This past Sunday, August 8, we read from Psalm 34, which includes the verse, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” This verse reminds me of mangoes–when I eat a fresh, juicy mango, I can taste the goodness of God.
I’m sure that sounds strange, but I have always suspected that we can’t really separate our physical lives from our spiritual lives. Scientific research has shown over and over that physical and mental health are inextricably linked, and we can see examples of this in the Bible as well.
For instance, on Sunday we read from 1 Kings, in which the prophet Elijah was so depressed that he tried to will himself to die. When the angel woke him up, he didn’t give Elijah a pep talk or try to reason with him. Instead, the angel made him eat some freshly baked bread (that probably tasted incredible), drink some water, and go back to sleep. When Elijah woke a second time, the angel made him eat again because “otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”
We can pull from this passage metaphorical instructions to stay close to God throughout our various life journeys, which is a valid interpretation. However, I think this passage also shows us a man at the tail end of his rope who finds strength and restoration when his physical needs are met.
Our Gospel reading on Sunday opened with Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life,” the source of our spiritual nourishment. Many of us are so familiar with that statement that we don’t question it; it seems like an obvious metaphor because we’ve always read it that way.
But for Elijah, the bread of life wasn’t a metaphor for something spiritual; the bread of life was bread.
In his book Everything is Spiritual, pastor Rob Bell writes,
There’s no word for spiritual in the Hebrew scriptures (also called the Old Testament). So basic, and yet so revolutionary. There’s no word for spiritual because to call something spiritual would be to imply that other things aren’t. In the Bible, everything is spiritual. All of life. It’s never just a job, you’re never just a mom or just a dad, it’s never just money, it’s never just your body. Nothing exists in isolation, it’s all connected.
Too often, we underestimate the interconnectedness of our bodies and spirits. To care for one is to care for the other; to starve one is to starve the other.
If we want to encounter more of God’s goodness, we don’t need an expensive retreat or trendy worship experience. We can taste and see his goodness as he meets our most basic need. The crunch of a fresh veggie, the juice of a mango, the warmth of fresh bread–these are gifts of God that can feed both body and spirit.