“Moonlight floods the whole sky from horizon to horizon.
How much it can fill your room depends on its windows.”
The tables are burdened heavy with food. Meats, salads, cheeses, vegetables, and of course the ever-glorious table of desserts. This is one of those events where everyone shows up with five stomach’s worth of food, such that it can’t all possibly be eaten. Far be it from us though, Friends, not to do our best.
We’re in an ancient mead-hall, perhaps, surrounded by lusty Vikings. Or maybe it’s the first Thanksgiving, with venison and popcorn for all. Could be Passover, and we could all be eating lamb and unleavened bread.
The setting isn’t really the point. It’s the food that matters.
In an land of abundant food, we can afford to debate whether we should be led by our hearts or our heads. Make food scarce, though, and see how long it takes us to be led by our bellies instead.
We see food as joy, and as essential metaphor. We drink the milk of human kindness and turn our lemons into lemonade when times are tough. We gather round the water cooler to chew the fat with friends when things get interesting. We slaughter the fatted calf to celebrate our salad days.
And when Jesus encountered a weary woman at a well, he described himself as the source of Living Water. And when asked for a sign from heaven, a confirmation of some sort, Jesus just said he is the bread of life, sent down like manna for the people of God.
So here’s my question for you: how is it, with bread raining down on our heads, that we end up malnourished? Why do we have to convince ourselves to eat good food? If the Bread of Life is freely available, why aren’t we gorging ourselves on the finest food available?
As I wrote those lines – true story alert – I was eating some kind of peanut snack in the form of a puff. It was styrofoamy, like a cheese puff, but it wasn’t coated in fake cheese- that’s about the best thing I could say about it. So I wrote “why do we have to convince ourselves to eat good food,” and then literally, my next thought was “ugh, what is this garbage that I’m eating?”
It’s not like my shelves were empty. It’s not like I don’t know how to cook- Craig and I are both pretty good at it. But, see, to get to the peanut nonsense, all I had to do was open a bag.
Good food, on the other hand, takes time. Good food takes concentration and planning. Good food takes resources that I don’t necessarily have on hand. Give us a few hard days in a row, and dinner will cost us five dollars and change at Little Caesars and be eaten in front of a movie.
There’s a communion of sorts in simply admitting that this Tuesday has not been one of the best on record, so to speak. There’s a grace in jointly throwing in the towel and settling in for grease and superheroes. Do that every day, though, and you’re not going to feel too great.
So. We often say that Quakers don’t “do” communion, but that isn’t true. We may not have literal wafers and wine, but Friends have found that this so-called lack in no way prevents us from communing with God and the people of God if we so choose.
If you’re feeling spiritually malnourished today, it’s not because somebody forgot the oyster crackers. Physical, ceremonial celebrations of the Eucharist can be beautiful and moving, and I’m not trying to take away from that. There’s just no cracker that will feed you, though, like finding Christ in a friend.
The Apostle Paul got angry with the church in Corinth once- well, actually he got angry with them a lot. The Corinthians were kind of a mess. This one time that Paul got mad, though, he accused the congregation of not really celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It wasn’t because they were short on bread. It wasn’t because they were out of wine.
It was because they weren’t sharing their food. It was because they were being jerks, frankly. It was because they weren’t celebrating together, as friends. It was because they weren’t truly being gathered.
The bread and wine don’t make communion. The Spirit of Christ does.
One of the images of the Kingdom of God, throughout the Bible, is the banqueting table. It’s in the Psalms, spread out before you in the presence of your enemies. It’s in the Song of Songs, with a banner over the banqueters that reads love. It’s in the Gospels, with the King sending out servants to invite in the poor and the lame. It’s in Revelation, where the Spirit and the Bride say “Come!” This banquet is free, open, and always available.
So come! Commune! Find that moment in the silence when hearts connect, when all us disparate Quakers are united in one body, Christ’s body. Be tender with another Friend over the meal- tender, you know, being one of George Fox’s favorite ways of describing how Friends should interact.
That’s the gospel, in a nutshell: here’s your water, your milk, your wine, your bread. It costs you nothing. As the old children’s game puts it: olly olly oxen free.
There’s good food to be had, in this communion. All you have to do is come.