I’ve been thinking about food lately. Maybe more accurately about what feeds us.
It would be easy to say that my thoughts began with the bread and wine of Holy Communion, but they didn’t. I got there only after a long wander.
I started by remembering my mother’s boredom with ordinary cooking. That meant I was exposed to foods and dishes of which most of my peers had never even heard. I remember my first kumquat, the veal scallopini a la marsala she’d make, the bien me sabe. Then I remembered the banana cream pies at the Toddle House, an eight-stool hamburger joint in Fort Worth where I’d grown up and the food from street vendors in Mexico City where I lived when I was 17.
Then I remembered the uncertainty I felt when I first stood in my own kitchen. My mother had thought teaching me to cook would be more bother than it was worth, and I’d never helped.
Flash forward to the traditions I created for my own children and grandchildren – traditions that centered around food ….Sunday morning scrambled eggs with scratch buttermilk biscuits and homemade apple butter before church; lentil loaves and holiday turkeys all brown and succulent; and all sorts of pies. And then I thought about Grace’s Kitchen and the meals we serve there.
That’s when I realized that while food seemed to be what all those memories were about, it was, in fact, the people. Food was just the means by which we all came together. And that’s when I finally got to the churchy part – Holy Communion. In the denomination where I serve, we call it Eucharist – a word that means “Thanksgiving.”
On Sunday mornings we come together to eat a piece of bread and drink a sip of wine. We remember and we give thanks. It would be easy to say we are there to give thanks for Jesus, and that is true. We also give thanks for each other and that every single one of us has a place at that table. We give thanks for everyone and the humanity we share.
And then we break the bread…real bread made in Judy or Pat or Helen’s kitchen. And we ALL get a piece. The long-timers. The mentally ill. The kids. The newbies. The irreverent. The hypocrites. The very, very faithful.
And it hits me. I can’t be a Christian by myself. It takes all these people and my relationship to them for me to be a Christian – to follow in the steps of Jesus.
I am invited and sometimes challenged to see the face of the Christ in them, and to serve them in love. And I get to exclude no one...not from the meal of bread and wine that feeds their souls or the soup at Grace’s Kitchen that feeds their bodies. Not from the gatherings that might feed them with companionship and a sense of belonging. Not from occasions of beauty and joy that would feed their spirits.
What is given to me is given for me to give in return. Food is just the beginning.
Leigh Waggoner is priest at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. She can be reached at 565-7865, or firstname.lastname@example.org.