“God said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt.’ That’s why the place is called The Gilgal. It’s still called that. The People of Israel continued to camp at The Gilgal. They celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the plains of Jericho. Right away, the day after the Passover, they started eating the produce of that country, unraised bread and roasted grain. And then no more manna; the manna stopped. As soon as they started eating food grown in the land, there was no more manna for the People of Israel. That year they ate from the crops of Canaan.” – Joshua 5:9-12, “The Message”
After God led the people out from bondage in Egypt, through the sea and into freedom, basic needs had to be met. First was celebration; next was water, next was food.
At the end of the wilderness journey, the people crossed the Jordan into a new freedom. There was celebration, there was sustenance. Not manna, the miraculous fast food. It had served its purpose — but the new day of liberation called for a new kind of rootedness: slower food, grown in the land.
Check out Dan Barber, celebrated chef and author of The Third Plate, who is writing about more than food. His book is a culinary adventure, but it’s theological as well. He’s discovering in our time what liberation and rootedness look like when we pay deep attention to the food grown in the land that God has loaned to us. Core concepts of faith are related to eating well. They both begin with deep respect for the earth and sea in which our lives began and our foodstuffs grow. They begin with awestruck appreciation of the burgeoning microbial activity that eventually creates the loam that allows for seeds to sprout.
Eating “the produce of that country” is also diametrically opposed to industrialization of food production. What liberates us is not just a good meal: God offers us an earthy, incarnated way to discover a new level of intimacy with creation and Creator.
Liberating God, we praise you for leading us, over and again, into the richness and fullness of life. May we discover new intimacy with you, today, in a shared meal that reminds us of the wonder from which it, and we, came.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Francis: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.