“With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:15-16
In the book Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives, Carolyn Steel writes about food and how meals are presented in our culture:
More than half the meals we eat are eaten alone; the majority of those consumed on the hoof, in front of the Television, or sitting at a desk. Our lifestyles are increasingly fueled by food, not structured around it; not least because of the enormous social changes that have taken place over the past century or so.
…But although most of our meals (or meal occasions, as the food industry calls them) consist of fast food or ready meals (meal solutions) there is one kind of occasion for which only one kind of meal will do. Whenever we have a really significant event to celebrate, a feast is still overwhelmingly the way we choose do it. Tables may be shrinking and lifestyles speeding up, but nothing has yet replaced feasting as celebratory mechanism. (Hungry City, page 206-207)
Whenever we have an occasion, a significant moment—eating with other people is how we do it. It seems as if meals mark our occasions. They mark our most important, even our sacred moments.
And in many ways, meals tell our stories.
I can still remember the soft, yet granular texture of my grandmother’s cornbread stuffing at Thanksgiving in Colorado Springs in 1971. And the smell the chili powder and cheese burning in the oven when I cooked a pan of enchiladas for Lynette in a single-wide trailer behind the skating rink in Shawnee, Oklahoma in 1981. I can also still taste the cloyingly sweetness of that white wedding cake in Slidell, LA at the reception after I pledged vows to my wife. Then there is the soft, yet bold aroma of Verona coffee shared with my friends after blackberry cobbler in Seattle.
Meals mark our moments and tell our stories.
It is striking that at the very heart of our faith and what it means to be a Christ-follower centers around a feast—a meal. Some call it Communion. Others call it the Eucharist. We Baptist call it The Lord’s Supper.
This Supper is loaded with layers of meaning. It points back to the exodus of the Jewish people out of the bondage of Egypt. It also points to the moment just hours before our Lord was crucified on a cross. And it points to a future feast when the Kingdom of God is brought into its fullest reality at the end of the age.
In the meantime, aren’t you hungry for something?
The scriptures often use hunger and thirst as a metaphor for spiritual reality. We have our hungers and thirsts for a reason. They are meant to lead us to the God who intends to share His table of love.
One of my favorite movies is Chocolat, about a little French village in 1959. In this town, you knew what was expected of you and where your place was. If you happened to forget, someone would remind you. They trusted in the wisdom of ages past, including tradition, family, and morality.
The Mayor is the self-appointed guardian of the town. He writes the preacher’s sermons, guides the townspeople in their moral decisions, and overall, tries to maintain the status quo at all costs.
Into this town sweeps a vibrant, young woman named Vianne who is anything but traditional. She does nothing by the book. She does not go to church, has a daughter without a father present, and has the gall to open a chocolate shop in the middle of Lent.
Her chocolate shop and her grace unexpectedly transform the town and its people. A wounded woman finds the courage to escape her abusive husband. A grandmother renews a broken relationship with her family members. Even the Comte de Reynaud (mayor), after an intense Easter Saturday conversion experience, is described as “strangely released”.
If a young woman selling chocolate can make that much of a difference (albeit in a fictional town)- mending family relationships, breaking free from abusive situations, opening their hearts for love – Just think what a difference can be made by the life of a man named Jesus.
I think this is a picture of what God does for us when Jesus comes into our lives and sets us free from our oppression, no matter how well-intended, with his sweet grace of love and acceptance.
A friend of mine told me about a missionary who had a collection of communion chalices. There were some that were ornate, some that were gold, some were bejeweled and some were silver. My friend said he was very impressed with the collection and asked about each of them and then finally asked the owner which of the many was his favorite. The missionary reached up on the shelf and picked up a rather ugly one sitting on the end of the shelf. It was a small orange/brown rough-metaled chalice.
He pulled it from the shelf and then told my friend that it had been given to him by a church community in Japan. The metal in the chalice was repurposed from a decommissioned bomb found in Japan after WWII. The very instrument that was designed and used to inflict death and destruction had been transformed into a vessel to hold life, restoration, and hope.
I hope you hear the longing in Jesus’ voice when, with crumbs on his beard and wine on His breath, He says to His friends and followers, do this in remembrance of Me.
Next time you celebrate the Lord’s Supper, linger over the bread and the wine and whisper to the Lord, “I remember.”
That’s a meal that tells a story.