Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder, Senior Minister

 

 

 

On the Edge of Promise: The Taste of Resurrection

Easter Sunday

Sunday, April 8, 2007

 

 

Joshua 5: 10-12

Luke 24: 13-35

 

Rev. Dean Snyder

 

Two of Jesus’ disciples are walking the seven miles between Jerusalem and Emmaus the first Easter when a stranger falls in with them.

 

They do not recognize him. They discuss the events of the last week, and they still do not recognize him. He interprets the Scriptures to them, and they still do not recognize him.

 

He calls them “foolish” and “slow” and you’d think they’d recognize him then. How characteristic of Jesus, to call his disciples “foolish” and “slow!” Surely they would recognize him in his reproach. But, no, they still did not recognize him.

 

It was when they got to Emmaus and sat down at the dining room table to eat dinner, as Jesus took bread and broke it, that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

 

“He had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread,” Luke tenderly says. (Luke 24: 35)

 

The story goes on in Luke. The disciples are together, when Jesus suddenly appears in their midst. They think they are seeing a ghost. But Jesus asks if they have anything to eat. The disciples give him a piece of fish and he eats it in their presence. (Luke 24: 36-43)

 

In the gospel of John, some of the disciples have decided to go fishing after the first Easter. They fished through the night. The next morning the resurrected Jesus appears to them on the shore. He has made a charcoal fire and there are fish on it and bread, and he says to the disciples, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21: 13)

 

No wonder Craig Satterlee says that the first Easter is “not as much about an empty tomb as about food.”[i]

 

The risen Christ wants his disciples to eat, and wants to eat with them. I find myself moved by this.

 

I find myself also moved by the description in the book of Joshua of the Israelites’ first Passover in the Promised Land. The Book of Joshua tells it matter-of-factly. After 40 years of eating manna (which is Hebrew for “What is this?”), the day after Passover the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the Israelites gathered food that had grown in the Promised Land, and they ate unleavened cakes and parched (or toasted) grain. They ate their first meal of real food in 40 years.

 

Reaching the Promised Land means eating real food from the good earth of the Promised Land.

 

I mean, you expect Easter to be about the heavenly, the spiritual, the ethereal, the mystical…and instead it is mostly about eating…mostly about food.

 

You expect the Promised Land to be about constructs of justice and utopian principles, about the idealistic and lofty…and instead it is mostly about parched grain, and grapes, and milk and honey. It is mostly about food.

 

There is a very practical reason for this, of course. The history of humanity has always been characterized by hunger and the fear of hunger. Hungry people are unavoidably obsessed with food.

 

Many of us here, who have never experienced real hunger, are a very select minority of the world’s population historically and today. We all know this.

 

NPR says 38 million Americans are “food insecure.”[ii] They have a hard time finding enough money to keep food on the table.

 

One in three Africans are malnourished, and 80 percent of the people of Africa subsist daily on less than I spend on a cup of green ginger tea at Starbucks. Reports from Zimbabwe say school attendance is way down because children are too hungry to go to school.

 

Hunger in our world is a symbol of our failure to claim our Promised Land…it belongs to Good Friday, not to Easter.

 

On Easter and in the Promised Land there is food aplenty. In almost every religion one of the images of heaven is a place where there is food enough and more for everybody to eat. The promise of the Promised Land and of Easter is a world without hunger. It is sobering to think that 2000 years after Christ the majority of the world’s people are still impoverished and hungry. It disturbs our Easter to remember this, and it should.

 

But Easter and the Promised Land are about food also, I think, because food is about community. Food is about love.

 

I won’t ask for a showing of hands, but I wonder how many of us here fell in love while eating and drinking with our partners?

 

Eating together makes a big difference in the lives of families. “Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use,” according to Nancy Gibbs writing in Time Magazine.[iii]

 

Robin Fox, an anthropologist who teaches at Rutgers University says: “If it were just about food, we would squirt it into their mouths with a tube,” but family dinners engrave our souls.

 

I may well be in this pulpit today because growing up Sunday dinners at our house were spent chewing and digesting the Sunday morning sermon, along with the chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. 

 

Food is about community…and love. It is a sign of the quality of relationship in the Promised Land and in the community of the Resurrected Christ and in heaven.

 

All during Lent we have been looking at the story of the Israelites final push over the edge of Promise into the Promised Land, and I have found myself drawn, as I read the story in the Bible, to the story of the civil rights movement in America. There is one more aspect of the civil rights movement that intrigues me this morning.

 

After the Montgomery bus boycott ended in late 1956, the civil rights movement floundered for a time. Martin Luther King Jr. tried to find new strategies – voter registration, new publications, schools to train people in non-violence. Dr. King traveled to India to learn more about Gandhian non-violence. He wrote a book.

 

But a number of the efforts that Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference attempted failed and Dr. King became discouraged. By 1960 he had decided to move to Atlanta and become associate pastor of his father’s church in anticipation of becoming its senior pastor one day.

 

Just as he was in the process of relocating, four freshmen students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, a Black school, were having a bull session in their dorm room. They were talking about the injustice of African-Americans not being allowed to eat at the lunch counter of the Woolworth’s in Greensboro.

 

One of them said that they ought to just go sit at the counter and ask to be served. The student said, “We might as well go now.” Another student said, “You really mean it?” The first student said, “Sure, I mean it.”

 

The four freshmen slipped into seats at the “sacrosanct whites-only lunch counter.”[iv] By the next day the number of students sitting at the lunch counter had grown to 19; the day after that it grew to 85, and by a few days later it was over 400, and sit-ins had begun at lunch counters in Durham and Raleigh, and the civil rights movement was reborn.

 

Why, of all things, was it a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter that caused the civil rights movement to be reborn? Because food is about community and it is about love, and denying human beings access to even the salty chicken noodle soup and soggy cheese sandwiches they served at Woolworth’s was a devastating sign and symbol of the brokenness of the human family. Perhaps no other symbol could have had as much power at that time, not even the right to vote.

 

Easter and the Promised Land are about food because food is about community and love. When we break bread together and share it, the Risen Christ is there.

 

You made your way to church this Easter morning hoping perhaps to hear sublime truths about eternity and the realm of glory, and here I am talking about barbequed fish and rye bread and chicken noodle soup.

 

But there is another thing I want to say about food and Easter and the Promised Land. We are never more human than when we are eating. We are never more earthy. We are never more visceral.

 

The Risen Christ wants to have some barbequed fish with us. He wants to eat with us. He barbeques the fish for us and says, “Come, have some breakfast.” He breaks off a fistful of dark coarse grainy bread and hands it to us.

 

Whatever it is that is resurrected, it is not some pale ghostly antiseptic versions of ourselves. Whatever it is of us that is resurrected, it eats.

 

The Jungian therapist Marion Woodman was anorexic as a young woman. She has often written about food disorders. Food disorders are very complicated and I don’t mean to simplify them, they require medical attention. But Marion Woodman believes that one of the things that food disorders, and their prevalence in our society, symbolizes is a desire not to be bound to the earth, not to be dirty, not to make dirt, not to be human. The prevalence of food disorders symbolizes a desire to be more than human, to be angels, to be gods. She calls it an “addiction to perfection.”[v]

 

But, she says, the goal of life is not perfection. The goal of life is completeness or wholeness. To become perfect we need to cut out a part of ourselves – whatever part we see as unacceptable or unworthy – but to become complete we must learn to love and to include our whole selves – the noble and the ignoble, the wise and the foolish, the competent parts and the bumbling parts, the honorable and the less honorable.[vi]

 

Here’s the point – whatever it is of us that is resurrected eats, and I assume scratches…snores…slouches…makes corny jokes…cusses… procrastinates...and all of the rest.

 

For some reason God doesn’t want to spend eternity with angels or plaster saints. God wants to spend eternity with you and with me with all our quirks and peculiarities and weaknesses and strengths and preferences and personality types and skin shades and orientations.

 

Here’s something I’ve never told you before. The week before every holiday I get emails, two or three, from Foundry folk telling me that a relative – a brother or sister or mother or father or grandparent – will be attending worship with them here and asking me if I can say something in my sermon that would help the brother, sister, parent, grandparent to accept them. I pray about it every holiday. Whatever can I say? All I can say is that God loves your brother, sister, son, daughter, grandchild, for who they are…for exactly who they are. How can’t we love one another for who we are?  

 

God wants to spend eternity with the you who eats. Every time we eat, it is a reminder of resurrection – a foretaste of eternity with God. So enjoy your ham or turkey or tofurky. Savor every bite. Each mouthful is a promise of resurrection.  

 

 

 

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[i] Craig A. Satterlee, “Living by the Word: Eating at Easter,” Christian Century (April 18, 2006). See http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_8_123/ai_n16134255.

[ii] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5023829.

[iii] http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1200760,00.html.

[iv] Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 (Simon and Schuster), 271.

[v] Marion Woodman, Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished Bride (Inner City Books), 47 ff.

[vi] Woodman, 50-2.