Theological reflection on the Christmas Bowl appeal
Coffs Harbour Council of Churches supporting the Christmas Bowl appeal on the 28th of November 2014. Photo credit: Karen McGrath, Act for Peace
Thoughts on sharing of food
Food is a gift from God. Farmers know that they do not create their crops. The harvest depends on the soil, the rain, the sun. In the Book of Genesis we read: “Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (2:9). The gift is for all humankind, not for some. The beautiful Psalm 104 says: “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart...” (vv.14-15). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that each person needs more than food, but that food, drink and clothing are essential (Matthew 6: 25, 31-32).
The sharing of food is more than nourishment for the body: it builds relationships. In the Old Testament (OT) covenant relationships were sealed by sharing a meal together. To refuse to share was a serious failing.
The dependence of societies on production of food is clear in the OT. When famine strikes, food must be sought above everything, as in the story of Jacob and his sons travelling to Egypt in search of grain (Genesis 42: 1-2). When Moses led the Israel ites into the desert, water from the rock, manna from heaven and quails from the sky ensured the survival of a whole people.
God provides, but we must use this provision wisely, not wasting, not over-indulging, but sharing what we have with others. St Paul taught that to humiliate those with nothing shows contempt for the Church and for God’s provision (I Corinthians 11:22). Those in need, whether because of climate change and tyrannical rule, as in Zimbabwe, or because of natural disaster, as in Vanuatu, are to be treated with respect as part of God’s human family.
A key concept in the New Te s t ament is koinonia (fel lowship, shar ing). The word applies to sharing one’s time, sharing thoughts, having fellowship and sharing one’s goods. According to St Paul this sharing has its source in God who shares his life with us in the gift of Christ. In turn, through faith and baptism, we participate in the new life that Christ gives by sharing in the one Body of Christ. Our very identity as Christians is a shared identity: one Body in Christ. This sharing of the divine life is presented starkly in John’s Gospel where Jesus describes himself as “the bread which comes down from heaven” (6: 31-35, 48-59). Christ gives life to the world; he shares his very self with us. We in turn share our very selves with others. Another translation of the word koinonia is “communion”, which immediately suggests the sacramental sharing of the body and blood of Christ. In I Corinthians Paul asks “The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?” (10:16).
This points to a vital link between faith, sharing and mission (being sent to others). Christians are called to share with each other, and equally to share more widely with other neighbours. The Christmas Bowl itself is a potent sign of this theological truth: God gives abundantly, and we receive: we then share these gifts with others, gifts both material and spiritual. In a world divided along racial, cultural and ideological lines, Christians insist on a common humanity, all of us dependent on God, on each other and on the eco-system that God< created for all creatures.
D’Arcy Wood Former President, Uniting Church, Retired Uniting Church minister living in Victoria