Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blessing the Meal

 33 As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. 34 Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” 35 And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. 36 Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 (We were in all 276 [6] persons in the ship.) 38 And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea. (Acts 27:32-38 (ESV)
The presence of mind that Paul has here is the astonishing part. He knows that they are about to be shipwrecked. He knows the people will need sustenance in the cold water. So he bids them to eat. But not only that, he blesses the food first.
This is a bit peculiar because Luke uses words that remind one of the words of institution as Jesus used them and as Paul records elsewhere. He takes bread, blesses it, gives thanks and breaks it. Actually the word Eucharist means to give thanks. The word here used for gives thanks can be translated as both blessing and thanks and probably ought to be both. But that the words remind one of the Lord’s Supper it is by no means necessary that this is what Paul was doing especially since there is no wine here.
Now there is a note of 276 people being in the ship. We get a better idea perhaps of the size of the ship that we are talking about, and the amount of people Paul is addressing over the noise of a storm. This perhaps also sheds light on what is going on with the blessing, an allusion to the feeding of five thousand. The bread that they eat, as little as it is will be enough to sustain them. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, but just a little to get them through.

Still, even if this isn’t the Lord’s Supper per se, the people know that the food they are now eating has been blessed by a man of God, and is therefore sanctified by prayer and the word of God. This would be a common practice for Christians that lasts to this day. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5 (ESV) So we give thanks at meal times, and bless our meals together that those who eat with us may  also be blessed by God. In this way all of life, and even a microwave burrito takes on sacred character as it sustains us in the work God has given us to do here and now. 

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