The Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
The Food of Faith
Lamentations 3.19-26, 2 Timothy 1.5-14
October 7 2007, Ordinary 27 C, World Communion Sunday
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
2 Timothy 1.5-14
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Think back with me to a visit to your grandmother’s house. What are some of the things you can always count on your grandmother to have when you go to visit her?
At my grandmother’s house I can always count on a couple of things: butterscotch brownies, those rice krispie treats with chocolate on top, and a jar of m-n-ms. Sound familiar?
I was reminded of this earlier this week when I had a phone call from my brother, asking if I had the recipe for “those brownie things with chocolate that grandma always makes.” After a only little conversation, I was able to untangle his memory of two different foods and get him the recipe for one. For the rice krispie bars with chocolate, and maybe they have peanut butter in them too? I was at a loss. I’ll have to call my grandma for the recipe. If any of you have it and feel inclined to make those for me, however, I will not refuse.
Grandma’s house, for many of us, is about food, but not just about food. It’s about comfort, it’s about familiarity, it’s about going somewhere where the people love you and teach you things your parents would never tell you about, like how to slurp spaghetti, and give you things your parents won’t, like toys that make noise. According to Paul, it’s also where we learn how to live—from our grandmothers and mothers, from our ancestors in the faith. Now at my grandma’s house, I didn’t learn about Jesus, but I did learn about good manners and hospitality. At my parent’s house, I didn’t learn about church but I did learn about being a loyal friend, following through on my commitments, and being honest. At both houses I learned about cooking, I learned about how important food can be for building community, I learned how to share my love and talent for working with food with others in need, and most importantly I learned how to learn from my mistakes and to experience grace and mercy in them rather than expecting the end of the world coming on the heels of some too-crunchy rice.
We all have these places, places where God’s mercies are indeed new every morning, places and people we call to mind as examples of God’s steadfast love, as reminders of hope in dark moments, people who have shared their lives, their faith, their love, and their food with us and who still live inside of us.
These memories, along with hope in God’s steadfast love, are our good treasure. Whenever we have a treasure, it’s tempting to hoard it, to keep it a secret, to bury it in the backyard and draw a secret map with an X to mark the spot. But that’s not the kind of treasure this is, it’s not the kind you store up for yourself. This kind of treasure only retains its value, and it only accrues interest, when we share it. A hug, a phone call, a prayer, a meal brought to a home, and we are all Lois and Eunice sharing our treasure. I make it sound so simple, I know, and I also know it’s not that easy. We’re busy people, we don’t want to impose our beliefs on others, we don’t know what to say. Thankfully one of God’s great gifts to us is the Holy Spirit living in us. She gives us the words, the actions, the courage to pass on our most treasured possession.
The best place, of course, to share anything is around a table. When bread and wine flow freely, so does conversation. We’ve all been at parties that revolved around the kitchen or the buffet table, and this one is no different. In a world where 70% of the people are hungry, in a world that feels more like night than a mercy-filled morning, in a time when hate seems to be overpowering love, in a time when money is more valued than relationships, we gather at table to share the food of faith, to share our treasure. Around the world on this day Christians have gathered at tables. When the sun came up far in the east, they celebrated, and as the sun set there it rose here and we take up the celebration, the pealing of bells, the singing, the sharing, the feasting. When the sun goes down here it will rise somewhere else and they will take up our silence with their song—God’s mercies are new every morning in every nation, in every language.
At this table, we gather with all our grandmothers and mothers, with our ancestors in the faith, with our brothers and sisters around the globe, with all God’s children, to experience God’s faithfulness and to be strengthened for God’s kingdom. Here is the steadfast love of the Lord, here is the family of faith gathered for a meal of bread and wine, and here is the food of our faith, nourishment for kingdom work.
Thanks be to God.