From the Book of Deuteronomy:
He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Deuteronomy 8:3 (NRSV) – January 7, 2014.)
Jesus and a crowd who challenge his authority also make reference to the manna in today’s Daily Office gospel lesson in which Jesus says: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:49-51)
So I know that I really ought to be thinking pious thoughts about the Eucharist, or something . . . .
But, truth be told, what I’m really led by these lessons to think about is dieting and weight loss. Damn it!
Back in late September, I was having trouble fastening my trousers and avoiding stepping onto the bathroom scale, but eventually I did so and was appalled at the number it gave me. So I decided to do something about it and, before going public, lost a few pounds. When I was down to 273 lbs. (273! For God’s sake!) I decided I needed the “moral support” of my congregation, so inspired by another priest who had done so, I created a “Reduce the Rector” campaign and asked people to pledge dollars against pounds lost.
By Thanksgiving I’d lost 20 pounds, and then . . . well, let’s just say there was a diet hiatus through New Year’s. Fortunately, only a pound and a half was regained. But, now . . . .
Now Moses and Jesus are talking about food and more than food and reminding me that I need to focus on the healthier stuff that God has in store for me. Moses’ line about being “humbled” by the food eaten (the manna) and Jesus’ comment that “they ate and they died” really put a zinger into it. Food, too much of it and not the right kinds of it, is a humbling thing for me and I know if I don’t change the way I deal with it, it will kill me. High cholesterol, hypertension, blood sugar issues, joint pain, tendonitis . . . in some way or another, they are all related to the excess weight I am embarrassed to carry.
So . . . end of diet hiatus. Back to healthy eating and (even in the frigid cold) taking walks and getting more exercise.
The annotations to Deuteronomy tell me the last verse of the passage has an alternative reading: “One does not live by bread alone, but by anything that the Lord decrees.” I’m going to start focusing on something else God decreed through Moses: “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live!” (Deut. 30:19) I choose healthy eating and healthy living; I choose life.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.