A Celebration of Life

In my preparation for our Thanksgiving service, I’ve been considering our relationship to food. The historical significance of Thanksgiving isn’t really a feature in many of our celebrations of the holiday anymore. Few of us spend much time thinking about the pilgrims and such. Our celebration tends to focus on the food, which is only natural, since food features prominently in just about any major celebration we have. The question I’ve been wrestling with is, “Why?”

Jesus calls Himself the “Bread of Life” in John 6, so it’s only natural that food is a prominent feature of our celebration of the Resurrection. Jesus doesn’t deny bread brings life in His debate with Satan. He simply rejects the idea that bread is the only thing necessary for life. Bread feeds the body. The Bread of Life feeds body and soul. Jesus brings together the Passover meal and the manna in the wilderness as He teaches us how He gives life to our whole being. So our celebration of the Resurrection centers on the Holy Supper, the meal that brings eternal life.

Food brings people together, since it is a major feature of our lives. Food brings us together around our common experience of mealtime. Communion, as an extension of mealtime, reminds us that our life is not individual, but corporate and communal. We aren’t meant just to live, but to live together.

Our Sunday celebration of the Resurrection falls into the list of all of the celebrations we share throughout the year. However, even though Communion stands at a higher magnitude of importance than the family meals at Thanksgiving or Christmas, our treatment of Communion tends to be pretty lackluster.

Looking at the manna God sends in the wilderness, to which Jesus is referring to in John 6, it is described as white and flaky and tasting of honey. It had substance and flavor. The food we use for our holiday meals is rich and flavorful, turkey, ham, stuffing, and all the rest. We spend time to provide a feast for our family and friends. God, however, is not so lucky. Our priority when it comes to Communion is often convenience and not celebration. I bet if you ask an average Lutheran to name 20 different kinds of bread, “wafer” doesn’t make the list. Wine too, is often selected for convenience rather than quality, some being quite off-putting. They certainly don’t make me think of the “feast of rich food” God promises in Isaiah 25 or King David’s declaration “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!” in Psalm 34. God gives us a reason to celebrate, but we have little interest in following through. It ends up being more like presenting a cardboard box and telling us it’s a birthday cake. It simply fails to live up to expectations.

We focus on what we need to have in order to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and too often that becomes a discussion about the bare minimum. “What are the most convenient and cost effective options?” Is this how we approach a celebration of forgiveness and eternal life? The emotional message most often conveyed by our treatment of the Lord’s Supper is not joy or gratefulness, but boredom and disinterest.

We cannot change the grace conveyed in the sacrament, nor do we want to. We acknowledge even the humblest bread and wine are still vehicles for eternal life. However, how we present the meal affects our reception and understanding of it. Can we find ways to reconnect with God’s bountiful goodness in both spiritual and physical terms? God talks about His gifts as something we should receive, but more than that, something we are to enjoy. Stewardship of the resources God has given us is a reasonable point and should be taken into consideration when looking at the sacraments as we do with everything else. But we must be careful it doesn’t become an excuse. Is there anything more worthy of celebration than grace and eternal life? Is that not worth a little extra time and effort on our part to make the physical aspect of the sacrament an approximation of the spiritual side as we humble creatures are able to make it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: