Monday, February 13, 2012

A Heaping Plate of Love

A generous Korean woman waves her hand at me almost every Sunday as our congregations cross paths, gesturing me to come and eat.

One of the most important proverbs I learned from my teacher Pete Steinke is that food=love. This bit of wisdom continues to serve me well. What I've learned from living this out is how often I don't recognize love. Yesterday love came with a large serving of what I thought might be an unidentified vegetable, until I saw little eyes poking out of the serving tongs.

If I examine love on the basis of my preferences, I miss out on a lot of love. My acceptance of love can be an obstacle course of culinary challenges. Among the things that have startled me over the years (including the anchovies pictured above):

  • Snickers salad.
  • Korean medicinal herbs marinated in spice and broth.
  • A slab of iceberg lettuce identified as "salad."
  • A fish boil. This is not a piscine skin disease, but a fish preparation common in northern Wisconsin.  
  • More concoctions involving cream of mushroom soup than I care to remember.
  • A plate of meat, plantains, and rice with people in Nicaragua, when all the locals around me are eating only plantains and rice.
  • A dietary confession from a man in South Dakota, "unless it's brown or white, I won't eat it. Want some?"

Granted, my list would never make Anthony Bourdain's television show or an episode of "Strange Foods of the World." The eyes of the anchovies reminded me that one of the most important things I do in my work is eat with people face to face. What I am served may not be the food I imagine for myself, but I almost always try the food. In order for me to communicate about God's love, it's important for people to recognize that God's love already flows through them. Regardless of the content of the food, I have to be willing to try, because the food was offered in love. If love is shared, I believe I have a greater opportunity to learn and also share love myself.

Such is Holy Communion. Maybe you're not feeling good about yourself--who you are or what you've done. Maybe the thought of eating with others may not be all that appealing, considering how sometimes I'm crabby with other people. The meal is offered by Christ out of love. Regardless of the content, that meal offered in love in transformative.

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