This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. (John 6:50)
Food is more than just food.
Food is politics.
I was reading just this morning of massive destructions of contraband food being shown on Russian television. Since their action in Ukraine, the governments of Europe and elsewhere have put sanctions against Russia. It has led to great shortages of foodstuffs in Russia, and so created a lucrative black market - and so to make a great show of the resilience and power of the Russian state, despite the hardships being ensured by the people, smuggled foodstuffs are being publicly destroyed. It is unpopular and impractical. 285,000 people in Russia have signed a petition in protest. But this is politics. Food is politics. And politics is more important than hunger.
Food is also big business.
Our supermarkets sell food of amazing variety, some of which has been flown in from all parts of the world. Television programmes showcase cooks and recipes. Books and magazines give recipes, advice and wonderful photos of culinary creations. Restaurants and take aways provide meals and snacks to suit every possible taste and level of hunger. There is even a huge business surrounding advice, support groups and products to enable people to eat less and lose weight - weight that they have put on from enjoying food in the first place.
And this is true even in the midst of a financial hardship.
Yet in our affluent society, we tend to lose sight of the most basic fact: that we eat to live, we need food for survival. Without food we will wither, weaken, and die. Food is our fuel and our energy. Well nourished human beings grow and flourish.
Our daily bread is a necessity for life.
Yet notice this - this necessity, this survival is never quite enough for us. We embellish it, decorate it, celebrate it. We could live, survive, on astronaut’s food, tablets, pills, vitamins, but we don’t unless it is a medical necessity. We could live, survive in solitary confinement. But we don’t - unless we are forced to. We want much more - we need more.
The way in which we treat food is itself a proof to us of what we are and what we are called to be. We do not live on bread alone, because we give meaning and purpose to the basic things we do. We do not simply reproduce, but we love. We do not simply communicate, but we converse. We do not simply learn in order to work, but we learn to grow. When we read, we don’t do so just to follow directions, but to think and reflect and to pray. We don’t just look at pictures, but we admire art. All the basic things we do, things we need to do to survive, point us beyond our survival to the celebration of beauty and joy and love. They point us to truth. They lead us to heaven. They point us to God, to Christ, the bread of life come down from heaven.
They instruct us that there is more than just physical survival: there is a bread which we can eat which leads to eternal life.