The Bible says quite a bit about food.
We know of the assurance that God will provide all that we need for survival. St. Paul speaks of this in Philippians 4:19, that God will “supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
We know in the Psalms of God’s concern over all of creation – to give “food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” (Psalm 104:27-28)
Christ speaks of the birds of the air, who neither sow nor reap, and yet our heavenly Father feeds them. (Matthew 6:25-26)
I believe that it is our task – as people of faith especially – to fulfill God’s divine directive to meet human need. It’s from our cooperation with him that this occurs.
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The Scriptures use the language of food and grain, especially wheat, to speak about real, physical survival. It strikes me, though, that Christ also speaks of grain as a metaphor for faith, for the spiritual life – in his Parable of the Sower.
In Mark’s Gospel (4:3-20), Christ speaks of a sower whose grain was scattered and fell where it may. We know that not all of the grain is going to survive, not all is going to grow and mature and bear fruit.
Some of the grain will be trodden under foot, some devoured by birds. Some will simply not grow because it doesn’t fall on good soil – it falls on the rock and withers away, for want of moisture. Or it falls among weeds, where thorns grow with it and choke it.
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We understand the meaning of this parable. We understand: This is a lesson about faith. About hearing the word of God, about hearing the Gospel command.
Sometimes faith begins to grow but, because of our weakness, it isn’t nurtured and it withers away.
But there’s a theological point, I think, that should be made. At least from our tradition, there’s an understanding that God gives us all that we need to be that good soil. We are given all that we need for faith to grow and mature and blossom forth to produce fruit.
God gives us all unique lives and experiences, and the opportunity to make choices about faith and following God. We are all given the right people and the right experiences and the right opportunities for faith to grow.
God does not just give us what we need to get by – what he grants enables us to thrive.
But, we have to make that decision to choose to be the good soil. We have to cooperate with God, just as, I believe, we work in cooperation with God to meet human need in our community.
According to Orthodox Christian teaching, this process is known as synergia. Cooperation with God. God operates in our life when we cooperate with Him.
And the fruit that it bears is beyond what we could ever imagine – participation in God’s divine life, to become “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 2.14)
That’s truly something incredible.
Christ our true God, gives us all that we need for physical and spiritual survival. He has made us recipients of the truth of God’s word. He has granted us the seed of faith, and grafted us into His holy vineyard, the Church.
Pray that we might cooperate with Him to cultivate that seed, so that it will grow and become a luxurious vine bearing much fruit.