Friday, 2 November 2018


Those Anglo-Saxons and Germans who first used our word ‘meal’ were talking about a process  – initially the preparation of grain as meal. 

A sense of this is retained when we speak of ‘wholemeal flour’.

They would then have thought of this as a portion - quite different from the modern sense of plenty in our phrase ‘making a meal of it’.  To eat meals would be, for them, to space out consuming the amounts which could be prepared.

A sense of this is retained when we speak of ‘piecemeal’ – piece by piece.

And the delightful discovery of the week has been that they had many such words including dropmeal for ‘drop by drop’ and pennymeal for ‘penny by penny’.

It is enough to provoke the poet.  Why not grief tearmeal or coaxing a child spoonmeal or treatmeal?

Dr Eleanor Parker of Brasenose College, Oxford, whose tweets alerted me to this, says Gerard Manley Hopkins was indeed on to this with autumn characterised as where ‘worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie’.

All a distraction from the fearmeal news of the week: absolute power strangling dissenting voices, more young Gaza protestors becoming victims of live fire, Christian persecutors fermenting insurrection as legal processes actually release one of their victims, anti-Semites gunning down Jewish worshippers.

When the Roman authorities moved against Jesus, they too were swift and efficient.

The earliest account in Mark has a late evening arrest, a middle of the night trial, a condemnation very early in the morning and execution under way by 9.00 a.m. - a process mainly accomplished through the night, perhaps taking less than twelve hours from start to finish.

My sermons at the moment are mainly focussed on this as the clarifying context of the classic texts we are encountering Sundaymeal. 

From Mark 10.32 onwards the crowd are fearful as Jesus strides out ahead towards Jerusalem.  Knowing this gives an urgency and an edge to his repeatedly asking ‘What would you like me to do for you?’, which I dwelt on his doing once each in the Gospel readings for the last two Sundays.  

And I just wonder, for this Sunday, whether the teacher of the law’s question which we now move onto at 12.28 (‘Which is the most important commandment?’) is not laid out as a proposition for Bible Study but rather as a puzzled plea for insight into what can be held onto in a temple in which the tables were turned over the day before and with the Roman authorities about to move decisively.

The answer?  No time for more than the smallest portions.  The iron rations.  Love God with all you are - urged on us even when he is about to cry out that he feels godforsaken.  Love your neighbour as yourself - urged on us even as those closest to him are about to betray.

Whatever they throw at him, at us: God wholeheartedly; neighbour as if he were me.  Godmeal, neighbourmeal.  Enough.  All.      

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