Pentecost 2C, 2007
A Liturgy is also available
FOOD, SHARING, AND BECOMING WHAT WE EAT!
From all that we now seem to know about biblical culture,
meals played an important role in both community life,
and in the Jesus Movement tradition.
Indeed, Christian Jews regularly ate together,
even before they began to conduct worship services.
While on the other hand, Jesus seems so closely associated with meals
that one of the criticisms leveled against him was, you will remember, as a ‘glutton and drunkard’ (Matt 11:19).
Which stands in sharp contrast to the pale and sanitised artwork
most church stained glass windows depict him as.
I remember… and let me warn you,
today there just may be a fair bit of ‘remembering’…
I remember when I was working in a regional newspaper in Victoria
as a news editor in the mid 1970s,
I wrote a feature story for new year with the title: “Here’s Cheers, JC.”
The article carried a sketch of a bearded man of middle-eastern appearance,
laughing, and raising a wine glass in toast, in his hand.
(Harvey Cox also had a similar sketch in Psychology Today back when…)
A mother of one of our paper boys was angered by this ‘laughing Jesus’ image.
So angry, she refused to allow her son to continue
to deliver the paper, and wrote me
one of the most angry letters I have ever received.
The possibility that Jesus might have laughed, or had a wine with his meal,
never entered her head! Thank goodness
the biblical storytellers reckoned otherwise!
But back to this morning’s story…
I reckon Luke heard some of these meal stories, often from what
we now call the Q Source, and re-imagined or re-invented them.
And he knew the power of story.
So, he tells an imagined meal story at a crucial point in this local congregation’s history.
“Words and food are made out of the same stuff”, writes Rubem Alves.
“They are both born of the same mother: hunger” (Alves 1990:77).
I have some very fond memories about this story by Luke.
Indeed it was the focus of one of the first sermons I ever preached.
(And in case you are wondering… my first ever sermon,
preached in Warracknabeal in Victoria in 1962 just before my 18th birthday,
was on the Lord’s Prayer...)
I remember I was inspired at the time, by the work of Scottish
New Testament scholar, William Barclay, having been given
a copy of his red-covered paperback commentary
on Luke’s Gospel by my parish minister.
And if my memory is still functioning OK, Barclay sets out three ways folk
have heard or responded to this story.
As a supernatural event of bread being multiplied.
As a sacramental meal, where each got a small piece of bread.
As a different kind of ‘miracle’ – (I think he used that word) where people’s hearts rather than bread, were changed.
Perhaps you can guess, but it was the third suggestion that made sense to me.
Although some of the folk in my little Home Mission congregation
of Pascoe Vale North, weren’t too sure about me afterwards!
So for me, this story is not about
an interventionist supernatural God, or as a forerunner to Holy Communion,
or the Catholic doctrine of ‘transubstantiation’,
which was where my ‘non-laughing-Jesus’ mother was coming from.
But everything to do with re-imagining the world
and our relationships with others.
For around a meal, food is shared not hoarded,
friendships are made, and relationships strengthened.
In the stories told about Jesus and in the words attributed to him,
Jesus presents the realm of God as a new or alternate possible reality,
to the world in which many found themselves trapped in.
It contradicted the normal notions of
who belonged and who did not,
of who was worthy and who was not.
It’s contradiction was given expression by the way people lived
- that is, open to being changed by the ‘worth’ rather than the perceived ‘worthlessness’ of the other.
So as in this morning’s story, we see and hear Jesus inviting ordinary folk
to re-imagine the world... to 'overturn' the existing order of power and privilege.
To re-imagine and thus experience, a different kind of world.
And one of the first steps in re-imagining a different kind of world to the existing dominant social order,
was to overturn the ‘world’ of the disciples.
Jesus, tell them to go away so they might buy food themselves, said the disciples.
Friends, tell them to sit down and let’s share what we already have, says Jesus.
Ugh! You sure?
When bread is shared and eaten, it becomes body.
When bread is shared and eaten, it becomes compassionate deeds.
Our compassionate deeds.
When bread is shared and eaten, compassionate deeds
become as God in our neighbour.
Or put another way, what we believe about God and life and relationships,
can make a huge difference to how we care for each other interpersonally.
Especially if our local communities can be developed positively
around respect and care and worth for each other,
rather than around fear of a so-called ‘enemy’.
I remember a story I heard a few years ago.
The whole family went out for dinner one evening.
Menus were passed to all including Kathy, the eight-year old daughter.
The conversation was an ‘adult’ one, so Kathy sat ignored.
When the waiter took orders, he came to Kathy last.
“And what do you want?” he asked. “A hamburger and a coke,” she said.
“No,” said her grandmother, “she’ll have the roast chicken, carrots, and mashed potatoes.”
“And milk to drink,” chimed in her father.
“And what kind of sause would you like on your hamburger?” asked the waiter
as he walked away, taking the parents aback.
“Tomato,” she called out.
She then turned to her family and added, “You know what? He thinks I’m real!”
“Since the beginning of time,” my favourite author, Robert Fulghum, writes, “people who trust one another, care for one another, and are deeply connected to one another, have shared food as a sign of and a reaffirmation of their relationship… Every time we hold hands and say a blessing before a meal, every time we lift a glass and say fine words to one another, every time we eat in peace and grace together, we have celebrated the covenants that bind us together” (Fulghum 1995:81-82).
The storyteller Luke knows we become what we eat!
So let me offer this final suggestion…
This story is an invitation to re-imagine and to celebrate.
And in so doing, to be blessed, as we seek to go on the journey
(rather than worshipping the journey)
first chartered by the Galilean sage we call Jesus.
Alves, R. A. 1990. The Poet, the Warrior, the Prophet. Philadelphia. Trinity Press International.
Fulghum, R. 1995. From Beginning to End. The Rituals of our Lives. Moorebank. Bantam Books.