AS I was walking along the footpaths of Shobrooke one day last week, the sun was shining and the unmistakable smell of charcoal smoke and delicious cooking aromas wafted towards me on the evening breeze.

I must confess that my stomach started rumbling and I began to feel hungry.

A visit to any garden centre or hardware shop, at this time of year, provides wonderful displays of barbecue equipment. Some are gas powered, while others use good old charcoal which needs a bit more skill to get going.

At the same time, supermarkets are full of tempting displays of mouth-watering food just waiting to be cooked on our barbecues. 

Yes, summer is here, and the barbecue season is in full swing!

It is good that families and friends can meet and enjoy shared hospitality. One thing we cannot do without is food and drink.

We can reduce it a bit, or buy cheaper and simpler food, but we cannot cut it out completely.

We do need food for our bodily sustenance; but like the world God has given us, food is not simply functional.

Food means so much more to us than petrol does to a car.

Our eating and drinking have a greater dimension, a personal and social aspect.

Many people, when they are celebrating or when they simply want to meet up together, go out for a meal.

The finest meal in the best hotel does not amount to much if it is eaten alone in a hotel room.

I think it is true to say that we instinctively celebrate anything that is important to us by having a party, a feast. And the ordinary business of eating together is what holds people together, in the family or in other groups.

Eating and drinking are not merely bodily functions, but they point beyond themselves to something deeper and more permanent, more human.

Jesus enjoyed food, but he also enjoyed the company of others too.

The wedding at Cana and, of course, the Last Supper immediately come to mind.

After he was raised from the dead, Jesus enjoyed eating a meal of fish on a beach with his disciples.

This helps to remind us that all our food is God's gift. God does not merely give us food. He is our food.

He does not merely give gifts. He is himself the gift and God's generosity is limitless.

So, food is much more than something functional which we take merely to keep us alive.

It is also something which binds us together, something which we share as human beings, something which can give enormous pleasure, and which tells us we belong. It is also God's gift to us.

And so, this summer I wish you all happy barbecuing and happy dining, especially in company with others! 

The Rev Preb Matthew Tregenza

Rector of Holy Cross