Food to Free
At a time when David was in exile, fleeing from an angry King Saul, he and his men sought refuge in a temple of the Lord. The only bread available was holy bread reserved for “young men [that] have kept themselves from women.” David insisted that he be given the bread in part because their need was greater than the meaning of its holiness.
Similarly, Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees when he and his disciples plucked and ate grain on the Sabbath. Jesus called upon David’s story to show how human need for sustenance is sometimes greater than its ritual meaning. In short, the Sabbath was created to serve humanity, not for humanity to serve the Sabbath.
Too often have humans been enslaved by food, rather than food serving humanity. Currently, millions in the middle east are being starved as sieges seek to gain the upper hand in an ongoing war. Humanitarian efforts have failed to provide enough food for citizens, many of whom are civilians and children. It is a terrible reminder that people have the capacity to use food to gain power and control, but the innocents who suffer are left powerless and starving. Feeding the hungry is a primary goal of all major religions, and yet people are often powerless to make that happen.
The Lord’s Supper is much more than a meal or a ritual. It is a profound invitation to radically change the way humans approach food, power, class, and war. When we share the meal in our congregations, we are claiming Jesus’ mission to feed the hungry, to lift up the lowly, to bring down the powerful, and to work toward peace throughout the world.
Narrative Lectionary Text: 1 Samuel 21:1-9
David came to Nob to the priest Ahimelech. Ahimelech came trembling to meet David, and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?”David said to the priest Ahimelech, “The king has charged me with a matter, and said to me, ‘No one must know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” The priest answered David, “I have no ordinary bread at hand, only holy bread—provided that the young men have kept themselves from women.” David answered the priest, “Indeed women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. Now a certain man of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the Lord; his name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s shepherds. David said to Ahimelech, “Is there no spear or sword here with you? I did not bring my sword or my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste.” The priest said, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the valley of Elah, is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod; if you will take that, take it, for there is none here except that one.” David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests.Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”