5 June 2013
As we read the gospels we often find Jesus eating with his disciples and friends. We have recurring pictures of him sitting down to eat with those on the edges of life and society.
Often he is criticised for 'breaking bread' with those whom the society of the day considered unworthy.
At the end of his earthly ministry we find him in the Upper Room with his followers, eating a meal with them - a meal that was to become integral to the lives of Christians everywhere as, meeting together, they shared bread and wine.
In the letter to the Corinthians, one of the earliest Christian communities, we find Paul lambasting those early followers for coming to the table and giving no thought to those of the fellowship who were hungry. He called it 'eating and drinking unworthily'.
What if we were to see that rebuke in the context of not simply a local church or congregation, but in reference to the global community?
As Christians our religious ceremonies and celebrations cannot be divorced from the practice and exercise of our faith.
‘Jesus teaches us to pray with our lives as well as our lips.'
Yet how easily we put our faith and life into little unconnected compartments, failing to see that, as we pass the bread to one another, there are so many in our world without any bread.
As we eat the bread in memory of our Lord, are we not challenged to do all that we can to ensure that the least and the poorest of his children have daily bread for their lives?
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the Lord's Prayer is only the first part of his response.
After the prayer Jesus tells the story of a man who failed to respond when asked to provide bread for a friend's friend, who had arrived unexpectedly. Sleeping in bed, the last thing he wanted to do was get up and provide bread for someone he didn't even know.
But as the story goes, he eventually does get up in response - not to the persistence of the friend, as it is sometimes translated, but to the shameless asking; asking in order to gain what another needs.
Of course we pray to God for our own needs and wants, but for the Christian that is not enough. We are called upon to plead shamelessly on behalf of the needs of others.
And because our beliefs and actions are shaped and expressed by the way we pray, shameless petitioning on behalf of others' needs must necessarily lead to shameless action in seeing that their needs are met.
Jesus teaches us to pray with our lives as well as our lips.
So when next we gather together to break bread, remember that while children still die of hunger and the poorest families are unable to feed themselves, then we, too, eat and drink unworthily.
Right Reverend Lorna Hood, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2013-2014.
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