Pastoral Series

Worship Matters: Ghetto-style

   If Worship Matters, then something like the Lord’s Supper might change how we think about all our food, and all the food in the world. Every time we eat, we might make a quick mental notice that Jesus was at the dinner table with his friends when he solemnly, but with shimmering hope, gave them food and wine and said “Do this in remembrance of me.” Every meal can be a time to remember Jesus, which can stir in us gratitude, joy, a determination to make a difference, and even laughter and love.

Yes, we do say a prayer before the meal, even if it’s rote, and a touch hurried. But slow down. Don’t rush. A priestly moment is unfolding. You’ve seen the priest stand behind the Communion table and consecrate the bread and wine. In a very real way, you do the same kind of thing every time you sit down to a meal, bow your head, and say a prayer. You can always just dive into the food without the prayer. But to pause, to be humble, to give thanks: this is a holy moment. You are holy.

If I am eating out: The waitress hands me a menu. So many choices… and there are specials too? I think, What do I feel like eating? What is the chef’s reputation? Or maybe I’m dieting, so I trend toward the broiled fish… What are my fellow diners ordering? Then I recall from worship that the Bible says my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), which either complicates or enriches things as I think about putting food into myself. I think about the goodness of God, creating the vast array of foods and flavors. I pause and recall those who cannot afford such a meal, or any food at all, and I’m not prideful but humbled.

With whom am I eating, anyhow? More importantly, if I am at home, who is at my table? Or better, who is never at my table, and why? The Christian who eats might try to ignore Jesus’ stunning words in Luke 14:7-14 suggesting we invite those who cannot invite us back. Does my inviting ever shatter a social boundary? Or personal preference? Jesus seems clearly to prefer we do so, not to make life hard, but so we might grow and be more like Christ himself.

In all our eating, we begin to imagine the possibilities of reconciliation. The Lord’s Supper gets fancified, so we lose the obvious connection to real meals with real people that can change everything. I love what Father Greg Boyle, whose Homeboy Industries ministry with gang members in California is impressive and moving (and who is joining us for a talk on August 5!!!), said during an interview about the communion cup: “We’ve wrestled the cup out of Jesus’ hand and we’ve replaced it with a chalice because who doesn’t know that a chalice is more sacred than a cup, never mind that Jesus didn’t use a chalice?

Then he told how he asked an abused orphan and former gang member in his program, “What did you do for Christmas?” The young man said he cooked a turkey “ghetto-style,” and invited six other guys to join him. When he named them, Boyle recognized them as members of warring gangs. As he pondered them cooking together on Christmas day, he wondered, “So what could be more sacred than seven orphans, enemies, rivals, sitting in a kitchen waiting for a turkey to be done? Jesus doesn’t lose any sleep that we will forget that the Eucharist is sacred. He is anxious that we might forget that it’s ordinary, that it’s a meal shared among friends.”

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