy a few days in London, sightseeing, vacationing, and even if Britain is not famous for its food and fancy British cuisine, I am sure we will enjoy good food as well. Because sharing a meal and a table with our sons, it the best table to be seated at.
And then: then we embark to Denmark. And I am tempted to say: to sit down and eat! “Welcome, sit down and eat. Take some more.” And after a delicious lunch, we will go for a walk or have a good long talk, and then we will sit down for coffee with cakes, bread and hygge… and finally we will sit down for a delicious dinner. “Welcome, eat eat eat!”
We used to make fun of my husband’s grandmother, who truly did greet us with the words: eat eat eat, spis spis spis…..whenever we visited.
But it is far from just eating. It is taking time to sit, putting down your cell phone, your calendar and your other plans, and just sit, enjoy, eat and be happy. And from meals like that, we become what we receive… yes, we become what we eat.
“We become what we receive” This beautiful line we hear every Sunday, when we have shared bread and wine at communion. The beautiful communion hymn “By your hand you feed your people….” is a fine expression of what we believe to be true when we celebrate Holy Communion. That we share so much more, than just a small piece of bread and a sip of wine. We share life, we share connectedness, relations: we share humanity and our common struggle with right and wrong, good and bad. We share a simple meal: simple and yet very nourishing and needed.
“By your hand you feed your people,
food of angels, heavens bread.
For these gifts we did not labor,
by your grace have we been fed. /
In this meal we taste your sweetness,
bread for hunger, wine of peace.
Holy word and holy wisdom
satisfy our deepest needs. /
Send us now with faith and courage
to the hungry, lost, bereaved.
In our living and our dying,
we become what we receive.”
We become what we receive.
We become what we eat.
What do we live by? Daily bread, delicious Danish lunches, extravagant exotic dinners, lovingly prepared family meals, fast food, slow food, or tempting desserts?
What do we live by? Soft words of encouragement, care, compassion, commitment, honesty, trust, respect, and hope.
Instead of spending or wasting valuable time of our precious life to wonder about and try to proof the miracle of the 5000 people miraculously being fed, - we should simply listen to the words of the Gospel, acknowledge the miracle of life, the importance of sharing, the fact that we do indeed live by and become what we receive.
Food is important to us. Food is important to us as Danes descendant: we relish in our time at the tables: enjoy the lunches, dinners, coffees and snacks with all our senses. We enjoy the views of a beautiful decorated table and delicate displayed food; we enjoy the smell of delicious dishes and buttery baked goods, we enjoy the taste on our tongues and the feeling of satisfaction in our stomach; we enjoy the feeling of contentment, fullness and rest after the dinner still seated with family and friends, and we do enjoy the small talk, the laughter, the family talk and the catching up as the dinner is done.
Food is important to us. Food is so much more than food for the body. It is food and nourishment for the soul. It is food of angels, heavens bread; it is bread for hunger and wine of peace. It is so much more than what we can explain or display.
Sometimes people ask if you are attending church because of the food afterwards or because of the spiritual food embodied in Holy Communion? I truly believe that is a silly and disrespectful question. As it is both. There is a direct connection from the Communion Table to the Lunch Table. The sense of community, connectedness, humanity, forgiveness, is present as we knell shoulder by shoulder and the same sense is present as we sit side by side for lunch. It really cannot be separated, and it shouldn’t.
Two of the recent most meaningful and moving meals I have shared, was when Soren and I attended the Ecumenical meeting and dinner. We shared a fine meal with different denominations, with different religions and with different cultures, colors, customs and cuisines. We shared a meal with respect and dignity, - and when the Rabbi and the Hindu blessed the meal, I had to think how pleased our lord Jesus Christ would have been. To witness how a meal and a table can built bridges of understanding.
And the second meal was, when I was able to share some left-over food with a young homeless man, who had found shelter for the night on the church patio. When I discovered him in the early morning when I came to the office, he apologies and got ready to leave. I asked if he was hungry, and he was. I heated some of the left-over bagels in the freezer with him, - and he was grateful, and I was grateful that I could.
It reminds me of the parable of the Long Spoons:
One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”
God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell.”
Behind the second door, the room appeared the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
The man said, “I don’t understand.”
God smiled. It is simple, he said, love only requires one skill. These people learned early on to share and feed one another. While the greedy only think of themselves… but with a compassionate heart, you can feed the other with the long-handled spoon and be fed by another with a long-handled spoon.
This is a wonderful story, but it is also a wonderful reminder to us that we must share…. We the 5 % of the world, that have more than enough, are fed every day, have an abundance of food choices, shared many meals, - we tend to sit with our 12 feet chopsticks, break them so we can feed ourselves, instead of sharing with the 95% of the world populations where little children die every minute of hunger.
This is the first of five Sundays with Gospel readings from John with the first four of which focus on Jesus as bread of life. As Christians we should not wonder whether the miracle of the feeding occurred back then – it occurs each week: not only in churches, but in shelter, in food banks, in refugee camps, during hunger and famines. We share because we care.
The Communion we share on Sunday, is not a full meal to fill our starving stomachs. It is a full meaningful loving meal to fill our starving souls. To reminds us to share. To care. To be present. To be thankful. To be respectful. To give out of our abundance.
If our Holy Communion only satisfy my hungry soul, then we do not know what we have received. We are granted bread, forgiveness and presence, to go and share our bread, forgiveness and our presence.
“Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them”
So, we receive the loaves, and when we have given thanks, we will distribute, care and share. We will go and do likewise. Amen.
May you remember the words of Christ:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.
Don’t worry about tomorrow
today has enough worries for today.
Life is about more than food, your body, more than clothes.
Love your enemies.
Ask, seek, knock.
Do for others as you would have them do for you.
And whatever you do even for the least of these
you do for me.