Read: John 13:21-27
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.
Jesus’ final meal was an occasion for him to display his enduring love for his disciples, to impart his final hopes and desires for them, to pray that his Father would keep and sustain their life together. Think also of the extraordinary intimacy of Jesus’ final meal. The disciples are close to each other. Jesus stretches out his hand to share bread with the one who will betray him: food, fellowship, intimacy, betrayal.
Now think about our own food consumption. Do you buy a cup of coffee at the same place each morning? If so, do you know the name of the person who serves you? Even if we can answer yes to these questions, it is unlikely we know the name of the person who grew the beans that became our coffee.
The vast majority of Americans stand at the end of a long chain of food production. The people who grow and process our food are, for the most part, invisible to us.
We have little sense of the lives of those who provide our food, a limited understanding of the conditions under which it is produced, and are half aware, at best, of the real cost of our food in terms its impact on the environment, natural resources, and human health.
At the same time, today we have more opportunities to learn about the conditions and processes under which our foods are produced. The rise of communitysupported agriculture, farmer’s markets, and buying cooperatives can enable us to become more closely acquainted with those who produce food. It is not likely that we will develop the type of intimacy that characterized Jesus’ last meal, but we will begin to shorten the distance between us and those who grow and process our food.
Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that we may all share the fruits of the earth, rejoicing in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 824)
Stephen Fowl is a professor of theology at Loyola University in Maryland.