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The Soul is in the Stomach

Written by Brandon Lazarus
The Soul is in the Stomach

From Rethink Bishop:

I’ve heard that early Christians believed the soul was in the stomach. I’m told they believed many of your feelings came from your stomach, or guts. This goes along with the saying “I’ve got a gut feeling about this.” After living in community for a little over three years now and sharing countless meals with people from all walks of life, I have begun to see much warrant to that claim. Now I don’t literally think the soul lives in the stomach but there are many inferences that can be made from this assumption.

Jesus says that one cannot live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. This by no means discounts the fact that we do need bread to survive, just not only bread. Jesus is seen time and time again sharing meals, breaking bread, and providing for the bodily as well as spiritual needs. If our soul is in our stomach then perhaps food is an opportunity to feed both the body and the spirit. Meals, then should be an opportunity to share bread and the words that come from the mouth of God.

When I think of the soul lying in the stomach I also think of the saying “the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” This phrase could be reworded to say, “the quickest way to one’s soul is through their stomach.” Again, Jesus is seen throughout the gospel sharing meals with people from all walks of life. Jesus’ final act with his disciples was, in fact, sharing a meal of bread and wine, body and blood, which is now practiced in every church around the world. Not only was Jesus’ final act with his disciples breaking bread, but also the first result of the Spirit was breaking bread. When we think to the story of Pentecost tongues of fire and hearing in each one’s native language may come to mind but if we read on we see that the results of their faith was to break bread with one another and share what they had.

The breaking of bread is a powerfully underestimated act. While living at the Bonhoeffer House I learned that our dinner table was the single most important tool for ministry that we possessed. One night a week we would invite our neighbors to an evening meal. In the beginning there may have only been 5 or 6 people but by the time I left there were sometimes as many as 30 joining around a common meal. The number, as many know, was not the most important part but rather whom those numbers represented. Around the table were our friends who lived on the street, or in a nice house down the street, students or professors, non-profit workers or non-profit clients, overworked or underworked, Christian or Buddhist. The table represented the diversity of our friends, family, and neighbors. Although many of these people seemed to have nothing in common, they all had one thing in common, a meal. During the meal discussion would flow between a wide array of topics and people learned about similarities they never would have expected. Many would come into the house only knowing one or two people but they left with a whole host of brothers and sisters.

John Wesley often stressed that we should share communion as often as we can yet many churches have interpreted that to mean once a month or in a small separate service each week because otherwise the service would simply be too long. How, in a time of fast food and TV dinners, can we slow down the process of a meal and not look at it as time wasted? How can we invite others to our dinner table that we might not otherwise think to invite? How can we feed peoples’ souls while feeding their stomachs and vice versa? How can we look at food not as a necessity for survival, but as a necessity for discipleship?

Brandon Lazarus

Brandon Lazarus

Antioch House, Columbia SC

Brandon Lazarus is a former resident of Bonhoeffer House.  He is now a candidate for Elder in the South Carolina Annual Conference. He serves as the pastoral intern at Trenholm Road UMC in Columbia, SC and Community Cultivator at the Antioch House. You can follow him on his blogtwitter, or facebook.

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