Yesterday I posted on the forming of community around the preparing and eating of food. Coincidentally Tom also posted on community yesterday Did You Ever Consider That God Might Want You to Start A New Community In A Parking Lot?. This is so central to the gospel and to the kingdom of God that this morning I thought I would share other stories that speak vividly of this aspect of who God calls us to be and of the eucharistic power of shared meals.
First this beautiful story from Turkey that Jeri Bidinger added as a comment to my post.
I don’t garden, though we have recently taken up residence in a Turkish village where home food production forms the fabric of life. Yesterday my neighbor found me to show me how they are making olive oil from olives collected from my trees and hers. As I left, her rooster attacked me when I got too close to the hen-house to photograph their small son. Yes, much community around the sharing of what we grow (my lemon tree is also an amazing producer and her husband showed me a pine-nut sapling he prepares for my garden) and the tending of her chickens and another neighbor’s cow. And then there is my bread-baking.
The stuff of hospitality, though, resonates very deeply. In this place of very few believers (I was the only one last Sunday), we share the Lord’s table every Sunday night and it IS a meal where we consciously celebrate Christ’s body and blood in the elements as we share and pray together. Whether we are two or six, whether we speak a common language or not, these times are rich fellowship.
Beyond food, in all its beauty and simple goodness, the offer of a safe place, of thoughtful converse, of space apart from life’s battering and stresses, where one can listen and be listened to, and play a bit–joy that leads to worship.
Second another very moving story that I used a couple of years ago from a post by Lisa Carlson co-director of Aurora Care Continuum
This month my husband and I shared meals with a handful of women that are prostituted in our neighborhood. We are grateful that they trust us enough to enter our home. As I reflect on the faces of each woman- one stands out to me the most, and this is the story that I must share: her name is “Rose”. I met “Rose” on the corner of Aurora and 95th street.
When I met her she was practically slumped over onto the fast paced street of Aurora, she could barely keep herself awake. I touched her on the shoulder and she looked at me as if she did not know where she was. She told me that she was in pain and that she had not slept in four days. She went on to tell me that a “john” had busted out all her teeth on a trick a few days ago, so that is what caused the pain. Her teeth were all knocked out and she hobbled as we stepped. I invited “Rose” to walk with me to my home where she could take a much needed, much deserved nap in a safe place. She agreed and this began our 24 hours together.
“Rose” slept on the couch, and as she slept I prepared a meal of chicken, potatoes, bread and salad. I lit candles and put out our finest plates and napkins. When “Rose” woke up, I invited her to join us at the table. And as we sat together, she asked if she could pray for our dinner. Her prayer was beautiful and yet it held a harsh reality: as she prayed she shared with us that she is 40 years old and that she has been prostituted since age 13 when her dad started feeding her crack. In this prayer she thanked God for a warm and safe place to sleep and then she shared with us and with God that this is the first time that anyone has ever invited her into a home to eat.
My goodness, “Rose” is 40 and has been out in the streets for 27 years and this is the first time she has shared in meal fellowship! I could not believe my ears. As she ate, she shared that this was the best meal that she could ever remember having and then later on in the meal as she talked about her love of singing, she bust out into song! “Rose” spent the night at our home that night, and the next day I accompanied her to the methadone clinic and then to lunch at Recovery Café.
This is certainly not the first time that I have had neighbors eat at my home or sleep on my couch but this was the first time that I gave myself permission to experience the table fellowship in light of Christ’s words, “Whenever you do this, do it in my memory.” We shared Eucharist with “Rose” that evening; I have no doubt about this. “Rose” was at the table with us, sitting in the position and place that she deserved…fine linens, candles, a warm meal, singing and fellowship with the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the work of God, for the people of God. Amen. Read the entire post
And finally a story I shared a couple of years ago about an Ethiopian feast prepared by our good friends Melody and Gil George.
Several months ago our good friends Melody and Gil George cooked a wonderful Ethiopian meal for us. The delicious hot and spicy sauces were spooned onto platters spread with layers of the Ethiopian flatbread injera. More mounds of injera dotted the table waiting for us to tear off pieces with our fingers so that we could scoop up the wonderful berbere flavoured wots. By the end of the meal all that remained on the platter were broken pieces of injera soaked with the remains of the sauces.
As we gathered the empty platters I was struck by how much this meal must have resembled meals Jesus ate with his disciples and those other friends of his – the tax collectors and prostitutes. Bread was far more than an adjunct to their meals, it was the very heart of their shared life together. The bread was broken so that people could share together the nourishment they needed to sustain life. And as the bread was broken there was implicit in the act, a sharing of hospitality, of togetherness and of community. Anybody who ate from their table, friend or stranger, rich or poor, young or old would enter into this shared community. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling that in eating together in this way we had shared in the communion of Christ’s body.“To the Middle Eastern mind-set bread is not just a source of nourishment.” Says Ravi Zacharias. “It is the bearer of much more… It is the means of friendship, celebration and pleasure.” Read the entire article