Think about what you had for breakfast this morning. And the lunch you are looking forward to today. Where does our food come from? Adsa, or Sainsburys, or Tesco, or Aldi, or Lidl, you may say. Think again. Where does our food come from? From Essex, or Kent, or Wales, or France, or Spain, or Africa, or America or even from New Zealand, you may say. Most of our food has only reached our plates after a journey to reach us which could be hundreds or even thousands of miles. Although some of us may grow some of our own vegetables or herbs, almost all of our food comes from farms and farmers not just in England but around the world. Just under half of the food on our plates is grown in the United Kingdom and that includes the majority of all the wheat, oats, meat, dairy products and eggs, potatoes and sugar. Half of our vegetables are grown in this country but only one sixth of the fruit we eat. And we learned something interesting our son-in-law Tom who is a sheep farmer in Wales. Lamb which has travelled 12,000 miles from New Zealand is cheaper than lamb produced in Wales – that’s a whole lot of food miles and a pretty big carbon footprint on your Sunday joint.
Where does our food come from? Think once again. Look beyond the supermarkets and the transport networks and the farmers and the land, because what I want us to grasp hold of this morning is one simple fact. Our food ultimately comes from God. We are grateful to shopkeepers and supermarkets and restauranteurs and chefs. We are grateful to delivery drivers and hauliers and warehouse workers. We are grateful to farmers. But the truth is that all the foods we eat and all the drinks we enjoy are examples of God’s gracious provision for human beings. It was God’s perfect design in Creation to give us so many different kinds of food in such abundance. And it is God’s continuing provision of sunshine and rain which bring the harvests we all enjoy. Our food comes from God. God provides us all with everything we eat and drink.
1 Timothy 6 17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
It is indeed God who generously provides us all the good things we need and enjoy. When the entered the Promised Land God made this wonderful promise to the Israelites.
Deuteronomy 11 13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your corn, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.
At the same time God’s gracious provision is not just for Israel but for all people everywhere.
Psalm 104 14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate— bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread that sustains their hearts.
Paul reminded the people of Lystra about God’s goodness to us all.
Acts 14 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: he has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.’
Three simple things we can do to recognise that God is our provider.
1 Remember to say thank you
Psalm 103 1 Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Forget not all his benefits. Sadly we often forget God’s goodness and take for granted all that God provides for us.
Luke’s Gospel tells us of the occasion on the border of Galilee and Samaria when Jesus healed ten lepers.
Luke 17 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?
Ten were healed but only one came back to give thanks to Jesus. We need to follow that one man’s example of gratitude. God is our provider.
Psalm 103 2 Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
God is our provider. In our offering prayer I often say, “Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth. All things come from you and of your own do we give you.” Those are not empty words. We acknowledge the truth of the words we are going to sing in our harvest hymn.
“He only is the maker of all things near and far;
he paints the wayside flower, he lights the evening star;
the winds and waves obey him, by him the birds are fed;
much more to us, his children, he gives our daily bread.
All good gifts around us, ALL good gifts, are sent from heaven above;
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love”
2 Praying the Lord’s prayer
Jesus teaches us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread”. “Give us today our bread for today.” Every time we pray that prayer it reminds us that God is our provider. It teaches us not to take things for granted but to receive them with gratitude. The Lord’s prayer expresses our complete dependence on God for all the good things he gives us so richly to enjoy. We should count our blessings, name them one by one. We have so many things to thank God for.
FOOD – we enjoy such a wonderful variety of foods available to satisfy our appetites. Right at the beginning of the Covid lockdown I had what I can only describe as a surreal experience when I went food shopping late one evening. I went looking for a list of 30 essential foodstuffs, but found half the shelves in Sainsbury’s empty. I came back with only five of the items I went looking for, no main meals at all and instead a dozen bizarre things selected from whatever happened to still be there on the shelves. There and then I made myself a promise that I would never ever take for granted all the foods which in normal times are waiting on the shelves for us.
WATER – again we take a free supply of fresh water for granted, never being thirsty, working bathrooms, etc. Floods and homes destroyed remind us just how fragile our lives are.
And as well as our food and drink we have so many more blessings we should thank God for.
HOME, SHELTER, warm in winter, dry in rains, safe from predators
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
TRAVELLING – in many parts of the world every journey begins with a prayer for travelling mercies and ends with thanksgiving for a safe arrival, because for very many people so many journeys are hazardous, if not impossible.
COMMUNICATIONS – first there were only messengers, then letters, then telegrams, then landline telephones, then radio and television and videos. Now we have the internet, mobiles phones and text messages, smartphones Zoom, and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Youtube.
CHURCH, FELLOWSHIP, BIBLES – we appreciate these all the more when we learn about the sufferings of the persecuted church.
POSSESSIONS – luxuries and necessities. Especially living in a society where we regard as necessities things which so many people in the world would view as luxuries, if they had access to them at all, it is very important that we don’t take all these different kinds of blessings for granted but receive them with gratitude. Asking every day for our daily bread reminds us of our complete dependence on God, day by day and into the future. God is our provider!
The third suggestion is so obvious and simple that I shouldn’t need to mention it. But I will.
3 We can say grace.
The word “grace” in the practice of “saying grace” before a meal does not mean the same as when we talk about the grace of God, or when we pray the blessing which we usually use at the end of our services, which begins “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In those contexts the word grace is talking about the unconditional mercy and love which God pours out on us. The root of “saying grace” is a different word which comes from the latin phrase gratiarum actio, or “act of thanksgiving.” Saying grace is not really about asking God to bless our meal or to bless us. Saying grace is much more about thanking God for all his provision for us, not least our food and drink. You may be familiar with the Anglican grace which we all had to recite before school dinners at primary school, “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.” At university, the dinner at formal hall was always introduced by one of the scholars reciting the college grace, which had been used for hundreds of years. It was in Latin of course, and it began “Quidquid appositum est, aut apponatur”. “Whatever is placed before us, or is going to be placed before us, Christ has deigned to bless.” Anything and everything we get to eat comes from God. Saying grace is a way of reminding ourselves that God has provided everything we need for us to richly enjoy. We need to remember to say thank you.
In his book, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law wrote,
“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms, or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.”
All our food, and everything we have, ultimately comes from God. We should give thanks to him and not forget his benefits. We should acknowledge our dependence on God’s gracious provision for our daily bread. And we can do that so easily just by remembering to say grace before our meals. God is our provider.