Remember, that our text says:
“That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” Acts 2:42-47
So I had the stomach flu this week – always a fun time. Then on Wednesday I was returning to the land of the living and sitting in my office starting to get to work on some ideas for this sermon on breaking bread, common meal. I started Googling a few images and ideas as I was doing some brainstorming – and all these pictures came up of FOOD. Someone eating a big, juicy burger. Giant chocolate bar. A colorful bowl of beans, rice, cilantro, freshly sautéed vegetables.
And for the first time all week I WAS STARVING. Actually feeling hungry. You know that wondrous place you reach after being sick, when food doesn’t disgust you anymore but it actually sounds fantastic? Achievement unlocked.
But it was interesting to spend much of the week outside of the usual realm of eating food. Which is a big deal for me – I’ve decided when it comes to food there are two kinds of people: people who are always thinking of what and when they’ll eat next, and then people who actually forget to eat sometimes? I am 100% the former. Even right now I’m not even paying attention to what I’m saying because I know I get to eat soon. Are you that way? Jason, he’ll forget to eat. Weird. How does that happen?
So it was weird to be in that place this week of NOT EATING, and of food sounding awful. Jason made spaghetti on Monday night and I thought the smell alone was going to kill me.
But – given that this week we’re reflecting on how FOOD can shape a community, it was such a timely reminder for me about food. At its most basic level, we need food to fuel us, right? At its most elemental, earthy, bodily purpose, food keeps our bodies alive. We need it. We sit down at tables and eat food throughout the day because we need it to survive. We take into our bodies so that it can be digested and the proper nutrients are removed and passed to our various organs and systems and the leftovers are processed out.
But more than just needing food let’s be honest about how we like it, we enjoy food. The tastes, textures, the experience of eating, the thrill of trying new food. Special food we have on special days like Thanksgiving or Christmas or our favorite birthday cake. Trying different flavor combinations like a maple bacon donut. Yes. Lindsey, you’ve talked about how you like experimenting with different flavor combos. Any you’ve done recently? Peanut butter and chocolate, check it out.
And even beyond the needing it, and the loving to actually eat it – the experience of food is most often enhanced by how it can happen with other people. What kinds of memories do you have eating food with other people? (Too many to think about!).
So yes, food is something that we need for our bodies to survive on its most basic level. And yet food is something that we gather around with people to experience – and so much is happening as we do this basic thing of eating when we do it together. It becomes a time and place to connect, ask, listen, wonder, dream, laugh, cry. The tastes and textures and customs of other cultures engage us and connect us with people from other parts of the world. We try to connect other friends to our experience as we snap photos of our food, of each other, of the table, of our waiter to share and tell the story of the richness of that experience. As we eat we remember other meals we’ve had before – when we’ve had this particular dish, or a better one – we’re connected to memories of the past – noticing the echoes of past times in the current moment.
It is this most basic, elemental, necessary thing – this need for food. Yet also this vibrant, life-affirming, multi-dimensional experience. Yes, sometimes a meal consists of eating a cold burrito in your car. But when we have the chance to savor it with others – the flavors, the company, the whispers of God in the words we share – it is so much more than just fueling our body.
Jesus tapped into this reality, this multi-dimensional, rich experience of eating with others. And also he used those times with food in fairly radical ways. He ate with the shady people, the non-church folks, the unwanted and unpopular, the kinds of people who were not supposed to be there. Jesus ate with them. Jesus also, one time, took the simple supplies of 2 fish and five loaves of bread to feed more than 5000 people. In his final evening before his crucifixion he chose to spend it with his closest friends, at a table.
And it is that final meal, the event we call the Last Supper, and we share in remembering that every time we have Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Mass. Jesus when he did it, took the stuff that was on the table in front of him – bread and wine. He was in Jerusalem in a home with his 12 disciples as they ate and celebrated together. And in Luke’s gospel it is described this way:14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Luke 22:14-20
Jesus told us to take time at a special meal to remember him – that’s why we and Christians throughout the centuries have celebrated the Eucharist. We see Holy Communion as a sacred time – but really, don’t we see every meal as a sacred time? In this meal we take bread and wine – and we let it draw us into the vibrant, life-affirming, multi-dimensional experience that any meal with others becomes. In Holy Communion, we let ourselves savor the flavors, the company, the whispers of God in what we share. It becomes a time and place to connect, ask, listen, wonder, dream, laugh, cry. The tastes and textures and customs of other cultures engage us and connect us with people from other parts of the world – and throughout time. As we eat we remember other meals we’ve had before – noticing the echoes of past times in the current moment. As we eat we recognize that we need this food to survive.
There’s a Jewish saying, that “Every table is an altar.” That every time we share the experience of food and connection with others that we are experiencing the sacred. That God is as present in your dining room and at Urban Coffee and at Applebee’s as God is present here, in a place of worship. And we absolutely believe that to be true.
The first community of Christians, as they figured out how to live this life of Jesus it was absolutely marked by this dedication to eating meals together (for them it was daily) and to be connected to that need for each other, that need for food, that need for God. And to engage the rich, vibrant layers of that experience. Yes, because Jesus had lived that way, and yes because they wanted and needed a life like that.
You’ll notice that the text has two places where “meals” are referenced. First, where is says they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. “The common meal” is the practice of what we call Holy Communion. Bread and wine shared in remembrance of Jesus, as God is present in a way that is mysteriously powerful. This new community of Christians, it says they were devoted to this practice. AND to the rhythm of eating meals together. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. It is both: Holy Communion and eating meals together.
And so for us at Salt House. We are food-eating people. Since I started in August we have gathered for weekly Sunday dinners. And that has defined us as a community.
We will always have Communion when we worship. And meals will continue to be a part of who we are. What this looks like continues to evolve BUT my best guess at this point is that we’ll have two Sundays a month when we have a dinner together after our worship service. One will be prepared for us (with donations encouraged). And one will be a potluck – we all bring yummies to share and learn and taste and try together. This twice a month rhythm then frees us up to be a part of the other opportunities throughout the month, to serve, for fun, to grow.
This value placed on meals together is not just about what we do here together, but how we are in the world, as we are going about our week – at work, in school, with friends, running about in our everyday stuff. We’ve challenged each other to have three meals a week with others during this Lenten season as we draw closer to Easter. Eating together was vital for the first Christians, and it is for us. With all we know about how rich and dynamic shared food can be, that challenge will continue for us as a community moving forward. Are you up for that?
And as for us here, together, in this moment, as we sit with this talk about meals and food and life together, it makes sense that we would move right from this moment into another moment of actually breaking bread.
And so for our time of Communion, I invite you to move to the tables in the other room. To find a seat as we share in Jesus’ meal. Pour yourself a glass of wine or juice, and then we’ll have Communion and a meal together. The band will sing and play for us as we transition over there.