In a sermon a few weeks ago, the priest was talking about soul food, the kind of food that not only feeds your body but makes you feel good inside at the same time.  He drew a parallel to communion, not surprisingly, and in the process of doing so said something along the lines of, “Jesus created a way to nourish our spirits”.  Not long ago, I would have taken this at face value and moved along.

However.

On Sunday morning, the priest says a blessing over bread and wine.  He washes his hands, and says a prayer over that, too.  He blesses the congregation, and we all share food together at God’s table.

For the last three Friday nights, we have said a blessing over bread and wine.  We wash our hands and say a prayer after we do so.  We bless each other, and then we share food together.  I’d venture to say we share food together at God’s table on Friday nights, too.

I don’t think most Christians are aware of how closely Sunday morning Eucharistic prayers mirror what happens in Jewish homes every Friday night.  I also don’t think that the echo somehow invalidates or cheapens either ritual.

I’ve heard several sermons over the years which have addressed the importance of sharing food in ancient/Middle Eastern cultures.  The basic concept is that sharing a meal creates a special connection, establishing a relationship amongst the people gathered at the table.  This is why the Israeli and Palestinian representatives have refused to sit down to dinner with each other, even after signing treaties.  There is an obligation to treat someone with whom you have shared food with a level of respect that perhaps is inconvenient for opposing politicians.  This idea of being united by sharing food is one which I’ve heard many times before, but I wonder if I’ve missed the point in the past.

I don’t think Jesus, the Jewish man, was thinking literally when He told His disciples to think of Him when they broke bread together in the future.  He said, I am the Bread of Life.  Christ was broken for all of us, for the whole world.  I think what Jesus was getting at was that we should recognize that through Him, we have all broken bread together, whether we have shared a table or not.  I think what He wanted us to remember was that His ministry was for everyone, no matter what they believed, and that the obligation we feel to each other should not be limited by whether we have literally broken bread together.

For me, both Friday night challah and Sunday morning communion wafers are a reminder of my ties to my family and to my community.  I think I need to also remember that everyone is invited to God’s table, even though they may not be able to literally fit in my dining room.

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