The question, “How should we ‘do’ church?” has haunted my liturgical experience. Growing up as a PK I had the good, or not so good, fortune of experiencing a number of different liturgical communities. In undergrad David Cunningham’s book “Christian Ethics: The End of the Law” introduced me to the formative aspect of Christian liturgy and sent me on journey exploring Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and many protestant expressions of faith. In the future, I’d like to do a series titled “A Meal as Liturgy” or something like that. Until then, here are some thoughts I shared at my graduate school’s first chapel of the year, which happened to occur around a meal.
For me, sharing a meal can be an act of worship for many reasons. Two reasons that I find interesting and important include being thankful for food, and the fact that a meal seems to improve when it’s shared. I grew-up on a hobby farm, where food was something that we didn’t take for granted, not because we didn’t have enough, but rather being part of growing and harvesting made it difficult to separate this process from the actual act of consuming. I mean, as a young boy I learned how to milk a cow by hand. I hated doing it, the cow hated when I did it, but it had to be done, even when my father was away. After struggling to squeeze a bucket of milk out of a 1600 lbs animal it’s difficult to forget food’s fuller context.
In Biblical foundations Professor Ansell argued that worship is often an attempt to bring the Israelites into a deeper relationship with the world. He challenged us to consider worshiping creation as creation. My childhood experience with food taught me how to worship food as food. At every meal we have an opportunity to be drawn closer to the world in which God desires to make a home.
Second, meals facilitate relationship, they can be a comfortable space that encourages vulnerability and courage. Sharing a meal is more than simply eating, it includes choosing the menu, the host’s preparation of the table and how the guests receive this gift. In the preparation and receiving are opportunities for intimacy. A relational context is prepared even before the actual act of eating takes place.
The actual act of eating isn’t the most eloquent activity. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I can’t standing listening to people chew their food. Sometimes I can’t even stand listening to myself eat a meal. If you think about it, shovelling food into an open hole in your body is gross and then attempting to dialogue with others through this same hole makes things worse. Yet for some mysterious reason a meal often tastes better when its shared. It’s almost as if the awkwardness of the ceremony frees us to be open and receptive to others.
Just as much as the act of appreciating food gives us an opportunity to worship creation so to does the act of sharing a meal. It is an opportunity to worship each other.