No Fast Food Here…

Posted: August 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

Pentecost 13B, 2012
John 6: 51-58

No Fast Food Here…

Staying with the theme of Jesus as the Bread of life theme I want to share some little stories that speak to what this might mean. The first is a quotation from a book by Robert Fulghum, supported by some notes from a Brazilian Rubem Alves and another from My Australian mate Rex Hunt’s daughter.

Robert Fulghum writes…..

“Once upon a time, somewhere far back in ancient human history
– so far back that personal survival was the only concern –
a defining event must have taken place.
Someone didn’t eat what he found when he found it,
but decided to take it back to the cave to share with others.
There must have been a first time.
A first act of community – call it communion –
in the most elemental form” (Fulghum 1995:79).

He also writes….. When my first son was in kindergarten, I was a parent volunteer
who visited the school once a week to teach folk songs to the children.
Singing came between rest-time and snack-time.

Regularly I was invited to stay after singing and join the class for milk and scones.
I gladly stayed. Not because I was particularly hungry, but because  I enjoyed watching the children carry out this ordinary task with such extraordinary care.

Two children set the table with serviettes and cups. Two others arranged the chairs.
Others went to the refrigerator for cartons of milk, while two more fetched the scones from the kitchen and arranged them neatly on plates.

One child was responsible for placing something in the middle of the table to talk about during the snack – a sort of ‘show and tell’. For half the class, their job for the day was being good ‘guests’. The other half were the ‘hosts’. Each ‘host’ took a scone off the plate, broke it in half, and gave it to a ‘guest’ before eating the other half.

During this snack-time, they discussed the ‘show and tell’ object in the centre of the table.

After the scones and milk were consumed, the children who had played ‘guests’ for the day cleaned up and put away everything, before they went out to play.

It was a high-point of my week.  For me, Fulghum writes … it was communion.

Fulghum then goes on to add some comments… He says; “the sacraments are often defined by the church as ‘outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace’”.

Scones and milk with those children became a sacrament he says. Grace was clearly present. It was a ritual reminder that civilization depends on sharing resources
in a just and humane fashion.

We understand that Jesus often talked about, or is represented as talking about, food.
And as he moved from place to place, the various storytellers declared he would seek rest in a house. Rumour has it once there he would make his way to the cooking space
because there he knew he could find food to transform his weariness into new energy and purpose. I was reminded here of the visit to the Marae. In my early ministry when I was wondering what to do when going on to a Marae and aware that the establishment of a relationship with the people of the Marae was the most important thing I asked a Maori colleague what to do. His reply was, “the first thing you should do is head for the kitchen and wash dishes.

Robem Alves suggests it is the cooking space – the kitchen – that is the place of transformations. “Nothing is allowed to remain the same.  Things come in raw, as nature produced them.  And they go out different, according to the demands of pleasure.” (Alves 1990:79). The raw must cease to exist for something different to appear. “The hard must be softened.  Smells and tastes which were dormant inside are forced to come out: cooking is a magic kiss which wakes up sleeping pleasures…  Everything is a new creature.  Everything is made anew.” (Alves 1990:79).

And here’s the link with my title. Jesus often talked about food, but it was always slow food rather than fast food. And we know that the gospel storytellers often put words in the mouth of Jesus to have him speak about food and eating. Bread and wine.
Body and blood. But Jesus was no literalist.  No fast food here …. And we know that religious language is primarily metaphorical or poetic.

Robert Fulghum suggests milk and scones at kinder snack-time is communion. Milk and Scones is grace enacted. “Since the beginning of time,”

Fulghum writes, “people who trust one another, care for one another, and are deeply connected to one another have shared food as a sign of and a reaffirmation of their relationship… (Pg 81).

“Every time we greet, get to know, hold hands and say a blessing before a meal, every time we lift a glass and say fine words to one another, every time we eat in peace and grace together, we have celebrated the covenants that bind us together.” (Pg 81-82

In other words, Jesus spoke so words would be eaten. I have said this already in the last few weeks but I say it again. When bread and wine are eaten, they become body and blood. When body and blood are eaten, they become compassionate deeds. When compassionate deeds are eaten, they become as the Holy One in our neighbour.

Rubem Alves suggests that we are what we eat; that “One eats and one’s body is resurrected.” (Alves 1990:86).

Traditionally, this morning’s gospel story from John has been given strong sacramental overtones. Holy Communion or Eucharist overtones, that is. We remind ourselves that this is the institutionalized development, this is the need for a transportable ritual, a common story that could travel across cultures and find a place in empire and an ordered church. It was not a true reflection of what took place in Jesus community but it was a ritual to preserve the essence of what it meant and how it was expressed. This does not diminish its value but rather but very much reflects John’s community many years after the life of Jesus. When things were getting organized and rules – dos and don’ts – were being put in place. But whatever the sacrament of Holy Communion is, “it is an act that arises out of our humanity, not organized religion.”

So we are again reminded that it is in the mundane, every-day basic need of humanity, the need to eat to survive, to nourish our bodies, that we find what drew the earliest followers of Jesus followers to gather together over food and it was not fast food, it was the bread of life sort of food common to our shared humanity and this is what we experience again when we eat together and this is what we remind ourselves of when we celebrate community in the sacrament of Holy Communion. We need to get beyond the literal and re-engage with the metaphoric and poetic to value the ritual as a reminder that as we share bread and the wine, civilization depends on sharing resources in a just and humane fashion.

And perhaps to contextualize sharing the bread and wine we conclude with the story from Rex’s daughter. It is a story of her invitation to a friend’s place where each guest was to prepare their favourite dish as the gift. She decided that her gift would be to share her feelings of food and cooking in a personal story to her friend…

She said to her friend; “Food and cooking has been a major influence in my life, from childhood until now.  My mother worked with food and preparation, so meals in my house were from all origins and always a feast.

As a child, my mother had us cooking in the kitchen, learning and creating – of course, back then we thought of it as a game, not knowing the importance until we were much older.

As a teenager growing up in Sydney, I learned very quickly that not everyone has the same ‘Apple Pie’ family.  Every friend who walked through our doorway was greeted with home cooked smells – some they had never smelt before – and learnt that home-made Lasagne was a great afternoon snack.

When I moved out of home at 20, my mother gave me her Woman’s Weekly recipe card box.  Back in the 70s she collected those tokens to get the complete set.  It was important to her back then so I knew how important it was to pass onto me.  It took me 10 years, but I cooked every dish on those cards (except the odd scary meatloaf).  It’s funny, cooking for myself every night made me feel so independent.

My feelings on cooking have changed again.  I now have a wonderful man to double my portions for.

My favourite pass time of all, is throwing dinner parties.  The food has to be exciting, for me too, and always different.  I plan for weeks and can’t wait to start the prep.  Then I get to share it all with my friends as I watch them having a good time, knowing my little dishes of love have put them all in the same room as me.

So to add to your collection is a Donna Hay magazine.  I’ve been collecting them for years.  She is my favourite cook, as she has similar traits that I recognise – food symbolising comfort and love, and bonds of family… friends… lovers.

My wish for you is that you experience how important you make others feel through your cooking… the first lesson I learned from my mum”.

No Fast food there…..Amen.

Alves, R. A. The Poet, The Warrior, The Prophet. The Edward Cadbury Lectures Philadelphia. Trinity Press International, 1990

Fulghum, R. From Beginning to End. The Rituals of our Lives. Oxford. Ivy Books, 1995.

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