Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal

Back in October '13, I reviewed  Keeping the Feast: Metaphors for the Meal by Milton Brasher-Cunningham.   I picked up the book the other day and have been thinking about it again...

One of my favorite stories in the scripture is the post resurrection story in John 21.  Most of the sermons we hear from this chapter center on the questions of Jesus to Peter - "Do you love me more than these?"  but for me the most important piece of the story comes earlier were Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples.  It seems to me that the meal is central to who we are as Christians beginning, of course, with communion but also including the other intentional meals of our lives.  There is deep truth in the old joke -
A teacher once asked her 3rd graders to each bring something to their class that represented their religious background.  A Roman Catholic child brought a crucifix.  A Jewish child brought a menorah.  A Sikh boy showed his kara.  The Baptist girl brought a covered dish..."
The book shares a strategy that I want with all my heart to try.  Every Thursday evening the author hosted a communal meal.  Whenever someone would attend, a place card with their name would be made which also served as a permanent invitation to attend every Thursday forever.  All one would need do is call by Thursday noon to RSVP so there will be enough food prepared.  They laughed, cried, told stories, challenged one another, and simply were together.  It isn't clear to me whether the meal continues but what a wonderful way to spend Thursday evening!   If it does still take place, I wish I lived close enough to get my own place card for the meal at his home...  Barring that, I look forward to a time when I can shape my life in such a way as to make this possible.

In these days of fast food when families all too often do not take the time to eat together and food is seen more as fuel for the body than as nourishment for the soul, Brasher-Cunningham reminds us of the holy time we spend with each other around the table.  I only wish the book was longer and shared a few more recipes.

One more story... about 15 years ago we did an exchange with a pastor in Leicester, England and spent a month in each other's homes, serving each other's churches.  We did a lot of day trips around central England and one day arrived back in Leicester too tired to cook dinner so we went to a restaurant.  We arrived about 6:00 and every table was empty.  One of the wait staff greeted us and asked whether we had a reservation.  She looked very troubled when I said "no" and ran off to consult with the rest of the staff.  A few moments later she returned and said, "Well, we can seat you but you need to be finished by 9:00 as we will need that table for another party at that time."  She expected us to sit, talk, and linger over the meal.  This little book reminded me again how important that is to do.

1 comment:

Michael Mahoney said...

I love John 21... the repeat of the miraculous catch, the meal, the redemption of Peter.

I remember a friend of mine from Texas preaching, and taking up the question: Where did Jesus get the bread?

We know where the fish came from. But Jesus asked them if they had any food, and they said no. And Jesus didn't stop by the store. Then he reminded us of Jesus being tested in Matt 4. "Turn these stones into bread." the tempter said. And Jesus knew it wasn't his time to use his own authority to command the stones.
But now, after the Resurrection, He has come into His own. Imagine Him commanding the stones into bread to feed His friends, speaking the fire into being, summoning the fish by His word.

It still gives me chills.