I have learned, that in my personal faith journey, issues of hunger, feeling fed, and the community that is built around food, are important lenses through which I encounter God—and this has been revealed for me through a variety of life moments. For food is an integral part of our culture. Our identity. Our wholeness. Our survival. Our relationships. Our sacraments. Food is infused with Holiness.
In the first creation story, God provides a healthy vegetarian diet for us, the human creature saying, “…every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:19). The first moment in my own disquieting in relation to food came when I was 17 years old. My grandfather had suffered a stroke. I had witnessed my grandmother, his wife, experience multiple strokes during the final years of her own life. I had seen her struggle with the physical challenges and difficulty with language. But what I didn’t expect was to hear my grandfather’s greatest struggle. Subsequently I was surprised when he mentioned that the medical professional that had helped him the most following his stroke was the speech and language pathologist. The reason? She had worked with him, giving him strategies in order to re-learn how to swallow. Swallowing. Such an automatic, infrequently thought about function that is essential to life. My grandfather’s comment, and my grandparent’s experiences with strokes, eventually led me on my own quest to become a speech and language pathologist.
In that first vocation, I became interested in how important food is to our quality of life. I worked with lots of people, children… adults… for whom meals were challenging. The physical act of swallowing was life threatening. The tactile sensations of the meal were repulsive. Conversations were too distracting. The development of relationships was uncomfortable. But so much of our neuronormative life revolves around food. Being fed just seems normal. The sensation of hunger. Our hunger for food. Our hunger for connectedness with others. Our hunger to be spiritually fed. And, as a faith community, we are a people that gathers at the Table with Jesus. To. Be. Fed.
At this point in the reflection, you might be starting to wonder just what exactly these life experiences of mine have to do with this week’s scripture lessons. You need to know that I am also a worship geek. I am fascinated by the intersectionality between how what we do here, in worship, reflects what we do “out there” in our day-to-day lives—AND how our day-to-day lives are reflected here, in worship.
And part of that, I believe, is naming our hunger. Feeding our hunger. Responding to… our hunger. Because, for new things to burst forth, we must… hunger…
Ted Jennings, Professor of Biblical and Constructive Theology Emeritus at Chicago Theological Seminary, notes that Jesus does “a lot of appearing” in the gospels following his death, and that it is “…in the breaking of bread, in the sharing of meals” that “Jesus is recognized in the community.” Jennings further states that, “There is something about dying and being raised that gives one an appetite.”
Do you remember Jairus’ (Jay-I-rus) daughter? In Luke, after others have said that Jairus’ daughter has died, Jesus takes her hand, she gets up, and she eats (Luke 8:55). Through the lens of the author of Luke’s writings and the other gospels, Jesus is always having meals with people. And then, after his death, people “recognize (Jesus) in the breaking of the bread, and when he notes that he is hungry.” In our reading today, it is in a morsel of boiled fish. During Holy Week, we lift up the Last Supper, that meal in the upper room which is really not a “last meal” thing at all. Instead, it is a continuing, eternal, “Wherever, whenever you have meals” sort of Jesus thing.
Jesus show up today. And he is hungry.
For what do you… hunger?
For what do we… as a faith community… hunger?
For what does our world hunger?
For what does God… hunger?
I love the humor embedded in today’s reading. The disciples were startled and terrified. They were then filled with joy, disbelief, and wondering. As they stood there, racked with the chaos of all these emotions, Jesus calmly says to them, “Do you have anything to eat?”
I think that it is important to note that this moment comes to us immediately following the road to Emmaus. That story of Jesus walking with friends, talking… with friends… teaching… friends… and then gathering with them at the Table, where “he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to” those around him. There, “their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and (Jesus) vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31).
Jennings cautions us that there is a “… perennial risk of substituting loyalty to the church for commitment to the gospel.” Hear those words again: There is a “… perennial risk of substituting loyalty to the church for commitment to the gospel.” He encourages us to ask the question, “… How are we to understand our lives in relation to the gospel?” What does the Good News, the breaking of the bread, the appearance of Jesus with us, mean to us today?
For Jennings cautions that, “… too often we think of worship as an escape from the harsh realities of the world, as a respite from our labors, as a sacred time and space separated from the real world. This is a complete misunderstanding… In the service of our worship, we model the ways we engage the world in our daily lives… Liturgy (or the order of worship) shapes life-style” What we do here, in worship, reflects what we do “out there” in our day-to-day lives—AND how our day-to-day lives are reflected back here, in worship.
And here again in 2018, Jesus show up. And he is hungry.
Suddenly, the author of 1 John pulls us into the jarring need to face the sins in our midst. The personal sins. The systemic sins. For, as Jennings points out, “The forgiveness of sins is… connected to ‘the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” A moment in which worship reflects life. Jennings writes that we see “the confession of sins as a diagnosis of the bondage in which we and the world are imprisoned…” “Whenever we come together to worship we confess, repent, hear, and speak absolution. The community that acts in this way is not a community of the perfected but of the struggling.”
May we be hungry to Be the Church.
Here, in this faith community, I hear stories of how people in this place are hungry to minister to each other. The importance of our care ministries—the cards, the food, the visits. I hear stories about the importance of life long faith formation: Sunday School, confirmation, bible study, Taking Faith Home, and Taking Faith Out. I hear stories about our environmental justice ministries. I hear from those that are passionate about issues of immigration, welcoming refugees, and/or responding to the economic and racial disparities in our community. And there are so… many… more… stories…
Today, Jesus shows up—and is hungry.
May we too, be hungry. Hungry for justice. Hungry to serve. Hungry to show up. Hungry to listen to the marginalized. Hungry to welcome those the church has not yet fully welcomed. Hungry to speak out. In our struggles, may we be hungry for a different world. For in responding to our own hunger, others will be fed.
Beloved—Are you hungry?
In the places where we are startled and terrified… when we are filled with joy, disbelief, and wondering… Jesus shows up.
People of God—Name your hunger, and be fed. And through you, others… will in turn… be fed.
Reflection on 1 John 3:1-7 and Luke 24: 36b-48 offered on April 15, 2018
 Jennings, Theodore, Rev. Dr. “Luke.” Lecture, Introduction to the Gospels, Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, 2013. Week 8.
 Ibid, Week 8.
 Jennings, Theodore W. The Liturgy of Liberation: The Confession and Forgiveness of Sins. Nashville: Abingdon, 1988. 10.
 Ibid. 13.
 Ibid. 17.
 Ibid. 27.
 Ibid. 20.
 Ibid. 53.