The Table

I don’t write much about my faith on this blog. But as our event this weekend has got us talking about Jesus pretty much non-stop, I feel compelled to say something about a few inevitable connections between food and faith. These connections are by no means limited to Christianity–it seems that every major world religion has practices that emphasize the importance of food in our lives. (Think of the Brahman cows or the seder meal.)

Back in October I heard a sermon by Carolyn Bechtel for a communion service, in which she said, “The table is the central image for the survival of creation.” What she was getting at was not that we have to eat to live. That’s obvious.

What she was getting at were some of these things:

During the service of Christian communion, the best moment to my mind is when the people approach the table to receive the bread and the cup. Coming together over this shared symbolic meal, they suddenly cease to become victims of fashion mistakes, or whiny complainers who grate on my last nerve, or self-righteous, pompous boobs. Instead I’m reminded that they may just have lost the will to care about themselves, or maybe they care about more important things, or maybe they complain because they hope someone will listen to them, and maybe they’re pompous are because . . . okay, they may be just pompous, but even pomposity can have its charms. They’re part of my community and my family.

That’s why the table, and not the individual act of communion, is the critical image. Eating together helps creation survive because we have to feed each other and sustain each other even if we don’t like each other. Producing a meal, especially in a global economy, calls on the skills and energy of many more people than the cook or the person who eats it. And the way we’re producing our meals now calls on the energy of an awful lot of people so a few can eat.

We need to bring more people to the table. We can’t focus just on feeding ourselves. We need to make sure that we create and support a system of production that allows everyone to sit down and enjoy something to eat.

I’ll return to cooking school soon, but will be thinking, if not always writing, about these ideas as I go.

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