“Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
and he ate it there in their presence.
- Luke 24:41-43
How would Jesus eat ? With whom would he eat?
I read Paul Galbreath’s book, Leading from the Table, for a seminary class on Worship. Rev. Galbreath has served as a Presbyterian minister in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently a professor at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. His book is about our practice of Holy Communion, especially the prayers we say during the service. He makes the point that Jesus began the tradition we call Holy Communion at a real meal, and the early Christians continued to break bread together at real meals. Rev. Galbreath connects our little ceremony, with its tiny thimblefuls of juice and itsy-bitsy croutons of bread, to the basic human need to eat food on a regular basis— entire meals of nourishing food!
Rev. Galbreath brings up the story that Jesus tells in Matthew 25:31-46 about the separation of the “sheep” from the “goats,” where the punchline is, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” (verse 40). He writes:
“This dramatic portrait is often used by preachers to make an emotional appeal about the importance of taking care of those in need. In some instances, this appeal is delivered with large doses of guilt-inducing language and an implied threat that God is going to get us if we don’t take pity on those who are less fortunate. What is missing in this appeal is a recognition of the basic premise of this text. Jesus’ message is not a motivational speech to get his followers to show a little compassion once in a while. Instead, it is a radical claim that if we want to encounter Christ, we will need to leave our church buildings and embrace the poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned, and destitute. Our service to them is not simply about generous acts of compassion on our part. It is about learning to see and recognize Christ. This discovery begins at the table and extends into the world.
According to the Gospel, it is the least of these who offer us a chance to discover Christ’s presence. Rather than reinforcing the self-centered notion that our often limited generosity is a blessing for those less fortunate than ourselves, these people become a source of revelation to us and point us to ways to connect our experiences around the table with our work and ministry in the world.” (p.31)
Our Bethel does several food-related things to reach out and bless our neighbors. We collect special offerings for missions and disaster relief, we donate food (especially peanut butter) to our local Food Pantry, and we open our church meals to anyone who comes in the door. Some of our church people have been active with Meals on Wheels- providing pudding-cups or sheet cakes, sometimes helping to prepare the meals or deliver them to people’s homes. Often I hear from our church folks, how they met someone who was in need and got them a meal. And some among us are known for welcoming unexpected guests to their table at home.
Recently, in our Shenandoah Association (UCC) Church and Ministry Commission, we approved Rev. Karen Mann to be ordained here.
Rev. Mann attends Sojourners UCC in Charlottesville. However, she lives and operates a commercial farm in Fluvanna County. She, along with other folks from Sojourners and her home neighborhood are planning to start a “supper church,” there in Fluvanna County– a congregation that meets around a real meal. We will watch and learn.
This may be a concept we can practice at Bethel, too.
Would you like to meet the risen Christ?
How will you know him when you meet him?
The gospels say that he looks as human as any of us: Christ is old and young; of all skin colors; male and female. This week’s gospel reading is from Luke’s account of how the risen Jesus visited the gathered disciples and shared their food. The meaning of this story is deep, yet simple: Jesus meets us at the table— and he may be hungry!
Beloved, we are God's children now;
what we will be has not yet been revealed.
What we do know is this:
when He is revealed,
we will be like Him,
for we will see Him as He is.
-1 John 3:2