There is much in the media and in the conversations of the past years and decades which preoccupies us in our thoughts about early year provision, from ‘breast is best’ without making those unable to feed in this way feel lesser in their parenthood to the nurturing physical contact we give to infants which stimulates growth and aids development.
Early year provision is, thanks to the Princess of Wales and Mthr Rachael headline news and becoming a central issue of importance for us as a church and nation.
For those of us of a certain age – we will recall too quickly the debilitating influence lack of human contact, nourishment and interaction revealed in the infants of the Romanian Orphanages in the 1980’s and how in the 1990’s we heard of the physical gaps in children’s brains because they were abandoned, unnourished and untouched.
I suspect in the not too distant future we will understand the collapse of the mental and emotional wellbeing of so many having some origin in the lack of a healthy culture of nourishment, touch and appropriate care towards each other. Yet God is already there with an insight and a offering…
The bread which God’s ancient people had to forge so quickly was I suspect not the most nutritional. In the preparation for communion classes we have been running, the children and clergy have been making the bread of flour, oil, water and salt. It’s tasty, it’s a quick fix and something to sustain us for a moment or two. But as with the culture of fast food today – for us and for our forefathers, it does little more than just see us through to something more substantial or for our ancestors.. get them out of Egypt and away from their enslaved life.
In the beginnings of their liberation. In the food which was given to them which they made quickly or even that which came down from heaven while they trapsed around the wilderness, there was something in it which satisfied a hunger, but which also was limited – and this is reflected in our scripture readings.
But the food we celebrate this night was the early year provision for the early church – the church in it’s 0-5 year category which we have never and should never grow out of desiring. I still have the occasional desire to have a Farley’s rusk… or Weetabix with warm milk… but I also know that to the childhood attachment to food, comes complex relationships and understandings of nurturing which we are expected to grow out of. So the food of our infant years come to be nostalgic or even occasionally – a source of shame. As we put away childish things, and habits and become the mature people we are or hope to be.
But the food we talk about tonight doesn’t have the same shame or immature attachments – nor is it nostalgic. The food we come to worship, and adore, and consume is the food for the early years church and for us to receive as part of our nurtured culture of being of Christ.
This food unlike the Israelites food isn’t rushed. This food like the food given to God’s people in the wilderness doesn’t perish. This food is literally – the host with the most (good).
The bread which we will consume and the wine which we will share has it’s roots, its origin and its present identity grounded in the timeless and eternal intention of God. This wasn’t made quickly to satisfy our hunger in this present moment.
This food is the aged love and faithful commitment of God in Christ Jesus to you and to me. It is our early year provision. It is the food without shame, and the food which is full of hope.
The death and then the ascension of Jesus reminds us of the physical absence – the holy spirit reminds us of the comfort. The food – of the nurture of Christ in the sacrament of the Altar – the provision for the church in those days following his death.. where the church learns to stand on her own two feet and walk in the steps of Jesus and affirm it’s faith in the God who is Father Son and Holy Spirit.
For the Father rains down from heaven the gift of the spirit which enables the gifts which we receive at this Altar to be packed with the presence of the Son.
This communion which we receive this night affirms the reality of the truth of the Trinity and that as we are in communion and in relationship with God the Father through Son and Spirit. So through this gift which is frankly incredible – we are in relationship with that which falls within the time of this present moment in the world and all which falls outside of time – and so in this moment we are a timeless people, unhindered by the confines of the present moment or reality.
It would be wrong of us to look outside of this holy house and think that those who do not feed on this morsal of holiness are loosing out… but in our being nurtured and fed by Christ. In our receiving his blessing – in our life which pretty imperfect is still caught up with in the banquet of God’s life – we through this living bread become what we eat. Christ to the world – ourselves not being a quick fix for the worlds troubles.. but through Christ the timeless and eternal intention of God in and towards the world – we hear Theresa of Avila’s words so often and we never tire of them – because we eat this bread and wine, because we share in the body and blood of Christ – never a truer word is spoken… “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Holy gifts for holy people….