This last Saturday Ricci Kilmer conducted a workshop at the Mustard Seed House called Justice At The Table. This was a very challenging and informative time for me. Ricci started by asking us to share a story about food and spirituality. It was not a question I had considered before but as I reflected on my experiences of food over the years I realize that many are very spiritual and that eating is essentially a spiritual practice.
First I was reminded of some of the injustices that I have seen around food. For example someone once informed me that many supermarkets move their dairy and meat to branches in poor communities when the items are close to their “use by” dates.
Then I thought of the wonderful celebration I participated in several years ago as I spent Easter in Greece. For Orthodox Christians this is the central celebration of their faith and it was not just celebrated with a simple chruch service but with a family feast that was open to all comers. As we walked down the street on Easter morning people kept calling “Come in, come in” and we were welcomed into a banquet feast of lamb and potatoes and salad and exotic pastries. As we entered the houses people called out “Christ is risen” and we responded “He is risen indeed”
What really challenged me at this workshop was Ricci asking us to imagine our own dining table as the communion table and asking “Who is excluded from your table?” As she talked I realized that those who are excluded are not just the strangers and the marginalized who never get invited but also those who produce the food I eat that are not paid a fair wage for their efforts or who inhale the toxic chemicals that are sprayed on our food. Farmers who cannot make ends meet because they receive a mere pittance for their produce are also exclude. There are many others too that are excluded because they cannot afford the foods that I eat or because they have no access to food at all.
Eating is a spiritual practice intimately intwined with our faith and with the ways we interact with both God and other people. I think that is why hospitality was so important in ancient cultures and why the last supper plays such a central place in our understanding of Christian faith. However like so many spiritual practices it has become a very personal observance that is disconnect not just from the local community in which I live but even more so from the global community of which i am a part. Fast food and fast faith have marginalized our understanding of the importance of food in so many dimensions.
How I wonder do we create a food system that is imaged around the invitation of God to the great banquet feast to which we will all be welcomed at the end of time? How do we work for justice in the ways we produce, distribute, and consume food? How do we bring the celebration of eating from the margins of our faith back to the centre were it belongs and in the process work for a food system in which people are fed and fed well out of the abundance of God’s storehouses.