The Reverend George C. Wong The Church of The Savior August 12, 2018
“To eat or not to eat.”
“To be or not to be, that is the question.”
Perhaps Hamlet’s oft quoted rhetorical question can be playfully restated to reflect the one of the “aching” questions of the day, which would be “to talk or not talk.” Changes in communications bring this question to the fore often for me.
For instance, when it comes to an in-depth conversation say a pastoral discussion, I prefer speaking in person or on the phone. The latter approach is madness for those who consider speaking on the phone a dreadful remnant, an awkward predecessor to texting.
I prefer speaking to people in other circumstances too. When it comes to finding a place to invest my time, money and trust, I would rather ask a person I know about a particular business or establishment. Especially, when it comes to a restaurant I have not eaten at before, I prefer to ask someone I know about their dining experience.
But, if I don’t know someone who has been there, then I quickly go to a website like Chowhound, Trip Advisor, Yelp or Open Table. Although I find it a bit random to rely upon the culinary tastes of complete strangers, I do find these sites are convenient and cover the waterfront as far as dining expectations:
Do you want the most highly rated restaurants? Do you want spend a few bucks or a lot of bucks? Do want to eat in the city or in the burbs?
The ethnic choices run from Argentinian to Thai and everything in between.
I also marvel that so many people have so much time to write and post so many reviews. As the comedian Sebastian Mansicalco quipped: ‘whose got time to write an 18-page review on the asparagus.” Some of the reviewers seem to spend an inordinate amount of time eating out— not just in one city but often in many cities. I am not sure, how they do it. Some of the reviews are extensive. Some people become serious fans:
‘The meal was perfect.’
‘The signature dish transported me to another place.’ ‘The meal and service were out of this world.’
I believe these folks do feel real adulation in the moment. I believe a certain meal genuinely moved them to tears giving rise to a glowing review. But, do we pin too much hope on the meals we eat?
To find this kind of satisfaction, some go the route of seeking out the most exquisite and costly meals. That works well for a time, but even the memory of a meal at a Michelin-rated restaurant will fade quickly.
Some possess the resources and inclination to take this much further and scour the earth for the perfect and complete meal. The noted celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain spent years on a globetrotting quest for the food that would both entertain his audiences, burnish his ratings and fill his yearning for something more substantial. He got the first two. But, tragically, the last was a bridge too far, because no food or anything else he consumed could fill him and sate his hunger.
Others resort to sheer quantity to quench their hunger. The other day I tried a buffet, one of those rows and rows of food of all kinds. I sat near a table of four young men. When they came in, their eyes got big when they saw all the food. I heard one of them say that he was going to ‘he
was going to eat until he went into a food coma and enjoy every minute.’ The four of them covered the table with plates of food, much of it comfort food. I watched them eat with great gusto—but by the time I left, they looked like a python that had swallowed a wild boar. Whether at a buffet like these young men or in our own packed fridges and freezers, we cannot store up all that we need for very long. Like the Israelites, who tried to stockpile all the manna they could get their hands on, the plan would disappoint.
Truth be told, no matter how exquisite the meal, no matter how many exotic cuisines we feast upon from around the world, no matter how much food we try gather and eat, we will end up hungry again.
But the question is not to eat or not eat, because we must eat and God wants us to enjoy our food. Rather, perhaps we need to pin our deepest hopes on a more substantial meal. Maybe this kind of meal cannot be found on a foodie website or the like.
The meal that endures and feeds our deepest needs cannot come from any kitchen, whether our own or the kitchen of a restaurant. Improbably, and certainly not up to the standards of any foodie, Jesus left us a simple meal that is not like other meals and rises above all others because it comes down from heaven.
At the last supper, Jesus did not leave an intricate or fancy recipe requiring the finest or rarest of ingredients.
They are the thin, wisp of a host, a sip of everyday table wine with water.
These are not grand, or impressive or savory things. The sacrament does not have to be those things, because a sacrament does not draw attention to itself, rather channels attention to our creator and the heart of God.
Inhabiting the small, the mean, the everyday is the very heart of God.
When we take this bread and wine, this little bit of bread and this sip of wine, we eat of food that carries the goodness and simplicity of God.
We eat of the food and drink that cannot be measured, sliced and diced, reviewed, evaluated or rated.
We eat of the food which surpasses all other food.
In the bread and wine, is mystery and awe that is lasting and true. How do you explain that the God of all creation is willing to inhabit morsels of bread and drops of wine. Yet, God has always been near to us in food.
God has always been known to us in the simplest of sustenance from the beginning of creation.
God fed the Israelites in the desert with manna.
God fed Elijah with those cakes baked on the stones.
God fed the crowds with remnants of bread and a few fish.
God fed the disciples at the last Supper and at the post-resurrection meals.
God fed the early church in home worship and in the catacombs.
God has continued to feed the church all around the world and our own congregation here for over sixty-three years and counting.
God has acted and continues to act in the little piece of bread and the sip of wine meant for the body of Christ, the ones who gather.
In those elements, the sacraments, and in the community of gathered by Christ, God moves, dwells and acts through us.
We take eat that bread and drink that wine and we may see more clearly that all things come from God.
And when our eyes are opened, we also see the invitation to becomewalking sacraments as the great Anglican theologian Austin Farrer preached once about clergy. I would go further and say we are all meant to be so.
We are fed and become the living breathing sacraments who encounter those who need the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
We become the surprising, delightful, unexpected walking, talking sacraments who feed the world walking as Christ did an offering of love for the sake of a world starving for lasting meaning and hungry for the life eternal.
Be fed, become what you are fed, and feed the world, all the while saying alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.