Saturday, April 23, 2011
The Real Comfort Food
There are those who suggest that the surest way to get people to come to Church is to feed them. Judging from how long food lasts on the pot luck table, it just may be true. But this association of food and faith is not the invention of Lutherans or any other kind of Christians. Food and fellowship are all over the Bible. God is no spiritualize being who inhabits dreams and feelings but the concrete God of the meal – who sets the table in the presence of our enemies, who invites the guests –and when they do not come He comes up with a new guest list, who dresses the bidden in their wedding garments, and who feeds them the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation.
Our God is the God of bread and wine, of grace that has the power to deliver that which it promises, of food that satisfies us, of drink that quenches our thirst, and of real flesh and real blood that is food of eternal life.
In Exodus we heard how Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders went up the mountain of the Lord – they beheld God, they ate, and they drank. They should have died immediately upon seeing God. In the past the most people saw of God was His shadow or His backside. It was too scary to behold God's presence. But they did not die. Not only did they not die, they feasted upon the good God gave to them. In His presence was food to nourish and strengthen them for their service and vocation to Him.
In Hebrews we heard of the blood of the covenant and how this blood was both the seal of the covenant God made with His people and the passover gift that sheltered them from the angel of death and the visitation of God's wrath. The children of God who walked at God's bidding through the Red Sea were called by God to remember His deliverance by eating and drinking. By this annual ritual of food blessed and broken and eaten together, the generations to follow them were made part of this exodus and stood under the banner of the blood that saved them from death. They met to remember and to recall what God had done for them. By this eating and drinking their past was incorporated into their future.
And then Jesus gathered His disciples in an upper room to eat again. And while they were eating took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, giving it to them saying, "This is My body given for you." And then the cup, His cup, giving thanks and giving it to them to drink, "This is My blood shed for you. Do this in remembrance of Me..." A mountain meal revisited, a passover meal fulfilled, and the down payment or foretaste of that which is to come.
We are a eucharistic people – people of God's meal. We come not because we like it or think it neat or find meaning here. We come because Jesus bids us come. We come because this is where Christ is, where He shows Himself and gives Himself. The Sacrament is no add on to supplement the sermon but the high point of or mountain top of our worship. It is here where we as the Church, the body of Christ, receive the body of Christ, the bread, blessed and broken.
We come here because it is the fulfillment of every meal of the past, of every time God fed His people. We come here because it is the agent and means through which Calvary's gift and the blessing of the empty tomb are given to us. We come here because here is the down payment of heaven, the taste of the future that God has prepared for us.
We teach our children wrong when we tell them God is up there or in here. That is not to say God is not in those places but we need more than a hint of God in nature or feeling of God in our hearts. We need a concrete God. We need a God who can be tasted and eaten and drunk. We need a God who is as real as this food is real and this drink is real. We do not need a God to imagine but a God who gives us grace hidden in bread and wine, who connects us to a past, who is present in our todays, and who prepares a future that is glimpsed right in this meal.
Every now and then you need some comfort food. Growing up that was pork cutlets in rich gravy and mashed potatoes, meat loaf and baked potatoes, fried chicken... The foods change from region to region. Some of you might think lutefisk is comfort food. The rest of you might think more toward Paula Deen. Well, friends, this is our comfort food of faith – the comfort of sins forgiven, of lives restored, of heaven bestowed, of body hidden in bread and blood hidden in wine, so that we receive Christ, we dwell in Him and He in us... Real food for real people with real hunger and thirst that can only be satisfied by Christ. Amen.