Hymnus Deo

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Goodness of God Revealed in Food

Bread is the mystery of our existence. That is why Christ teaches us to pray for our daily ration. One cannot imagine a more practical request. Without nourishment in the mystery of our existence, we die.

My reference is visible bread, smellable bread, chewable bread, bread that will become waste. All true mystery is a down-to-earth business. Only as we begin to appreciate our given metaphors for what they are in themselves do we begin to appreciate their corresponding realities. Sometimes we emphasize a theology of spiritual bread to the extent that we de-emphasize a theology of physical bread. We counter the nature of the Incarnation when we do. The worst of the blunder is that we exalt a lopsided Christ. Sad to say, we who believe in the Incarnation can be as tempted by abstractions as anyone else. Unless we return again and again in faith to the tangible edges of everyday mystery, we disrespect the substance of things not seen. -- Gregory Post & Charles Turner, "The Feast: Reflections on the Bread of Life", pp. 3-4

A doctrine of bodily nourishment is rampant in Holy Scripture. The fact that the Lord feeds his people is demonstrated throughout both Testaments. The theme is easy to overlook because it seems so mundane. Having designed our bodies to require fuel, the Creator provides that necessity. His benevolence here is consistent with the pattern of grace in which the demands of his law are met by the provisions of his gospel. -- Post & Turner, "The Feast", pg. 4


Nothing says "home" more appealingly than the earthy frankincense of bread fresh from the oven. A peasant comes home from the field and the promise reaches out through the open door. A stockbroker returns in the evening to his high-rise condo and finds it transformed by the same miracle of basic domesticity. The second example is less likely than the first but, thanks be to God, still possible. Mennonites tell us that the surest way to sell a house is to have bread baking in the kitchen when prospective buyers arrive. The aroma of bread triggers a mood of shelter and sanctuary. Perhaps that is why it welcomes so warmly those who are away from home, be they dinner guests from across town or wayfarers from a distant land. -- Post & Turner, "The Feast", pg. 5


The goodness of God is not abstract when we sit down to eat.  It doesn't have to be Trout Margery at Galatoire's in New Orleans.  It can be a hamburger and fries at the local McDonald's.  It is visible and tangible.  It is tasty.

The Creator routinely meets us on a sensual level.  Food is provided for our pleasure as well as for our nourishment.  Pleasure, along with every gift that comes down from the Father of Lights, is holy - until indulged in outside his holy law, and then it becomes an end in itself and not an avenue for his glory.  There are warnings against gluttony, of course, just as there are warnings against that kindred selfishness called adultery.  But we trip into the ancient heresy of Gnosticism when we think of physical pleasure as having no spiritual substance.  It is precisely because of imbedded spirituality that rules and signals are necessary.  The Christian who thinks of all physical pleasure as "worldly" blunders as profoundly as the hedonist. -- Post & Turner, "The Feast", pp. 32-33