Today yet another feasting idea rose to the surface of a conversation making it clear that not only is "feasting at Christ's open table" at the heart of my theology, but it might also need to become part of the core of my ministry in this community. 

Last week, after feasting with our children for our birthdays, daughter number one said, "You know, Dad, not that I need to tell you more what you should do at church but... (always the ubiquitous BUT) what do you think about hosting a free community feast - with fancy china and the whole nine yards - once each quarter?  Nothing to do with worship - hosted at the church - but just a chance for people to be together and return thanks?"  And when I said, "Are you telling me that after TALKING about feasting for so many years - and discussing it theologically - I should just DO it?"

She smiled her beautiful and sincere smile and said, "Well, yeah... and know what else?  I would come and help you with it!"  OMG, I wanted to cry tears of gratitude right on the spot - I have BIG Irish emotions sometimes, right? - but I just said, "I think that makes a truckload of sense.  Let me see what I can work on, ok?"  And she just nodded.

Then today, telling one of my dear friends and colleagues about our recent trip to Istanbul, HE said, "So how are you thinking about working with the immigrant and foreign students who are all over the place at our local community college?  Your international focus - pulse your worship and commitment to the arts - is a natural:  what are you doing?"  And when I said, "Not very much..." he challenged me to think bigger. And it hit me:  a hundred years ago local congregations used to reach out to out-of-town students by sponsoring/welcoming them into their homes during the holidays.  Why not reclaim that?  And then ask the student to work with me on an art/music show about their experience in the US?  To which he said,
"THAT, my man, is JUST what is missing!"

For the past four years we have been learning about hospitality - and feasting - and I wonder if now isn't the time for all this learning and work to start bearing bold and radical fruit?  My other daughter, the great family baker, is another inspiration.  And thinking about her led me to this poem by Joy Mead:

Because bread won't be hurried
we have to learn to let be,
to do nothing, to be patient,
to wait for the proving.
Because bread won't be hurried
and is a life and death process,
we find out in its making
that time is not a line
but a cycle of ends and beginnings,
rhythms and seasons,
growth and death,
celebration and mourning,
work and rest,
eating and fasting,
because bread won't be hurried.

In a pyramid in Egypt
a few grains of what
lay surrounded by death
- dormant for thousands of years.
They waited quietly
until the time was right,
until the life impulse
was awakened by the good earth,
warmed by the sun
and ready to dance
in bread tomorrow.

The feast - the Eucharist - baking bread - and making music all make sense in our faith community.  They all make use of my gifts and commitments, too:  man, are things starting to come together?  Maya Angelou's most recent book, Hallelujah: The Welcome Table, cuts to the chase like this:

Food served is always more than just food served. That is to say, it is more than just fuel for the body. Depending upon who has prepared the food and who has served it and with what spirit, it can uplift the--and around the world, in every culture, food is used to flirt, to be coy, a raise in the employment or to search for employment. It can bring warring factions together.

Food can be used to apologize. So I use it with my respect for the ingredients and I love that it is--there's a science in cooking. I love knowing what heat under certain circumstances will do to certain foods. And then I love preparing it carefully and presenting it beautifully and sharing it generously with my table mates. You know, people are talking, aba dabba, dabba, dabba, and then they swallow something and there's--then someone says, `Mm, mm, mmm,' and I know I've put--I mixed things just right!


Black Pete said…
Maybe we should learn ourselves to be the bread of life for others?
RJ said…
Amen to that...!

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