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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Meditation on This Week's (and Next Week's) Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, August 16, 2009:

First Reading: Proverbs 9:1-6

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Psalm: Psalm 34:9-14

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 111

Second Reading: Ephesians 5:15-20

Gospel: John 6:51-58

The readings for Sunday, August 23, 2009:

First Reading: Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

Psalm: Psalm 34:15-22

Second Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

Gospel: John 6:56-69

Since I am unsure of my computer access next week, I decided to combine my efforts into one mediation. Maybe I'm wimping out--maybe I'm running out of things to say about bread. There is a certain repetitiveness to these Gospels. It's rare that we're given a chance to fully explore one of the central images of our Christian faith: where would we be if we didn't have bread?

I work above the Culinary department at my school, and sometimes, I walk through the dining room and kitchens, just because it brings me joy to see people cook. I love to see the Baking and Pastry students at work. The sight of loaves of bread cooling on racks brings me great happiness. When I told the head chef of that department that I love to see the bread cooling, he said, "You should come by later. I'll give you a loaf to take home."

Who can resist that? So I did. I watched the student wrap up my bread in plastic wrap and resisted the urge to say, "Don't bother. I'm going to eat it on the way home." I kept it wrapped to share with my husband.

The chef gave me instructions to freeze it after the first day. He said, "It's just made today, so it won't stay fresh as long as supermarket bread." He needn't have bothered. We ate most of the loaf that night.

As I walked to my car, with a loaf of bread that was bigger than a baby in my arms, I felt so cared for. I thought, I'll always have weight issues if I see food as love.

But food is love, in many ways. There's a reason why Jesus uses food imagery when he refers to himself. We can't go long without food. For most of us, if we miss a meal we become grumpy and irritable. Miss several meals, and we can scarcely think about anything else but food.

It's a shame that most of us don't have a similar approach to our spiritual lives. Imagine if we felt spiritually ravenous if we missed our daily prayer. Imagine if we were filled with longing and joy as we passed the churches and houses of worship on our way to work.

Again and again Jesus reminds us of the necessity of nourishing ourselves with him. Our ancestors ate manna, and they died. We can feast on the food that will bring us eternal life.

God calls us to do serious work. We must live as if the Kingdom of God has already taken over our world. To keep ourselves strong for that work we need to keep ourselves fed with good food: homemade bread and good wine, grilled fish, the words of the Bible, the words of writers who inspire us to transform both ourselves and the world, the images of people who inspire us to visions of a better world, music that can wind its way through our days, prayers that keep us connected to God, relationships that remind us that we are loved and cherished and worthy, and the sacrament of Holy Communion.

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