Some memorable Bible stories center around a mealtime; if not a dinner party then before or after one. The settings are varied, the food prepared to nourish friends, guests, tradition, family, strangers. Bad things can happen, family stresses running into the gravy, unreasonable requests, not enough cans in the pantry. Nadia Bolz-Weber recently spoke about her birthday parties; at least, she said, she didn’t get the head of John the Baptist as a present. No indigestion after the cake.
Returning to church in person and sharing our sacred meal together invites me to remember what I believe is so important – everyone is fed, there is always more than enough, we remember who is absent and who is present, we need it to continue our journey, it draws us to a generous God and all the beloved in Christ. The table is set in our presence with our song, our prayers, our communal hearing of the texts that guide us. We meet the concrete elements and what is deeper, what has kept hope alive, what journeys to home and hospital in portable Jesus boxes. Sometimes it is manna in the desert. Sometimes it awakens those whose memory seemed far away. Sometimes it is the only food we need.
I am thinking about a retreat I once led where the participants introduced themselves with a favorite recipe or favorite kitchen implement; stories unfolded throughout the weekend about dinner parties, family dinners, tradition and hospitality. Kitchen disasters were also included, like when the dog ate the raw dough of the Parker House rolls I had rising in anticipation of the bishop’s visit. By the end of the retreat, we had made a place setting for someone we loved and the eucharistic table took up most of the room in which we had shared our lives, a long expansion with enough space for all.
I wonder what favorite food Jesus remembered from childhood, what smells and tastes were comfort food. I wonder if he had a favorite recipe or chef, or if fish and bread and wine were always enough. I imagine him seated next to my friend who at age 80 often repeats herself. He doesn’t mind as he is busy tearing off a piece of bread which he hands to her. Someone is washing his feet and someone in the corner complains about the rising price of the nard and the gas shortage. The fifteen friends he has brought along with him are mostly polite but small arguments keep breaking out and there is some tension about Jesus’ most recent mysterious pronouncements. Polite smiles on the faces of some, animated chatter for others. He is telling another parable basing it on something he has read in The Jerusalem Times.
Mealtime is an invitation. Mindful eating is what the eucharist invites. I think I often practice
mind full eating; I am chewing on more than what has reached my mouth.
The Rev. Dr. Linda Privitera ©