“ . … you gave them bread from heaven for their hunger.” Neh. 9:15
I know many of you wanted to come. To come to this island in the Gulf of Alaska to to eat, to pray, to love, to think about food. So let me bring it to you. We lived a whole month in this week so I will show and tell now---and again next week. This is not about what you missed. It's about what you can do now to eat, love, pray (and swim?) right where you are.
What did we do? 20 of us flew out on float planes to Harvester Island, Alaska, where my family and I live and commercial fish for salmon. I had a plan for the week, a schedule of sorts. Norman Wirzba (prof of eco-theology at Duke) was ready with his notes. Melissa d’Arabian (Food Network star) with hers. Me with mine. And the plane was filled with boxes of food, all kinds.
And we did it. We sizzled and grilled, sliced and roasted, rolled and stirred our collective way to feasting lunches and dinners every day. We taught and talked and sang and adventured and prayed around it all. And we smoked——-salmon. The smoke from my smokehouse joined the smoke from 100 fires burning around Alaska. We’re praying for rain.)
I could say we tasted heaven through the food, the bisque, the crab, the ceviche, the salmon, the potato-bacon torte. We did. And we were tasting earth, too. There it was on every plate: pieces of the field, the sea, fruit fallen from trees, plucked from the ground. Our plates a garden. Our plates a map of creation, the goodness of the earth given to nourish the first earthlings and all of us after.
God didn't have to make it so, as Norman reminded us. He could have given us gruel every morning----like the gruel I grew up eating every morning: Lumpy, cold, gelled, leftover. Like the gruel the parishoners ate in Babette's Feast: Food to make us brave for choking it down every morning. Food to make us strong in self-denial. Food that punishes, that teaches our appetites are sinful and wrong, that the body must be endured. Food that leaves us hungry and wondering if we are loved.
But when God rained food from the sky those forty years it was white, light, sweet like honey, wafers on the tongue. It wasn't gruel. It wasn't cruel. despite their disobedience and constant complaint, it was still lovely and delicious,
God is like that.
This week God fed us and we fed each other so very well. We needed it. We were starving, I think, all of us. Tired of snatching a mcmuffin and a coffee on the way to work. Sick of counting calories and carb. Sickened by media and drive-thrus urging us all to "Super-size" it. Worn out from perching alone on snacking stools in coffee shops. Weary with being overfed and undernourished. Lonely from being cut off from the earth and sea beneath us. Exhausted from fearing food, from idolizing food. From believing it will save us or kill us. Our culture teaches us all these things.
How has the goodness of food turned so bitter?
How has the blessing of food turned to bite and consume us?
We've lost our way. We all know it. But there are so many ways back. Here is one way to start this very week: Feed people. Open your doors to people you know and people you don't for one meal. It doesn't have to be expensive. Just colorful. Something that has come from the earth or the sea, that has passed through your hands. Something you offer freely, without asking for anything back. Something you make because of love.
As Norman shared this week, God did not have to make the world so beautiful, so delicious. But He did: "Food is God's love made delicious.”
Gather the hungry. Feed someone that love this week.
When you invite them all to your table, you will see heaven, earth and its people returned to one another.
(Norman, Melissa and I are hoping and planning to do it again next summer. I hope some of you can come?)
Your turn! What was the most loving meal you ever made or you ever ate?