A little boy raids the pantry, shoving all manner of snacks into his backpack. His mother finds him and asks, “What are you doing, sweetie?” “I’m going to meet God,” the little boy responds. “Alright,” she says, and he ventures out into the street.
Contemporary poet W.S. Merwin wrote,
“Each face in the street is a slice of bread
somewhere in the light the true hunger
appears to be passing them by
This is from his poem, Bread, written for Wendell Berry, also a poet and prolific author.
Each face in the street is a slice of bread. Not unlike us each claiming to be a member of the body of Christ, when we partake of Christ’s body, as we will do shortly, the bread - we could each of us say we are a slice of the bread that is the body of Christ. Each of our faces is a slice of bread.
Now, if we are all part of Christ’s body, how is it that Christ picks out particular groups? Which groups am I speaking of? Those Christ talks about in Matthew 25, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the imprisoned, and so on. All leading up to Matthew 25:40: The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:40 is perhaps my favorite verse in the entirety of the Bible. There are a few that are on par with it. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Jesus, the Christ, God incarnate, equates himself with being the least of these. God is not solely some great transcendent force, but is also as low on the totem pole as it is possible to be. God identifies with the ones pushed aside, hurt for gain, rejected for fear, denied for distress. God IS the least of these. The greatest is the least.
Why did God do this? Just prior in so many parables Christ tells his followers to remain vigilant - awake. To not get so easy, so in a rut, they they forget the purpose God has for them. Merwin would say, to continue with his poem,
“have they forgotten the pale caves
they dreamed of hiding in
their own caves
full of the waiting of their footprints
hung with the hollow marks of their groping
full of their sleep and their hiding
have they forgotten the ragged tunnels
they dreamed of following in out of the light
to hear step after step
the heart of bread
to be sustained by its dark breath
How do we keep from remaining sleeping in our caves, how can we stay vigilant? It is so easy as a spiritual person to idolize the cave, to worship the interior that we so often say is “us”, our soul. We begin to understand our souls as isolated things, made so by protection and the comfort of segregation. But what is God’s purpose for us? Not isolation and protection, no, but rather connection and relationship. And somehow, in seeking these out, we may find that we can be fully ourselves, alone, but not lonely - and soon to be together. Merwin’s poem concludes:
to find themselves alone
before a wheat field
raising its radiance to the moon.”
The “us”, our soul, the bread that is the end product, meets that which truly makes it up, and that which makes it possible - the wheat field. Alone coming out of the cave, knowing truly who we are in meeting the other(s). And all the others being that which makes knowing ourselves possible, which makes us, creates us, know God. And still Christ pointed out those particular groups. Not the whole of the field before us, but the edges of the fields beyond! And here is the why:
Look not just at the field immediately before you to know yourself in relationship to it, but get the full scope of the fields by venturing to the edges. To know God, see where the ends of the wheat lie. Go to the boundaries, the borders, the outlying parts of the fields, to know the whole of what makes the bread which we break. Then you will truly know God.
Perhaps you are wondering what happened to the little boy who was raiding the snack closet? He took his Twinkies and HoHos and brought them to a park bench where a homeless woman was sitting. He shared his treats with her while they sat and talked and laughed - and he met God. We too can venture out of our personal caves to where the wheat fields dare us to trod: to know bread by the breadth, the whole range, the full extent of the wheat fields. We, too, can raise our radiances to the moon.
Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash