Sunday, November 4, 2018

What Food We Are Offered

The part of my house I like the best is the kitchen. Some years ago, I designed it with meticulous care, measuring up each cabinet and drawer with relish and precision, planning exactly what I would keep in them and sizing them for their specific purpose. And all the planning paid off--everything fits where it belongs, and I wouldn't change a thing.
I took great pleasure in this not just, I think, because of its order and beauty, which it has, but because it brought a fresh vision for what I would make there. And the space has rewarded me with many meals shared in fellowship with people I love. I wouldn't change a thing about it.

I can't leave behind the notion of the importance of food in our lives. Of course, in practical thought, we'd die without it, but most of us realize that food is more than fuel, more than filling our stomachs. In very real, maybe even mysterious ways, food is love. I really think so. Who doesn't have fond memories of  meals prepared and shared together? Of chicken soup, or turkey dinners, or birthday cakes made with loving hands? Food is life in many more ways than one.

My camera files are filled with plates of food I've made, either alone or with friends and family, arranged carefully on dishes or in bowls, and presented with satisfaction and anticipation. These are my offerings to the ones I care most about, or ones I want to know better. I want the food to say "I care about you" when words fail.

And I think sometimes of the food that God has offered us, our New Testament manna, His own body, presented to us on a plate as we gather to worship:

 Image result for the body of christ on a plate

 "This is my body...."
The moment when food becomes something else--love of a very different kind. Sacrificial love given at a cost way beyond hours spent in the kitchen. That plate holds a promise. That plate becomes, for the moment it holds the bread of heaven, holy ground. That meal, on that plate, feeds us unto eternity.

And this morning I read,
And when the daughter of Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod, and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatever you will, and I will give it to you. And he swore to her, Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you, even to half my kingdom. And she went forth and asked her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightaway with haste to the king, saying, I want you to give me in a charger the head of John the Baptist.--Matt 14:22-24

Do you know what a charger is? It's a serving plate. A big serving plate. Chefs still call them that--chargers. But think of how it would look to any observer...could a plate bear anything more revolting? Death instead of life. Evil rather than nourishment, as though it were something we would actually eat:
Image result for John the baptist head on a platter

The very place we expect to find something tasty and filling and sometimes even beautiful, we find instead....this. Death. Blood.

And so does God surprise us again. He turns, with the help of man-made evil, something beautiful into something violent. And He gives us a sneak peek at what to expect from Him in the future. It will be His death that He serves up to us soon. His sacrifice. His challenge to recognize what He's doing.

He's turning our world inside out.

Think, He says. Recognize Me. Even as John dies, even as I will die, I fill your plates with what you most need. See the faithful nourishment I provide. Body. Body and blood. Not always beautiful, but always perfect and always holy.