Having tweeted about the fact that we said a hearty thank you for our food at lunchtime, at the ecumenical Lent Study Lunch – and that the thank you was particularly heartfelt because we benefit from soup and bread made by one of our lay ministers, who happens to be a cordon bleu cook – I now have to confess that I was so late for the lunch that I missed it (both the thank you and the food itself).
As it happens I’d also missed breakfast, and only got back home after running from meeting to meeting all day at 7pm, so by that time I was pretty hungry. My ‘thank you’ to God for curry in the freezer and a microwave to heat it up was heartfelt, and made up for the fact that I was too late to meet the rest of the family at McDonalds….
But being hungry today, even for a short time, reminded me, as it always does (fasting is something I find helpful, so I do fast regularly) that in the Western world we don’t experience hunger very often. Mostly we eat because it is a meal time, rather than because we are hungry. We eat out of habit, or for comfort, or because we are bored, or because the people around us are eating and we feel we have to eat with them in order to be polite.
But eating simple food when you’re genuinely hungry or having a drink when you’re genuinely thirsty that is one of the greatest pleasures we can experience. I remember going for a long morning walk in the hills in the south of France and returning to the village where we were staying just as the sun was highest in the sky – the local people, in the middle of picking the peach harvest, saw how hot and sweaty we were, and threw fruits to us as we ambled past, and I think those peaches were quite possibly a foretaste of heaven.
The food for which we are most grateful is often not the most expensive, or the most elaborate, but rather the food that is given to us when we are most in need. During Lent we remember the story of the People of God in the wilderness, learning to trust God for their every need, through the provision of their daily ‘angel bread’, the manna from heaven. It is when we experience need that we are most likely to learn gratitude, but if we can remember what that feels like, perhaps every mealtime can be one that makes us want to say ‘thank you.’