Not Funeral Food, But Still Good.

Some years ago Kate Campbell graced our sanctuary with her thoughtful lyrics and soulful voice. One of the songs she sang that evening was entitled “Funeral Food.”

Aunt Fidelia brought the rolls
With her green bean casserole
The widow Smith down the street
Dropped by a bowl of butter beans
Plastic cups and silverware
Lime green Tupperware everywhere
Pass the chicken, pass the pie
We sure eat good when someone dies

Funeral food
It’s so good for the soul
Funeral food
Fills you up down to your toes
Funeral food

It is a song that describes the pastoral mystery of food in the face of death, and the sacred necessity that is breaking bread with friends and family in the midst of grief.  In such times, sadness and loss are hanging thick in the air. Words do not come easily, and sometimes there just isn’t anything to be said; but people always need to eat. So the casserole and the fried chicken become icons of God’s love. The food speaks, expressing the love and concern of God’s people, and the never-ending assurance of God’s presence.

Thankfully, I have not been to a funeral this week, but I did go to a surgery last week. My wife, Patti, had surgery on both of her feet last Wednesday. One of you has brought food to the house every day since then.  There has been fried chicken, steak and gravy, meat loaf, salad, macaroni and cheese, green beans, baked beans and rib-eyes for grilling on Mother’s Day. Your kindness has been humbling, your thoughtfulness expansive, and your generosity overwhelming.

These meals have been most helpful during this time. They have made our days more manageable, they have nourished our bodies, and they have delightfully satisfied our hunger. Yet, I have tasted something more in your demonstrations of compassion.  I have tasted bread and juice as if we were in the sanctuary together at the Lord’s table.  Your gifts of food have been a real and tangible experience of God’s grace for me.  You have been the presence of Christ to me and my family even as you have brought Christ’s presence to us.

We live in challenging times, and you know that I am not just saying that in some general sort of way. There are personal trials and challenges in my life, and in yours, still to be faced.  Even so, I am more hopeful today as a result of your vivid reminder of the reality of the resurrection. You are the body of Christ sent into the world to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am convinced again of that truth. Your testimony of concern and care have deepened my faith, strengthened my spirit, and touched my soul. Thank you for your faithfulness to the life and words of the One who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

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Seeing Theology @ McDonald’s

I wonder why some people who work in the restaurant business refer to their place of business as stores. I can see it if you work at Cracker Barrel because it is a restaurant and store. Other restaurants that don’t have a store still are referred to as stores by those that work there. I am sure there is some business principle at work here that dictates that any place that sells stuff is a store even if the product is a Big Mac. It is no big deal, but I was not brought up that way. My dad was in the restaurant business and he always referred to his restaurants as restaurants. I am not sure what I am missing here but it is noteworthy that I only have memories of my dad being in the restaurant business and McDonald’s has stores all over the world.

I noticed something recently in a McDonalds that I had not seen in one previously. There was a table that looked more like a dining room table. Eight people could easily sit around this table. The chairs were like normal chairs not bolted to the floor nor attached to the table in some way. The table looked like a perfect place for old men to gather in the morning for coffee. A small group of people could easily have a meeting around such a table. I am not sure who had the idea to put a dining room table in a McDonald’s. More than that I am reasonably sure that whoever made that decision was not thinking spiritually or theologically, but I wonder.

I wonder because we human beings have innate need to be included, to be a part of and to belong. In church, we have our own table. No, I am not talking about the one you sit each Wednesday night in the fellowship hall, or maybe I am. The table where you always have a place, where there is always room for you. I am thinking of the table where you always find your fill both of good food and good company, the table where you connect with others, yourself and maybe even God in a deeper way. The tables where that happens maybe in many places your kitchen or dining room, a restaurant where you are a regular, a church fellowship hall or even in a school cafeteria or a break room at work. It could happen there for you. You find a table where friends or family always have a place for you always welcome you, always include you. It is a place where you belong and a moment that you are a part of.

Not everyone has that sort of table, a table where they always a place. Not everyone has a table where they find grace, grace enough to belong and be included. Not everyone has experienced the warmth and joy of such table, but that does not mean that they do not still long for it.

There is such a table. It is a table that reminds us and teaches us even as it invites us to come and find our place. We call it the Lord’s Table or the Lord’s Supper table. It is in the sanctuary. It is a table that symbolizes the reality of God’s love for and acceptance of us. The meal we share from it reminds us that we are loved, that God has made a way for us to be included, for us to a part of the family of God. There is always room for one more at the table of our Lord.