Still hungry

This is a lovely post from Shannon Huffman Polson over on Patheos. Go read it now. But come back.

Communion_ShadowThe story certainly speaks to discussions we have had in our house, and our feeling that children should never be excluded from God’s table (our former priest Christopher Martin said something similar to her bishop, along the lines of, “I never want there to be a time in my son’s life when he doesn’t remember being fully included as part of the Body of Christ”).

Another reason I often state for communing children is in response to the protest that “they can’t fully understand” what’s happening (also given re: baptism). The simple answer to that is: “Who does?”

I mean really, if you can tell me you fully grasp everything God is doing through the sacraments, you are a stronger theologian than me. And if Jesus really did ask us all to approach the kingdom “like a little child”, then perhaps we adults are the ones who should be holding back and waiting, watching for their instruction on properly entering the mystery.

Polson’s story also harkens back to one of the greatest moments this past Lent for me, when my two year old son ate his communion cracker, then promptly stated (loudly): “I’m still hungry!”

Indeed. How often has that been true for many of us?

And not just spiritually speaking, though we could go on forever about that. Why aren’t we physically satiated by this meal?

Why isn’t this a meal at all?carow1_500x375

Polson’s son is hungry and she waxes rhapsodic about fulfilling his hunger at the altar rail. Only that doesn’t work. Not if her son is anything like mine. A thin wafer ain’t gonna do it.

This past weekend we missed a talk about intentional eating at our church, and later our priest was filling us in and told us he was surprised that people weren’t connecting the meal we eat on Sundays with the act of eating.

But I’m not. Because today’s Eucharist is no longer a meal. It in no way resembles food. That wafer is what I fondly call a Liturgical Prop. Even if you’re one of the lucky folks in a church that bakes weekly – still I ask: does the King of kings feed us only bread, as if we were slaves and not his beloved children?

So until there is more up there – until there is actually a meal to our meal, a feast element to the feast elements – then my son, and Polson’s, and the rest of us…we will probably stay hungry.

The Five Minute Pitch

Last night a woman asked me about this blog and what I write about. It gave me the opportunity to practice my “five minute pitch” – that is, the distillation of the ideas you’re considering for a book that can be given in an elevator ride. Technically I realize five minutes is too long. But once I get going I tend to keep people’s interest. 🙂

Anyway I failed at being very coherent last night (granted, there was wine involved, which I felt the need to imbibe while speaking so as to underline my points about eating well), so I thought I’d better get this figured out on here and then I will hopefully have a better spiel for next time. And Tina if you read this, hope it clarifies things for you!

Many Christians want to integrate their faith into all aspects of their lives, but often don’t think about how to do that with their choices around food. Yet the way that we shop and eat is so deeply important to our ethics and our general approach to life, and absolutely can and should be a spiritual act. To make it simple, I take as my starting point the three tenets of the Slow Food Movement: food should be good, clean, and fair.

Food being “fair” means that the processes by which it is produced respect the dignity of all creation. This starts with treating the earth well: not poisoning it, tending it with patience, etc. It means allowing animals to be the creatures they were made by God to be: so pigs, for instance, will root in a forest, not be crammed into a crate. It continues up the chain to human beings: paying the farmer a price that reflects his or her work, ensuring that slave or near-slave labor does not continue, and supporting legislation that lifts up the individual, hardworking people who labor to bring us food. Respect and Fairness also means giving all created beings, including the land,
the Sabbath rest it deserves.

Food being “clean” goes right along with this. Christians can think of it as purity, as not polluting our bodies with inventions masquerading as food or poisons that may give a moment of pleasure but contribute to a lifetime of illness. It means having a clear idea of where your food has come from, and connecting to the people (and animals, if you like) who are part of the process. It means personally knowing your farmer and even visiting the farm, showing your children the beauty of the earth and its abundance. Again, it can mean supporting certain types of legislation. And the best way to ensure you’re eating clean food is by growing it yourself: a wonderful way to connect to God’s creative work in the world.

Finally, food should be GOOD! It should taste good, it should make our tongues and our tummies happy! That means we eat real food, not foodlike substances (it means we throw rules out the window now and then, too). We take time to cook and honor the recipes of our ancestors. We use premium ingredients from around the world, that remind us just how varied and exciting God’s handiwork can be.

And it should be good for you, not just in the physical sense, but in the emotional, social, and definitely spiritual senses! Pondering your apple while you eat it will settle your mental state and put you in a place of gratitude and connection with your world. Eating with other people will bring you close together and cement community. And there is a great reason why the Eucharist is the primary sacrament of Christian discipleship: it is through daily bread that we return thanks to our Creator for sustaining our lives, and it is through wine that we return thanks for the grand enjoyment we are given in life! Blessing God for the gift of food makes us priests before him, sharing and stewarding, correcting the selfish error of Adam and Eve who took for themselves alone.

Good, clean, and fair food connects us to our families, our communities, our God, and our best selves. And that is why eating well is, inherently, a spiritual act.

(ok that is probably over five minutes….like I said, I really get going. It’s a work in progress!)