Not on French fries alone

May 20, 2015 by

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When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight. — Jeremiah 15:16

I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. — Job 23:12

Jesus answered, “People do not live on bread on alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” — Matthew 4:4

Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. — Hebrews 5:14

It’s become a matter of course to compare God’s Word/words to food. The metaphor suggests something of our understanding of the vital role of God’s Word our lives — it nourishes, strengthens, sustains and, for optimal health, requires regular partaking.

We often say we go to church on Sundays to “get fed” (suggesting the pastor as highly-trained gourmet chef or, perhaps more frequently, as greasy-haired burger-flipper). This once a week (or month) spiritual binge meal is generally supplemented by spiritual “snacks” in the form of Christian radio soundbites, five minute daily devotional books, and the occasional Facebook rant.

Now a personal confession — over the past month, I’ve eaten the majority of my actual meals in restaurants or airports or drive-through lanes. Studies suggest I’m not alone: 20 percent of American meals are eaten in the car. Adults eat meals or snacks purchased at restaurants, on average, 5.8 times in a week, and 30 percent of children eat fast food on any given day.

We all know this is a problem. Food prepared outside the home typically has more salt, more sugar, more calories and fewer true nutrients than food we prepare ourselves. It’s linked to obesity, diabetes and other health problems. In addition, where meals — preparation and consumption — were once an essential act of community and intimacy, they now function more like a quick, full-service fuel stop for frantic, lonely people.

With all of these obvious downsides, why do we go on this way? Because we are all so blastedly busy that we can barely conjure the energy to reach for the paper bag passed through the car window, let alone to figure out what to do with a raw piece of fish or to spend 60 precious minutes raising, kneading and baking a loaf of bread.

It occurred to me recently (while munching on my third order of French fries in as many days) that if God’s Word is daily bread, most of us are fast food consumers. We rarely touch God and God’s words in “uncooked” and “unprocessed” forms. We don’t have the energy to learn the skills of fitting the varied pieces together for ourselves. We don’t have the time to let things marinate or slow-cook to bring out the flavor. We prefer our spiritual content prepared as cheaply as possible by a food “professional.” We like it distilled into small, neat packages that can be consumed as we fly down the highway with one hand still on the wheel — or iPhone. We rarely ask where it comes from or what’s really in it that makes it possible to produce it in mass so fast and at so little cost.

Do we really think we can continue to eat this way day after day, year after year, without major repercussions to our spiritual health?

There seems to be an element of the Christian culture that is increasingly invested in preparing and promoting spiritual takeout — “Here’s God’s Word made easy —we did the hard work for you. Subscribe to acquire wisdom in 140-characters or less (#Solomonfordummies). Buy this book, listen to this preacher/pundit, to know the will of God. Follow these 10 tested-and-approved steps to pray like David, believe like Abraham, evangelize like Paul.”

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not opposed to a great book, a helpful blog, or a well-formatted video. But the trouble is, the mass-produced spiritual food we take in generally packs in a lot of extra “cheap calories” that dazzle our tongues while doing little to truly nourish our souls. The problem is inherent in the very nature of the format — nutrients are lost in the processing. Like it or not, there is no nutritional substitute for holding the raw Words in our own hands, carefully peeling back the rind, digging for “meat” at the center. The gift of God, much like a vegetable, is generally purest and most potent when consumed in the form that is closest to how it came out of the ground.

We don’t all have to be five-star chefs. But if we are ever going to be a healthy church, I am convinced we are going to have to wean ourselves from our addiction to highly-processed spiritual food. And we’re going to have to learn “eat local” again, as individuals and communities. We’re going to have to go back to the kitchen, to take God’s words back into our own hands and encounter them in a raw and unfiltered way — to play with them, to learn to recognize their texture and flavor and how they interact with each other to form a pleasing whole.

French fries, delicious as they taste, make a very poor communion. If we are going to really mature as followers of Christ, we must (re)learn how to bake the bread that we break together. The long-term health of the Body depends on it.

Meghan Larissa Good is pastor of Albany (Ore.) Mennonite Church. She writes at where this first appeared.

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