I love to cook. It sort of happened by accident. Years ago, when I was single, I got tired of eating junk food and noticed a cookbook while browsing in a book store. The book was The Greens Cookbook. It is a vegetarian restaurant in the Marina District in San Francisco, and the head chef was trained in a Zen monastery in Sonoma. I know. So California.
Anyway, I bought the cookbook and scanned through it, finding a recipe that sounded really good. Black Bean Chili. I bought the ingredients, followed the recipe and made the dish.
It was awful.
But it was my first try at cooking, really, and I discovered that I really enjoyed the experience of putting a meal together. It is a kind of therapy for me. I realize it is not that way for many, especially women who are expected to cook, but it is something I really enjoy.
And over the years I have gotten pretty good at it. I’ve collected more cookbooks, did an online cooking school for a while, and attended cooking classes. It has come to be an important part of my life as a husband, father and pastor. Yes, pastor. It has been said that a good pastor needs to be a good bartender and a good chef. That may sound funny but it makes sense to me when I think of what Jesus did the night he was arrested, tried and executed.
Before all of that happened he shared a meal with his friends.
Years ago I read a book about Eucharist, and the author, Tad Guzie began by writing, “Jesus took bread and wine and identified himself with it.” I liked the idea, but did not fully realize the weight of his observation until I started cooking. In a way Jesus summed up his entire ministry by acting as bartender and chef on that night. He took bread. He took wine.
And he affirmed something anyone who has put a meal together feels even though they might not understand. Perhaps a better way of saying it is they don’t know how to articulate what they are feeling. You see, when you put a meal together and share it with others, when you pass the food, you pass yourself.
When you pass the food you pass yourself.
And when the food is accepted, you are accepted.
A second thing often missed in this Christ-meal we call Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist is that, in the act of identifying with a meal Jesus opened up the possibility for us to recognize his presence in every meal. Yes, every meal.
I’m not talking about that quick drive through McDonalds on the way to work. No. I’m not talking about McEucharist.
I’m talking about the activity of sitting down together to have a meal. I’m talking about making the dining table the center of the home, the place where families and friends engage in sharing a meal. Maybe even take turns in preparing the meal, or sharing in making the meal together. Those of you who already do this understand.
This coming Tuesday is the worldwide Christian celebration of All Saints Day. It is a time to remember those who have gone before us, witnessing God’s love and compassion. And it is also a time to recognize those living among us still, teaching us how to be human, how to be what we have been created to be.
It can also be a time when time is suspended and we enter into an eternal now. No beginning. No end.
In the meal we share. When we pass the food.