On my first day in Uganda on a mission trip, I was terrified of whatever the African equivalent of Montezuma’s Revenge is. So I ate nothing my hosts prepared for me.
On my second day, I ate a little rice.
On my third day, I had some chicken and millet bread.
On my fourth day, feeling both safer and ravenous, I ate everything served to me and, later, several tires off our van.
Every day after that, I enjoyed an incredible home-cooked meal, courtesy of my new Ugandan friends, which I ate in their company. We bonded over a few select topics: my inability to understand their language, my inability to get my translator to like me, and my inability to stop committing cultural faux pas, like attempting to bring my own dishes into the kitchen.
On the Magnetic Quality of Comestibles
Food is magnetic. It attracts and absorbs the energy of its surroundings. As it literally goes inside us when we eat it, food becomes a vessel, carrying with it the frequencies of our environment—loneliness and anxiety, or warmth, love, and community. Once inside, those energies are dispersed into our souls.
This magnetism is why there is a fundamental difference between eating fast food alone in your car and feasting on a home-cooked meal among family and friends. On a spiritual level, we are, to some degree, what we eat.
This also might be why the Eucharistic elements are food and drink. If you think about it, there’s no real reason why Communion should necessarily be an act of eating bread and drinking wine. That it is makes sense to us in the same way that the sky being blue makes sense to us: it’s what’s familiar. Our familiarity obscures Communion’s arbitrariness, though. Jesus could have just as easily chosen flying a kite, or digging a hole, or tearing paper in half for us to remember him by.
But he didn’t. He chose eating bread and drinking wine, because God created food to be magnetic and to sustain us in ways that go beyond the physical benefits. When we eat and drink together, the love of friendship, the joy of fellowship, the reality of shared life, and countless other things attach themselves to the food and nourish us as we ingest them.
Eating Love and Mercy at the Banquet to Come
There is a great invitation to a banquet at the end of the world—the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. It goes out to all the world as the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When we eat and drink with people who are from different cultures, we’re challenging our natural tendencies toward tribalism, xenophobia, prejudice, and ignorance. We bear testimony to the fact that the Eucharist is shared everywhere, not just within our own national borders, and that “every tribe, tongue and nation” will one day worship God, not just those from our own religious cliques or subcultures. And we testify to the magnetism of food, which not only nourishes us with the energy of our surroundings but is also imbued with the mercy and love of God that’s on display at that final, joyous spread.
My Ugandan friends may have known about the magnetism of food. I don’t know; I forgot to ask them (and by “forgot to ask” I mean “I thought about this years after I left”). They mostly just wanted me to find new tires for the van.
Drew Larson serves on the editorial and development team at InterVarsity.
Urbana 12 and ACT:S are challenging you to share an intentional meal with someone who lives differently than you, to learn what you have in common and what you can learn from each other. On Wednesdays in November and December, we’ll be posting stories from InterVarsity staff and alumni about intentional meals they’ve shared with others—and all the good that comes from it.