A Theology of Eating

Originally written and posted back in May 10, 2000. It was the very first thing I posted in my blog before blogs were invented.  Okay, so it was posted on my website but I eventually moved to blog form when that came around.  So with a little rewrite and tweak, A Theology of Eating is back in front.




COMMUNION

There should be one—and if there isn’t any—then we should have one.

Notice all those stories found in the bible that involves eating?  For instance, every time God (or in some cases “the Angel of the Lord”) shows up, there has to be some meal?  Like on the way to nuking Sodom and Gomorrah, God meets up with Abraham and have a merienda (Genesis 18:5).  When God did his rescue thing of getting the Jewish hostages out of Egypt, he was not thinking of special forces stealth, he had the Israelites prepare and have a full no-leftover meal (Exodus 12: The Passover).

Later, God the son comes around and among his numerous titles and names, he happily accepts being called “a glutton and a drunkard”.  And everywhere he goes, he eats.  Levi (a.k.a. Matthew) finds God (yeah … Jesus) and they eat. The same with Zaccheus, the short little tax collector who goes up a tree to see Jesus.  They eat.

Jesus is in a meal in almost every turn of events.  In fact, read the Gospel of Luke and you would find Jesus eating more than having serious "ministry meetings".  He dines with the religious, the Roman collaborators (i.e., tax collectors) and the so called “sinners”.

And before he gets crucified, he eats.

And the moment he comes back to life, he eats again.  After the walk with two guys up to Emmaus, he eats.

Again.

Back up in Galilee by the lake, they have a barbeque and they eat.

Again.

This goes on for the next forty days until just before he goes up to heaven, he eats.

Jesus promises to come back, and when he does we will have a fiesta (Luke 14:15).  Or, if you read it from Revelations, a wedding banquet.  In the meantime, whenever we gather together we eat.  Yeah, the whole deal of breaking bread and drinking wine lost in the debates if those actually turn to the body and blood of Jesus, and the rituals and liturgy is all about eating and drinking.  He said to do this to remember him.

My brother and I celebrate my dad’s birthday by having a bottle of beer: he was a beer drinker but both my brother and I are not.  Whenever I think my mom is haunting me (and usually in the middle of the night) I take it as an invitation to a midnight snack.

So Jesus is not here but to remember him we have the communion.

There is this other thing Jesus left us with: if ever and whenever we feel iffy about faith and all that, he said,


"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3.20).

Yeah, yeah, yeah … that verse has been misused and overused in getting people to "accept Jesus as their Lord and personal savior".  But Jesus said that to a church which was iffy about their faith.

So why on earth would God need to eat?

It seems that it goes beyond the biological function of feeding ourselves.  In the ancient near east (at least) it was a way of making covenants (Kenneth Bailey 1973) or should we say, closing a deal.  This explains the eating that went on when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.  Eating bound God and the Israelites together.  To eat with someone meant you are friends: it also declares that whoever you are eating with is someone you accept or like which in turn explains why the religious leaders during the time of Jesus were annoyed whenever he eats with “tax collectors and sinners”.

Even today in the Middle East, it can still make friends out of enemies.  There is this HBO movie, “The Beast of War" (1988), which was about a Russian tank lost in Afghanistan led by a ruthless tank commander and involved a crewman with a conscience (Konstantin Koverchenko), with a mash up of Russian and Southern Californian accents.  So Konstantin with his conscientious objections annoys the hell out of his crew mates that they throw him out of the tank into the desert to face the wrath the vengeful Afghans whose village they conveniently destroyed.

Eventually the Afghans find him and after bickering if they should execute him or hold him as hostage, Taj, the Afghan leading the Mujaheddin, gives him bread (literally, breaking bread) and settling the issue.  Konstatin was now one of them.  This scene went by so subtly in the movie that most synopsis gloss over it missing its significance.

Eating made friends of God and humanity, and it can make friends out of enemies giving a new light to an old familiar verse:


"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."

Comments