Sunday’s sermon: Eating Leftovers: Humble and Holy Food

leftovers

Text used – Matthew 26:17-30 (read in the midst of the sermon)

 

  • Confession time, y’all. Many of you know that I love to cook. I love to try new recipes and new flavors (within reason … I mean, I do have some rather picky young eaters at home). I love to make food for people – something yummy that fills them up and leaves them feeling happy and content. But … I do not like leftovers. Never have. Leftovers are just not my jam.
    • A couple exceptions: certain hot dishes/soups/one-pot concoctions that are better the next day; cold pizza (always a classic!); my mom’s soy chicken recipe (which is just as good cold the next day as it is the minute it comes out of the oven)
    • Fortunately for me → husband who will happily consume whatever leftovers are in the fridge if it means he doesn’t have to buy lunch the next day (or even the whole next week!)
    • Is there anything inherently wrong with the leftovers? Of course not. They’re still filling. They’re still just as nutritious as they were the night before. They’re still tasty. So what gives? What’s my leftover hang-up?
      • Clearly not alone (Washington Post article from 2017)[1]
        • Americans throw away 27 million tons of food every year → costs economy $144 billion due to the strain in puts on landfills, greenhouse gas emissions, etc.
        • Abandoned leftovers = the single largest source of edible food waste in the country → nearly a quarter of what we throw out is prepared food and leftovers
        • Average person wastes 3.5 lbs. of food per week
      • Speaks volumes in terms of greater issue of food justice, food security, and our relationship with food as a society → broken and strained relationship at best
    • Throughout the summer, we’ve been working our way through Tish Harrison Warren’s Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life[2], and this week’s chapter – chapter 5 – is all about leftovers and nourishment.
      • Title: Eating Leftovers: Word, Sacrament, and Overlooked Nourishment[3]
      • Warren introduces the heart of the issue right at the beginning of the chapter: Food has so much to teach us about nourishment, and as a culture we struggle with what it means to be not simply fed, but profoundly and holistically nourished.[4] → A couple of weeks ago, we talked about how rooted our Christian faith is in the experience of having a physical body – the physical motions of worship, the ways we use our bodies and our senses to experience different elements of our faith. And we talked about how one of those main elements is, in fact, a meal. Communion. The Lord’s Supper. Gathering around a table for physical nourishment. For food. So in the context of our faith, in the context of our worship, what does it mean, not just to be fed – perfunctorily munching a little bit of bread and downing a little sip of wine or juice before moving on – but being truly nourished in body, mind, and soul through this humble and holy food?
  • First place to start with this discussion could only be Scripture – Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples → Friends, listen for the word of God: On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?” He replied, “Go into the city, to a certain man, and say, ‘The teacher says, My time is near. I’m going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house. ‘” The disciples did just as Jesus instructed them. They prepared the Passover. That evening he took his place at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating he said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me.” Deeply saddened, each one said to him, “I’m not the one, am I, Lord?” He replied, “The one who will betray me is the one who dips his hand with me into this bowl. The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.” Now Judas, who would betray him, replied, “It’s not me, is it, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You said it.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven. I tell you, I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Then, after singing songs of praise, they went to the Mount of Olives. → Now, there’s a lot that we could unpack in that passage – more than we can tackle in one single sermon, that’s for sure. But with the theme of nourishment of body and soul in mind, there are a few things I want to us to dig a little deeper on within this text.
    • Particular word that’s crucial in this whole encounter – small, simple word that’s easily overlooks: gave – text: Jesus took bread, broke it, and gave it to the disciples … He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them.[5]
      • Gr. “gave” = connotations of sacrifice, of yielding, of entrusting → This is giving with deliberate and sincere intent. Jesus didn’t just toss a piece of bread down the table. He didn’t slide an individual glass of wine down the table to each of the disciples in turn like some early Palestinian bartender. He gave to them together – sacrificed of himself, entrusted his love and his heart and his own devotion, yielded grace in the simple, humble form of wine and bread.
    • Meal itself is vitally important here, too – not some flashy, lavish, extravagant spread but simple bread and wine, the elements of every meal and every day
      • Warren: Of all the things he could’ve chosen to be done “in remembrance” of him, Jesus chose a meal. … He picks the most ordinary of acts, eating, through which to be present to his people. He says that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. He chooses the unremarkable and plain, average and abundance, wine and bread.[6]
        • Simple food
        • Humble food
        • Normal food
        • Food that can be found in varied and beautiful forms in every culture around the world
      • This is a really important point especially right now. Right now … when we do not get to worship together in person. Right now … when we are missing being present in community, present in this place, present at this table together. Right now … when we have been so isolated and socially distant for what feel like so long, too long. And yet in this simple meal and the way that he shares it with the disciples, Jesus makes it clear that community in him – community in Christ – is a community gathered however we can, wherever we can, with whatever elements are a part of our everyday lives. That’s why I love the way we do communion now. It is literally a common feast – the feast of your homes and your lives all gathered in one sacred moment.
        • Warren (startlingly prophetic): If all the cathedrals on earth were gone, all the most glorious art were lost, and all of the world’s most valuable treasures were thrown out, Christians would still meet for worship around the Scriptures and the Eucharist. To have church, all we need is Word and sacrament. … The Word of God and the meal of God’s people are intended to point to and make manifest the presence of Christ, who is both the Word and the bread.[7]
  • Two other really crucial things to notice in our Scripture
    • One: this meal could not take place without community → Without the disciples, this meal would not be. Without the dynamics and the conflicts, the camaraderie and the inside jokes, without the particular gifts and imperfections, without the competition and the chaos of those 12 other people – even Judas, whose painful choice to betray is only moments away – this meal would be nothing. It was born of community, and we celebrate it only and always in community.
      • Warren: The Eucharist is a profoundly communal meal that reorients us from people who are merely individualistic consumers into people who are, together, capable of imagining Christ in the world.[8] → The meal changes us, and the company and community we participate in during the meal changes us.
        • Meal that is meant to be shared
        • Meal that is meant to bring everyone to the table – first verse from the hymn for today: For everyone born, a place at the table / For everyone born, clean water and bread / A shelter, a space, a safe place for growing / For everyone born, a star overhead[9]
    • Other critical thing to notice about this meal = it’s a never-ending meal – text (Jesus to the disciples): I tell you, I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way with you in my Father’s kingdom.[10] → Jesus is promising to the disciples that this meal will last. That this meal will continue. That there is more community … more nourishment … more giving and receiving to be had. This is a promise both of the feast that is being celebrated right now and the feast that is to come. From now until forever, Jesus will be with you. From now until forever, God will provide for you. From now until forever, there will be a place for you … a welcome for you.
      • Warren: In this alternative economy of the true bread of life, we are turned inside out so that we are no longer people marked by scarcity, jockeying for our own good, but are new people, truly nourished, and therefore able to extend nourishment to others. The economy of the Eucharist is true abundance. There is enough for me, not in spite of others, but because we receive Christ together as a community.[11] Now, I don’t know about you, but those are my kind of leftovers. Alleluia! Amen.

[1] Caitlin Dewey. “Why Americans have stopped eating leftovers” from The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/10/31/why-americans-have-stopped-eating-leftovers/. Posted Oct. 31, 2017, accessed July 9, 2020.

[2] Tish Harrison Warren. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 2016.

[3] Warren, 61.

[4] Warren, 62.

[5] Mt 26:26, 27 (emphasis added).

[6] Warren, 63.

[7] Warren, 64.

[8] Warren, 71.

[9] Shirley Erena Murray. “For Everyone Born” in Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), #769.

[10] Mt 26:29 (emphasis added).

[11] Warren, 73.

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