It’s a new week and I have a tired soul. The body isn’t holding up too great either. “Now do it again, with feeling!” says the conductor or teacher. How often I wake up on a Monday morning in ministry and find myself wondering what happened to the weekend. I’m about to do “it” again with another week of ministry, but the “feeling” is just above empty on my physical and spiritual gas gauges. Clergy hardly have any Sabbath rest. Our offices are often called a “Study,” but with the tyranny of the urgent that we face every day, there is precious little time to actually study. I know what my schedule pretty much looks like for the rest of the week and I am already looking forward to the weekend. Sad, and I wonder how many other clergy and people in general feel the same way. What are we working for? Who are we working for? What is the meaning of life and where does it come from?
Some answers to those questions are found in the word “relationships.” My prayer focus this morning is a derivative: Companionship. “Com” is Latin for “with,” and “Panis” means “bread.” Breaking bread with one another has been and continues to be a sign of fellowship and hospitality. Jesus fed the 5,000, broke bread with his disciples on multiple occasions before and after his death, and with the fellows on the Road to Emmaus after the resurrection. Breaking bread with family, neighbors, and the poor is a sign of community, shared purpose, and common meaning. When Christians celebrate Holy Communion they give thanks to the one who redeems and makes us one: “Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body.”
So I face another Monday morning to offer and receive companionship. It is not just another day in a long litany of days. This day is an opportunity to break bread with someone, many someones – to sit at table and enter their story. Isn’t that a calling to embrace and not dread: to hear and be heard, to commune with a fellow straggler on the journey and meet Jesus who always walks along and breaks bread with us?
As a United Methodist District Superintendent this is that time of year when I spend time at each church or charge and hold annual meetings. In my seventh year people’s names are known quite well by now and we share personal history. We have become companions, sometimes literally. I was at one church the other day and they gave me some bar-b-que and hash to take home. We ate it for two nights and it was delicious! We also just had our seventh District Clergy Retreat on top of Mt. Mitchell and shared bread and hearts as we ate together, discussed together, and shared prayer for one another. Gosh, when I go back and think of all the times of companionship in recent days I am inundated with companionship and its positive influence on my life. It has occurred in church, with seat mates at football games, and in my office as I have listened to the hearts of dear lay and clergy.
Therefore, I embrace the ways that Jesus will come and break bread with me this day through others, and pray that I will be spiritually prepared to welcome the opportunity. Someone once told me the story of a person who was invited to visit heaven and hell. In heaven he saw people holding 4 foot long chopsticks and before them was spread a banquet table loaded with delectable treats. In hell he saw the same thing: people holding 4 foot long chopsticks sitting at a sumptuous banquet table. The only difference was that the people in heaven looked well fed and happy, joyfully conversing with one another. The people in hell were bitterly quiet, emaciated and starving even though there was ample food laid before them. The person asked St. Peter what was the difference. St. Peter said the people in heaven used the 4 foot long chopsticks to feed each other, while the people in hell were impossibly trying to feed themselves.
Companionship is less obsessed with feeding one’s own appetite for attention or self-interest, and more engaged in communing with the Jesus in those with whom we break bread today. Feed yourself and starve. Feed another and be well-fed. God bless your week with encounters with Christ. This is how God made us to enjoy life and find both help and meaning. Feed yourself and go hungry. Feed another, and thrive!