How important is food and liquid to our bodies? Pretty important, right? We can’t live without both. Food provides our body with energy, and liquid is important to pretty much every function our body carries out. Without a constant supply of these important nutrients, our bodies are unable to function well, and if we go without access for too long, they cease to function all together. Nutrients are crucial for the nourishment of our physical bodies.
We learned the importance of nourishing our bodies long before we understood the biology and chemistry behind nourishment. Most of us probably still don’t know much about the science, but that doesn’t matter, right? We know that we need to eat and drink to live, and we don’t forget to teach this important part of life to our children and grandchildren. Getting kids to eat food—especially healthy, nourishing food—is a daily struggle for many parents and grandparents, but we constantly engage with the struggle because we know it’s best for our children.
Now, we all know about physical nourishment, but what about spiritual nourishment? Humans aren’t just physical beings; we are also spiritual. The mystery of humans is that we are a hybrid species of the physical and spiritual. We are made of matter, but God breathed into us the breath of life that opens us up to the spiritual world beyond what we see and feel in the physical world. This part of life is puzzling to say the least. The spiritual part of us longs to be more than just another creature on earth. We long to create, to discover, to know and be known. Our spiritual lives converge with our physical bodies to make up our whole person.
Why all this talk about our spiritual life? Because we often forget about it. We forget that we need to consider our spiritual health as well as our physical health. Many people can appear physically fit while remaining spiritually ill. How do we care for the spiritual part of our bodies? There are several aspects of this, most of which we will discuss in subsequent articles. However, there is one part of spiritual health that I do wish to discuss briefly. Nourishment.
Just as nourishment is the foundation of physical health, nourishment is the foundation of spiritual health. What, you might ask, can we consume that will nourish our spiritual lives? We need not look further than John 6. In this chapter, Jesus encounters a crowd who continues to follow him because, according to Jesus, he has fed them. In the course of discussion, Jesus encourages the crowd to work for food that endures to eternal life. Through a series of questions, Jesus makes clear that he is telling this crowd that they must come to believe that he is the Son of Man sent by God if they wish to join in the work of God’s eternal kingdom. Within this discourse, Jesus makes one very important point. Namely, that he is the bread of life, and that,
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. -John 6:54-58
What do we learn here about spiritual nourishment? That when we receive communion, we are doing more than just remembering Christ’s death, instead we are also consuming the bread of life that is the very nourishment for our souls. Spiritual nourishment begins with communion. Many Christian traditions have lost this crucial theological insight. When we come around the Lord’s table, we are doing more than remembering. We are providing our spiritual beings with nourishment. This mystery of communion is puzzling, there is no doubt about that. Yet, it is comforting too. Jesus is at work in us in ways we cannot even begin to understand. Sustaining us and always reminding us that he alone is the source of life.