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Food and Faith One-Day Retreat

By Pat Hoerth, Deaconess
Preparation for retreat
If you are not making this retreat at home, make it some place where you have access to a kitchen.
Plan to walk outside during parts of your retreat.
Plan to start your retreat prior to eating breakfast.
Have on hand wholesome food for breakfast and lunch. Suggested menu: whole grain oatmeal or granola (not processed), whole-grain bread/toast, fresh fruit, fruit juice. Also, possibly, a piece of fish. For lunch: fresh vegetables for a delicious salad, but don’t prepare it ahead of time; plan to chop the vegetables as part of the retreat. Feel free to supplement the salad with bread, cheese, meat.
Have on hand your favorite tea.


It’s a privilege and gift to be able to stop and consider and reflect on the food we eat. Food is so integral to our well-being that it is something we take for granted. And yet, it is so integral to our well-being, that it is sacred.
Today, we will take the time to consider our relationship with God as it relates to the food we eat. This is important because what we eat is part of God’s creation and how we eat affects all of God’s creation: ourselves, each other, animals, plants and the environment.
Have your breakfast ready.

Opening Prayer

O most gracious God, you are the stranger on the shore,
at the break of dawn,
inviting me to breakfast,
to share a meal.
I am so grateful and excited to realize
here you are.
And I come to you now,
to receive your good company,
your sustenance.

Scripture Reflection

John 21:1-14
Read the scripture passage, slowly, three times, at least one time out loud.
Now, have your breakfast with Jesus, there on the lakeshore.
Be aware that Jesus fixed breakfast for you.
Be aware of what he had to do to fix your breakfast…got a boat, went out on the lake in the early morning, threw the net, caught the fish, built a fire on the lakeshore, blessed the fish, killed it, cleaned or filleted or eviscerated it and cooked the fish, for you…
And now, be aware of Jesus, there by the fire, eating beside you. In your mind’s eye, in your imagination, see this place on the lakeshore where the fire is taking the chill off the early morning, where you can smell the smoke and the fish. Sit with Jesus on the shore…taste the hot, fresh, charcoaled fish…
How does he eat his fish? Does he lick his fingers?
Does he enjoy the fish? Does he comment on it?
What kind of fish is it? How big was it?
How does the fish taste?
Now, expand your view and take in the bigger picture: What’s the morning like? Sunny or cloudy? Is the sky colorful? What do you hear: birds, water lapping the shore, logs shifting in the fire? Can you feel the warmth of the fire where you sit? Does the smoke get in your eyes?
What does Jesus say? What does he talk about?
How does he look at you?
Is there anything you want to ask him?
How do you want to thank him for breakfast?
When breakfast is finished, take a walk together. Pay attention to what you see in nature, knowing that Jesus walks beside you. If something grabs your attention, stop and look at it or watch it. In your imagination, feel free to converse with your companion about what you see. Perhaps he will point things out to you that you hadn’t noticed. You may sit together and take in the park or the pond or the garden, or wherever you are. Spend a precious hour with Jesus on a walk. Just enjoy. When it’s time to come in, say goodbye and thank him in your own way.
What happened at breakfast? What did you experience? What did you feel? How did Jesus interact, respond with and to you? How did it feel to receive Jesus’ hospitality? To be fed by Jesus? How do you want to respond as a result?
What happened on your walk? Were you comfortable, relaxed? Did it feel awkward? What did you see? What did you feel? How was it for you spending a whole hour in God’s good creation, savoring it, taking it in?
What are you feeling now?
Journal your reflections.
What is it you most want this day, on this retreat?
Say a prayer, asking God for what it is you desire right now, on this retreat, as it relates to food and eating and your relationship with God.
In the mission study, Food and Faith, author Wendy Whiteside writes of God’s abundance in gifting creation with food. In food, God offers life: fuel for all living things – nourishment, refreshment, sustenance. In the very act of growing, gathering, preparing and eating food, we are accepting, celebrating and participating in God’s hospitality, abundance and care.
In our busy, multi-tasking lives, when convenience is highly-valued, we have lost track of the connection between food and the Creator. At a time in our history when food is pre-cooked and packaged into portions that can be microwaved in a matter of minutes, we have lost connection with the abundance and fertility of God’s good Earth, where are food comes from and how it gets to our table, the joy of preparing it.
Farmer, writer, teacher Wendell Berry reminds us that “Eating is an agricultural act.”
We certainly have lost track of that. Eating has also become part of our dysfunction, our lack of awareness of our connection to Creator, creation and each other. We drive up to boxes to order food, receive it in layers upon layers of paper and plastic through a window and eat it in our cars as we drive to the cleaners or a soccer game.
Getting back in touch with God’s amazing creation and the wondrous system that provides food, and changing our habits so that we are eating consciously are all ways to honor God’s love and care.
Wendy Whiteside writes in Food and Faith:
“Our busy lives sometimes blur the glimpses of God available to us every day. Our image in a mirror, the warm sunshine, our families and friends, the food at our meals – these are all glimpses of God should we take the opportunity to recognize them. God offers us the opportunity to fill us with the richness and satisfaction of God’s bounty. That bounty is both found in the harvest of grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, fowl and other meats and as we recognize the nourishment of our bodies we feed our spirits on God’s grace and abundant love.”
Reflect on your eating habits. Take some time to honestly reflect on your eating habits. Here are some questions to help you become aware of in-grained habits.
Do you sit at table to eat? Do you give complete attention to your meal, or are you watching tv, driving, reading?
How often do you eat at a fast food restaurant? How often do you get food from the drive-thru window? How often do you eat in your car?
How many meals do you cook each week? How many meals do you eat out or carry out?
How much processed or “convenience” food do you eat, compared to cooking your meals with unprocessed, fresh ingredients?
Do you eat together daily as a family often? Or with your spouse? If single, how often each week do you eat together in community, or are aware of God as your companion at meals?
Enjoy this time of meal preparation. Keeping silence as you prepare your lunch, focus your thoughts on the food as you clean it, chop it or otherwise prepare the salad. Be aware of the color, texture, smells of the food you are preparing.
As you sit down to eat this food, invite God to sit with you. And thank God for giving you food for nourishment, sustenance and refreshment. Thank God for the plants and animals, the soil, sun, air and bees, the farmers who grew this food so that you could eat.
As you enjoy this food, eat slowly, thoughtfully. When you take a bite of food, put your fork down and chew this bite completely before picking up the fork and getting the next bite. As you eat, notice the flavors, the textures. Consider where each ingredient was grown; what it looked like as it grew, who planted it, watered it, cared for it and picked it; the animal from which any meat that you are eating came; how each ingredient got from the farm to your table.
As you clean your dishes after the meal, do so thoughtfully, in gratitude for this nourishment you are able to receive.
What did you experience in the mindful food preparation and eating meditation? Did you gain insights about God’s provision and care? Did you gain insights about your eating habits?
Journal your feelings, experiences.
Wendy Whiteside writes in Food and Faith:
“We strive to nurture and nourish our faith without acknowledging that the way in which we feed ourselves is very much a part of our faith commitment. Everything we have comes from God, every morsel we eat is God’s creation.
“There are two things that keep us from daily recognizing how the food we eat fundamentally affects our relationship with God: the busyness of our lives and the unconscious manner in which we fed ourselves.”
It is no small thing to begin to pay attention to food and eating. It is a spiritual practice to prepare and eat our food with awareness – of what it looks like, how it is grown, how it gets to our table, how it is prepared and eaten. Not only does the way we use and honor food impact our relationship with God, it also impacts God’s good creation.
In Simper Living; Compassionate Life – A Christian Perspective, farmer, teacher and author Wendell Berry suggests things we can do.
  1. “Participate in food production to the extent you can.” This could mean growing some of your own food, in a garden, a flower bed, a window, a community plot. He also encourages saving kitchen scraps for composting to be added to your soil. Being involved in the process of growing food helps us realize the sacredness of creation.
  1. “Prepare your own food.” Not only does cooking your own food assure you and your loved ones of healthy food because you know what is, and isn’t, put in it, cooking honors the abundance that comes from God’s good creation.
  1. “Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home.” This practice assures the freshest food and honors both the local producer and Earth itself. Food that is transported hundreds or thousands of miles requires the use of Earth’s increasing depletion of fossil fuels.
  1. “Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener or orchardist.” Buy locally-grown food at farmer’s markets, food coops, directly from local growers through Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA’s.) CSA’s allow you to go directly to the farm each week and pick up your fresh produce either for a fee (so that you take on some of the risk the farmer normally carries) or for volunteer labor.
  1. Learn about your food: Are the animals raised in crowded conditions? With or without antibiotics? Are plants grown with or without chemicals? How food is grown affects much of God’s good creation: its water, its soil, its natural resources, its creatures, its people. 
  • What changes do you want to make in your life around food?
  • Do you want to shop differently? Buy locally-grown food in the supermarket, farmers market, food coop?
  • Do you want to grow some of your food?
  • Do you want to learn more about how food gets to your table and how it’s grown?
  • Do you want to check out the possibility of starting a community garden in your church or neighborhood?
  • Do you want to join a CSA?
  • Do you want to start cooking more of your food?
  • Do you want to increase the time your family sits together at table?
  • Do you want to stop eating at fast food restaurants or in your car or at your desk at work?
  • Do you want to eat more slowly, more mindfully?
What would be the one change you want to make next in your life concerning food and eating?
Go for a walk. As you set out, put the question before God: what change in food do I want to make next? Then enjoy your walk, without concentrating on the question. As you walk, if something in nature gets your attention, stop, notice it and consider how seeing this relates to the question at hand. When you feel you have finished being at this stopping point, move on and enjoy your walk. If something else grabs your attention, stop, notice it and put the question alongside it again. When it seems finished, move on again. Continue your walk or your sitting in nature for as long as you can, up to an hour.
When you return, journal the experience and insights that happened on your walk.
Make a cup of tea, considering where this tea was grown, who grew it and how it came to be with you now. As you sip this tea, enjoy the warmth, the flavors, the fragreance. Be aware of every sip.
Remember how you started this day, with Jesus at breakfast, on the lake – the fire, the fish, the smoke, the water.
Remember too, your walks, your lunch, your awareness this day that food is an important and sacred part of your life with God and all God’s good creation.
Now, in your mind’s eye, notice that Jesus has come to share tea with you. Greet him, sit with him and talk to him about your day, your discoveries, your insights, and the changes you want to make in your life around food. Notice how he responds to you.
Before he leaves, find a way to thank him.
Your retreat is finished.



© 2014 United Methodist Women