08.05.18 – You Can Get What You Need at Jesus’ Restaurant

You Can Get What You Need at Jesus’ Restaurant

August 5, 2018
11th Sunday after Pentecost
2 Sam. 11:26 – 12:15; Ps.51; Eph. 4:1-16; John 6:24-35
Rev. Denise Clark-Jones

 

There is nothing like the image of friends and family gathered around a table filled with good food and drink to sell Americans a product. It is the image of abundance, of love and happiness, the comforts of home. Except, however, the home part. You see, the average American eats out 4-5 times a week. Ironically, we seem to love sitting on the couch watching other people cook. The Food Network is one of the top-rated television networks. Celebrity chefs are all the rage.

The bible is filled with food imagery and stories revolving around shared meals. In our gospel reading, Jesus proclaims to be “the bread of life.” From earlier gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we read that Jesus spent a lot of time being both the host and the guest at dinner tables. What stood out about Jesus was that he never denied food to anyone and never turned down an invitation to share a meal with someone else.

A few years back, the Southern Baptist pastor cum politician, Mike Huckabee, called for people to show their opposition to gay marriage rights by eating together at Chick Fil- A in the name of Christian values. At that time, the president of Chick-Fil-A publicly announced that not only was he and the leadership of the organization against gays being allowed legal marriage civil rights, the organization had donated 2 million dollars to anti-gay groups. He had the audacity to speak for God proclaiming that homosexuality angered God and warned that God’s wrath would soon be apparent in some frightening way. Now, I’ll admit some pretty frightening things have happened in the world since then, but what mere mortal can claim to know if bad things happen because God is angry. If we want to discern what makes God angry, the best clue we have is what made Jesus angry. I’ll refer you to the gospels for the answers, but I will say that greed, injustice, and lack of compassion are at the top of the list.

The president of Chick-Fil-A went on to claim his organization supported “the biblical definition of the family unit.” I’ve always wondered which biblical marriage he had in mind – polygamy, levirate marriage, cousins marrying, acting as your wife’s pimp-like Abraham? There are so many family configurations in the Bible it’s hard to choose.

But, we have progressed since then. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that a “Christian” baker can refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding on the grounds of freedom of religion. In that same unloving spirit, Mike Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was recently refused service at a Virginia restaurant because the owner did not agree with how she does her job as the president’s press secretary. The author of Ephesians declares we must speak the truth in love to build up the body of Christ. I doubt he meant that, adversely, God approves of us speaking untruths with hate, yet this lack of grace abounds in our public discourse. None of these actions mentioned bearing any resemblance to Jesus’ table fellowship. Jesus never refused to sit down for a meal with anyone: Pharisees, tax collectors, and all manner of sinners were welcome to sit at a table with Jesus. Even at Jesus’ last supper, he hosted a hapless group of disciples, two of which betrayed him that very evening.

The Letter to the Ephesians proclaims that we are called to minister to God’s children, our neighbors, in a variety of ways, one of which is to be a prophet. In our continued reading of King David’s reign in Second Samuel, we read that the prophet Nathan spoke truth to David about his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah, with a parable about a meal. This meal was no act of hospitality. In this parable, a poor man’s only lamb was not food for his family, but a beloved pet – a member of his family. This lamb was not served to the family, but under the table with gifts of the family’s daily bread. Along comes a rich man, who owns a multitude of lambs, who abuses his power of wealth by taking the poor man’s only lamb to slaughter and cook it for an extravagant meal for himself and his guests. When David, a man after our own hearts, hears Nathan’s parable, he fails to see his own sin and becomes enraged at the injustice. When he asks Nathan: “Who is this man?” prepared to order capital punishment for the offense, Nathan responds: “You are the man.”

In our own righteous indignation of others’ offenses, we, too, are blinded to our own. The existence of “white privilege,” born of a long history of bigotry, greed, and fear, is a prime example of our failure to see our own sin or complicity in the sins of our society. Time and time again people originally brought to this country as slaves have had opportunities denied or taken away to the benefit of immigrants of European descent. Yes, except for the native-born Americans whose ancestors lived in this land before European arrival and colonization, we are all descendants of immigrants. When it comes to injustice and oppression of non-whites, when prophets tell the story we must admit we are that man, that woman who is guilty. Instead of an open invitation, we have fenced our tables.

In our gospel reading for today, Jesus refers to his miraculous feeding of the 5,000, when he proclaims that he is the bread of life.  If Jesus were a contemporary chef I see him more as Anthony Bourdain than the executive chef of Hell’s Kitchen. The late Anthony Bourdain traveled the world to dine at the tables of folks around the world – not at the famous hot spots, but in the out of the way places that served the local dishes enjoyed by the natives. Before he dined with the locals, he listened to the people and learned the history and culture of the region. By the time the meal was placed on the table, Bourdain was sharing a table with friends. Sadly, he needed more than the food he consumed at these meals. This was food that, after being consumed, left him hungry again. What he needed was spiritual food that would sustain and nourish him even when he ‘walked through the valleys in the shadows of death.’ Tragically, Bourdain’s own emptiness consumed him to the point he took his own life.

Jesus offered spiritual food to the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and the lonely. He even offered this food to sinners, which includes all of us who come to Christ’s table. Jesus does not ask us if we are worthy, he asks if we are hungry – hungry for the food that will satisfy our hunger eternally. Jesus, the Christ, bids us to come and eat and then sends us out to feed others. The re-enactment of Jesus’ Last Supper is the parable of God’s steadfast love and saving grace. Let us keep the feast that lasts forever, binding us to all God’s children of every time and place who have come to His table seeking the bread of life.

Amen.

 

 

© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2018, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church
1420 W. Moss Avenue – Peoria Illinois 61606
WestminsterPeoria.org   l   309.673.8501