Potlucks, Comfort Food, and Faith
Lectionary Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2012
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Luke 24:41-42
Whenever the world threatens to overwhelm, when I find myself engulfed in stress, or when I simply don’t have words to speak my heart’s confusion, there is always one constant that can make life just a little bit better: comfort food. Yes, I can mind-over-matter my way to a healthy diet most of the time, but there is nothing like some homemade mac and cheese, a good and greasy grilled cheese sandwich, or my mama’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes to reduce anxiety and provide relief from stress. Sure, the fix is a temporary one, but it tastes mighty fine going down. We humans hunger for comfort and security. The traditional comfort foods of our childhood both fill our bellies and hug our hearts.
I suppose that may be one reason our faith communities specialize in plentiful potluck dinners. I can’t remember ever going to a church potluck and not finding a plethora of taste sensations and calorie-laden goodness spread like a crazy quilt of love and hope. Yes, faithful folk know how to fuel the body and make love the central ingredient in almost any dish. When we lack words, we bring food. When we wish to dispense comfort and care, it often comes in the form of casseroles and hot dishes, bread or brownies, all seasoned with the spirit of love and garnished with a sprig of hope.
It is precisely this reality that makes the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus so appealing to me. Wherever there is food, you’ll find God. Jesus breaks the bread after walking the Emmaus Road, and Jesus shares a shore-side fish broil with his still dazed and confused disciples. He shares fuel for the body and gives fuel for the faith. Both hunger of body and soul are satisfied in the presence of the risen One. Jesus provides both comfort food and true soul food—a plate of plenty for the hungry heart.
Indeed, the fearful faithful were empowered and equipped for ministry and mission through word and meal on that Galilean beach long ago, and we know from story, scripture, and tradition that they took the faith and ran with it. They spread it far and wide, boldly and sometimes at great cost. We today are recipients of that same faith and the Spirit-filled results of those early meals with Jesus.
Not surprisingly, we are also empowered and equipped for ministry and mission through word and meal. We hear scripture read in the assembly and the word of God proclaimed in ways that help us live out our faith in everyday life. We gather around Christ’s table for bread and wine—comfort food and soul food that has no need of “super-sizing” to satisfy our hungry hearts. A crust of bread and a sip of wine shared in community are core ingredients of the discipleship diet. The Eucharist is a mysterious combination of spiritual health food and comfort food that is low in fat and high in grace and mercy.
Come to Christ’s table. Come as you are. Come hungry, come helpless, come hopeful. Eat and live to go and tell. We are the witnesses. Whether bold or fearful, let us be full and faithful in our going and telling and inviting. There is room for all and plenty of comfort food to share.
Stewardship of Life
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© 2012 Stewardship of Life Institute