“Bloom with Grace: Let’s Eat” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

January 28th,2021 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter
Beloved Church,

During my final interview for ordination, I was asked if I would serve communion to someone who was not baptized. I answered that not only would I serve someone who is not baptized, but I would serve anyone who came to the table looking for nourishment.

The table is not ours, but Jesus’s, and the food may be the only piece of bread that someone may get that day- it is not my understanding of the Gospel to refuse them. The answer was well received by most, but there was also push back as I am sure you can imagine. Scripture can be confusing and sometimes offer contradictory understandings of what God wants from us. Throw in human translations and cultural understandings and you can have a real theological mess on your hands. For example, I am a minister of the Gospel and yet I cannot receive communion in Catholic worship. I don’t blame them, we just have a different understanding of communion. And even though we are growing in God’s love together in this world, it can still be confusing.

This week’s scripture touches a little on just this topic. Not communion exactly, but who gets to eat what and when. It’s reassuring to me that these issues of interfaith sacraments that we have today are remnants of similar conversations and confusions that our biblical ancestors had. Paul in his letter to Corinth reminds us that God doesn’t care what we eat, but God does care that we are fed – in every way possible. Let’s read together these words from 1 Cor. 8:1-13.

1 Now, concerning food sacrificed to idols.

We all possess knowledge. But knowledge puffs up, whereas love builds up. 2 You may think you know something, but you still won’t know it the way you ought. 3 But anyone who loves God is known—completely—by God.

4 Well then, what about eating food sacrificed to idols? We know that idols have no real existence, that there is no God but the One. 5 Even though there are so-called gods in the heavens—and on the earth as well, where there seem to be many gods and sovereigns— 6 for us there is only One God, Abba God, from whom all things come and for whom we live; there is one Sovereign, Jesus Christ, through whom everything was made and through whom we live.

7 Some people, accustomed to idol worship until recently, are consumed with guilt every time they eat meat they buy in the market, because they know that the meat had been sacrificed to idols—and their conscience, because it is weak, gets defiled every time they eat. 8 But food cannot bring us closer to God. We lose nothing if we refuse to eat. We gain nothing if we choose to eat.

9 Be on your guard, however, that this liberty of yours does not become a pitfall for the weak. 10 Suppose someone who has this knowledge sees you eating in some idol’s temple, won’t this person be tempted to eat meat offered to idols? 11 Realize that your knowledge—that idols are nothing and thus it is all right to eat this meat freely—might be the ruination of a weak sister or brother, for whose sake Christ died. 12 By sinning against your sisters and brothers in this way and injuring their weak consciences, you are sinning against Christ. 13 Therefore, if meat causes my sister or brother to stumble, I will never eat it again—I don’t want to be an occasion for sin to them.
[1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (ILB)/ 1 Corintios 8: 1-13 (NVI)]

Did you read the confusion within this community? Can you eat sacrificed meat or not? The truth is some people were eating the sacrificed meat and others had a deeply embedded theology against it. Some people had access to this knowledge earlier than others and it takes time to change, even when the scriptures tell you to. So, I am empathetic to their confusion and willing to journey with anyone in the same space. What I find helpful in this passage is that Paul reminds us that we gain nothing and lose nothing in terms of what we eat, but if what we eat causes harm to our community, then what we eat matters.  This isn’t really about food. It’s about God and community. What matters is our intentionality to our community. How we love each other. How we serve each other. How we grow with and toward each other. That has always been my understanding of Christ’s table but even more so – the feast of God’s love.

Friends, how do your choices around food reflect your commitments to God’s community? What food brings you closer to God? How can we be sure that everyone is fed in both body and spirit? We don’t have to have the answers today, but I hope we can think through this together and set into motion a vision of equitable and communal nourishment, so that Christians 2000 years from now, see even more clearly God’s love for us in how we nourish ourselves, our community, and our faith.

Shalom Yall,

Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, We give thanks for all the ways you nourish us and call us to help nourish each other. Amen