Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Some rough thoughts on the theology of food

Partly inspired by a sermon and partly by Dan Hames' 'theology of everything', I've come up with a few points on a theology of food and of eating. I'd be really interested if others can think of points I've missed:

1. Food points to God’s gracious provision. In Eden, Adam and Eve and the living creatures had an abundance of food to choose from. The earth was ‘filled’ with vegetation – there was food everywhere! (see Genesis 1:29-30). Psalm 104:27 says, ‘These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.’ The psalmist understands that creation has been designed so that food can be produced and enjoyed by its creatures. In the wilderness, God sustained his people with manna. Jesus’ first recorded miracle showed the extravagance of God’s generosity in turning water into wine (John 2). In his speech to the pagans in Lystra, Paul demonstrates God’s goodness and our dependence on him through the common grace of food: ‘he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy’ (Acts 14:17). Paul teaches Timothy that meals give us a good opportunity to celebrate God’s goodness and thank him for his generosity (1 Timothy 4:4).

2. Food indicates human dominion over the rest of creation. Adam was given the created world to rule, and the created world to eat. After the Flood, this was extended to include animals (Genesis 9:1-3). Through being given it to eat, we have a metaphor of human stewardship over the rest of creation.

3. Food gives us a powerful metaphor and vocabulary for understanding spiritual realities. The metaphor of food is used to describe Israel’s relationship with God (Deuteronomy 8:3). Elsewhere food is also descriptive of the word of God (see Jeremiah 15:16 and Psalm 119:103). Jesus uses a metaphor of eating food to describe what it means to trust in his atoning sacrifice (John 6:26-35, 53-58). To return to God is to sit down with him at a wedding feast of the most wonderful food (Matthew 8:11, Isaiah 55:1-3, Revelation 3:20, 19:9 etc. c.f. Luke 7:34-50).

4. Food creates particular opportunities to be reminded of God’s actions. In the Law, the nation of Israel was commanded to celebrate six feasts during the course of the year, including the feast of Passover. God rooted the memory of his greatest deeds in food. Israel was taught that one of the best ways to celebrate and remember God’s goodness, both in history and in his sustenance, was to sit down and enjoy a good meal. Before he died, Jesus tapped into the festive tradition of Israel and gave them a new meal to celebrate and remember his death. For the past two thousand years, Jesus’ disciples have been remembering him with food (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

I'm off to eat a sandwich now. And as I do so, I can give thanks to God for his gracious provision and illustration of my dependence on him. I can thank God that I'm in Christ and not in Adam, as part of the redeemed humanity. And I can reflect on what it means to feed on Christ and on his sacrifice, knowing that in him I'll be with him forever at his wedding feast.

No comments: