Yesterday, I preached my first sermon as the executive pastor of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City’s East Village. It was World Communion Sunday, and these are some of the words I offered:
I don’t know if you ever have tried reading the Bible when you are fasting, or on a diet, or even hungry. If you have, you surely discovered that the Bible talks about food and drink A LOT. Today, we might call Jesus a “foodie.”
Jesus began his ministry at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. When the wine ran out, he turned water into more wine, but not just any wine, the best wine. One of the last things Jesus did before his arrest was to host a feast for his disciples. They ate and drank so much that Jesus’ disciples couldn’t even stay awake in the garden to pray with him.
Jesus was a foodie because he knew what we all know: It is around the table that we tell our stories, get to know one another, and pass along what it means to be a part of the family. You don’t find a pulpit or a pew in the Gospels, but you often find Jesus eating and drinking.
Once it was with a tax collector he found up a tree, and once it was a lunch of five loaves and two fishes that he ate with a little boy and 5,000 of their closest friends. The metaphor Jesus used in the Gospel lesson I used yesterday was that his presence would nourish us like life-giving bread, if only we would live with open hearts.
Consider, also, the rest of the Bible. We tend to think that the first commandment that God gave was to stay away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was, however, one commandment before that. God plants the earth as a garden and assigns humans to tend it. Then God says, “Eat freely of it all.” Avoiding the one tree was the second commandment; the first was “eat freely”! (Every time I read that I hear the voice of God as my Italian grandmother: “Eat!”)
If you flip from the first book of the Bible to the last chapter of the last book you hear Jesus say:
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let everyone who hears say, “Come.” And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The Bible begins by saying “eat” and ends by saying “drink.”
Dr. Leonard Sweet says, “Everything between the first chapter and the last is a table. It is a table to which everyone is invited … including YOU!”
Rev. Michael Piazza