What we eat is important. My home office has a window that looks out on a swath of Iowa Corn. I often think about a study done in the early 2000’s about corn. The study found that most of the carbon in our bodies originated in a corn field.
The meat we eat was likely cornfed. Corn syrup finds its way into much of our food be it sweet or otherwise. Even corn starch and corn flour can sneak into food you wouldn’t expect. Because of this, our molecules are mostly made up of corn. We are what we eat after all.
Eating in general is important. No really! I don’t need a study to know that. I do on occasion need some help, though. My marriage to Sara and relationships with others all have benefitted from knowing one word: hanger. Hanger is a mix of “hunger” and “anger.” Sometimes when people are in a bad mood, food can be the solution. I have seen it work wonders of fatigued vestries and spouses alike!
So, if hanger is real in our relationships with each other, perhaps it might also come into play with our relationship to God.
The bible has a few hanger stories. The best one for us to remember is the Israelites in the desert.
Moses had led them out of the bondage of Egypt. Their prayers had been answered and their chains had been broken. And there was much rejoicing.
But then, the hanger came into play.
The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.”
That variety of melodrama has hanger written all over it.
But even though we are not so worthy as to gather the crumbs from under God’s table, God’s property is always to have mercy.
God gives the hangry Israelites manna.
If I might pause just briefly, it’s important to point out that there are times when sadness, lament, and complaining are perfectly fine prayers. Job and Jonah come to mind. Jesus himself has reason for lament throughout the Gospels. But grumbling cannot be it.
If we find ourselves grumbling, we likely haven’t arrived where we are meant to be. Sometimes we are brought through hungry places but we are never meant to stay there.
Perpetual grumbling is a sign of spiritual sickness.
C.S. Lewis writes In the Great Divorce:
“Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God “sending us” to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud. ”
We are what we eat.
The folks in Jesus’ hangry crowd remember the manna. They want to believe in Jesus so they want him to work a wonder like that!
But Jesus remembers the hangry from Exodus. And he tells them about a better bread.
Jesus is the bread of life.
Episcopalians consider the bread of communion the “body of Christ, the bread of heaven.”
If we are what we eat, what are we becoming when we have that bread 52 times a year or more?
If the molecules of our bodies are gradually replaced by those of all we eat, the old prayer supplicating that “he might dwell in us, and we in him” takes on a fresh meaning. There are serious consequences in coming to this rail. That’s why I insist that only baptized people partake in communion. It’s not because I want to withhold something special it’s because I want people to know what they are getting themselves into.
The act of taking communion, means walking ever closer to the Father. It means growing and it may mean that we are brought through hangry places. In fact, the likelihood increases that we will come in contact with the chaos, sickness, and trouble of the world. Where did Jesus go but to the very heart of human suffering.
If we are brought to such places it becomes even more important we remember where we get our journey food. And as we take that daily bread we will get stronger. Stronger in ways we can’t imagine. The promise of the bread of heaven is that if we eat of it there will come a time when we grow too great to grumble. It is a promise that we will grow so much we might not even look like ourselves anymore but like the one in whose name we pray.
That is Jesus Christ. That is the bread of Life. That is Resurrection.