On slow mornings I sip my tea, sit at the breakfast table and listen to the dreams of a four year old. As we finish our toast I pull out a book of Bible stories, we read and then say our morning prayers. Today we came to a story about Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God.
God’s presence descends on the mountain, consumed with smoke and crashing thunder. The people are trembling with fear. Moses and 70 elders ascend to worship and offer a sacrifice. Then something even more amazing happens. They see God,
“and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.”
And then these guys, surrounded by all this greatness, seeing God with their own eyes, the earth around them quaking, they sit down and share a meal.
“. . . they beheld God, and ate and drank.” (Exodus 24)
Not far back we were reading about Abraham and three visitors who come as angels representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Abraham recognizes them as the Lord and before they say a word he has his wife baking bread and his servant slaughtering a calf. They sit down and eat.
Is it possible that something as ordinary as eating could be crucial to our spirituality?
Food is central to so many stories of the Bible. Sin comes into the world when Eve eats the apple, God’s first gift after the fall is the flesh of animals for food, worship for centuries is primarily through the slaughtering and offering of animals which are then eaten, dietary restrictions are a central part of the practice of Judaism, God declares His grace for His people through the Passover feast, He demonstrates his faithfulness by feeding them with manna, Christ’s first miracle is turning water into wine, and His final time with the disciples before his crucifixion is a feast called The Last Supper. In His death and resurrection we see the redemption of eating as we partake of His body and blood in the Eucharistic feast.
Yet food in our culture has been reduced to fuel, something to quiet our grumbling bellies and get us through our next task. Its’ preferred form is a to-go box or better yet liquefied into a smoothie or squeeze pouch. We understand it by its’ most basic nutritional elements, carbs, protein and fat, devoid of any value in its wholeness. The traditions around preparation and consumption of food have nearly vanished from our society.
I don’t have any genius revelations here, only the observation, that if our Christian traditions or history mean anything to us then we may want to revisit food and I don’t just mean taking another glance at the doughnut table during coffee hour. As Christians we believe that all of the world exists as a communication of God and that in offering what we receive back to God we are drawn deeper into Him.
In the preparation and consumption of our meals we partake of God and His gifts to us. Of course this is still true if we are microwaving a frozen pizza. It’s not that any one food or style of eating is necessarily holier than the other. But our pace of life and even our willingness to eat food in isolation or that isn’t carefully prepared, nutritious or even tasty, is affecting our physical health and is perhaps limiting our experience of God’s grace.
What does it look like to submit our food choices and our eating habits to God’s authority? How would we cook or eat differently if Christ was physically dining with us? (Because of course He is. He dwells in you and in me).
In a world that is overheating, with red faced politicians spewing hateful messages, with bombed cities and homeless refugees, with our own mind boggling schedules it may feel insignificant to spend an hour drinking a cup of tea or preparing a loaf of bread. But in the swirling haze, in the trembling and quaking, in our deepest fears, sitting down at the table and eating together may be the very place to begin to meet with our God.
This post was inspired by my current read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group series. We would love for you to join us.