Clergy View: The sacred supper
I really like a good meal. There have even been a few throughout my life I can recall with great detail, like the 16-ounce prime rib I ordered on my last day at the bar where I worked in college or the wedding supper with 60 dozen donuts.
I also remember a breakfast with friends before church on a late spring day. The sun warmed our skin as our food filled our bellies. I don't remember what I ate that morning—a friend would remind me, "It is less about making food and more about feeding people"—but what I do remember is it was as though the space between heaven and earth was very thin.
What is it about food and meals that is so sacred?
It's interesting to me the last time Jesus is together with his friends before his crucifixion he shares a meal with them. Not a sermon, not a last-minute punch list, not a rebranding plan, but a meal. It was a meal the nation of Israel had celebrated for generations to remember the end of the tyranny and oppression suffered while enslaved in Egypt. As he often does, Jesus re-writes the script and the message is no longer just for the nation of Israel but for all who believe, and the defeated tyrant is not a global superpower, but sin itself.
The supper is so sacred because it speaks to the redeeming, reuniting work of Jesus. This must have been why he told his disciples to do it again and again and again.
Throughout the history of the church this meal—communion, Eucharist, Lord's Supper—has taken different shapes. There have been debates about substance, form and frequency, but in almost every Christian church throughout history, the meal is celebrated in some way.
But why a supper? With all the eating disorders, dietary issues, nutritional disputes and other hot-button issues around food, why use a meal at all? Maybe a sermon would have been better?
If you've heard of Adam and Eve, for what are they known? Among other things: eating the "forbidden fruit" in Genesis 3. It is participation in a meal that breaks our union with God, dining with death and not with life. So it is of no surprise that Jesus uses participation in a meal to help us remember his reuniting work as we are reminded of the meal we will share together described in Revelation 19 as the marriage supper of the Lamb as all things are being made new.
Shall our meals merely be about caloric intake or shall they carry with them a sense of remembrance concerning what's been done for us and a reminder of what's to come? Humans are the only species who eat with others, so will our next meal be simply about food or will it bring about an upholding of our humanity and carry a sense of reconciliation and restoration of relationship—whether that relationship be with food, friends, family or otherwise?
Whenever your next meal is, may remembering the sacredness of the supper make the space between heaven and earth less thin.