Daily Rhythms - Eating Together

Genesis 18:1-7

1The lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. 2He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.

3“My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. 4Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. 5And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”

“All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”

6So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.”7Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. 8When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.

 

 

 

Pre-Intro

God is our Father, that makes you my brother and sister, we are a family. Division is the lie, our oneness is the truth. We are not trying to find something in common. We have already so much in common, image of God, blood of Christ, do our difference is not a reason for division but a source for wonder and celebration. (I love you my brother)

Christ came to serve. We are his followers. That makes us servants. The world wants to be served. God’s people want to serve because we know that we are most divine with a towel around our waist. (I am here to serve you)

Holy Spirit sent Christ and then sent his followers on Pentecost. We are also sent with the most important mission, God’s work of reconciliation. We are missionaries.

How stupendous!

George Bernard Shaw wrote:

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

Is there a purpose mightier than the purpose of God?

Sign me in!

Okay. Then the worry sets in. How do we do mission work? Sounds so hard. I don’t have time for that. Do I have to do things beyond my already busy life of work and family?

Mission work is not another sphere of activities in addition to work and family. Mission is doing what we do daily with greater intention. We call these daily rhythms. And we will highlight these rhythms in the next few weeks. Things we already do. Eating, Listening, Story-telling, Blessing, Celebrating, and Re-creating.

And I get to start it off with eating which is great because I love eating. And you love eating. So this should be fun.

I mean listening. We all love being listened too. We don’t enjoy listening. Except now. But we all love eating.

I love eating so much that I even watch shows on eating. There is even a whole cable network dedicated to eating. Food Channel.

Mangchi

My wife watches Mangchi, who is a youtube star teaching how to make Korean dishes. She watches it every evening.

I say to her, don’t watch this stuff in the night, it makes me hungry. Makes me want to go to the pantry and stuff my face with anything, even garlic.
She says, watching it makes me full.

I can’t understand that. But then I shouldn’t complain because the next day she tries some of those dishes. So now I encourage her to watch it and I try to read.

Everybody loves eating. Everybody loves food. So mission work through eating is easy and powerful.

Easy but there is so much to eating. Easy but mission work through eating is profound.

We are going to do a little theology on eating. Reflect on the nature of eating. And in every reflection point out how we can do what we already doing with greater intention and slight difference to make it into mission work.

Really mission work in these daily rhythms is just a little awareness of intention and difference of direction. It’s like water at 99, one degree, it becomes 100 and boiling point at which you can cook a lot of things. One degree difference, same material, but you are doing different things with it.

Today we are going to look at 4 things about eating. Eating is a necessity, a sacrifice, communal, is pleasure.

Eating is a necessity.

Everyone has to eat. It is something we must do. You don’t have a choice. If you want to live you have to eat. This necessity of eating colors all our reflection on eating. But it should not negate the obvious, that one of our primary mission task is to feed the hungry.

We must not misinterpret Jesus’ words to Satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” We studied this in our temptation series. It is true that man is first a spiritual being. But that does not mean he ever ceases to be a physical being.

Our primary mission work is to share our physical bread. To feed the hungry.

When Elijah is suicidal, does God say, you have some serious spiritual issues? God doesn’t talk about the problems. God feeds him.

When Jesus raises Jairus’ 12 year old girl from the dead, everyone is stunned at this death reversing miracle and everyone is clapping and everyone wants to show the girl to the world and only Jesus has the common sense to tell her parents to give her something to eat because she is hungry not having ate those hours being dead. Eat first.

-1 in 9 people in the world live with hunger, do not have enough nutrients to live an active life.

-Every minute, 4 children die of starvation.

It is a massive problem, a complex problem, but something that can be fixed.

Catholic Relief Service says this about this issue:

The single most important fact about global hunger is this: You can help end it. The most difficult part of ending hunger is commitment — a willingness to persevere in times of no apparent progress.

-You fed me when I was hungry?

-When?

-When you fed the starving children in Durham, in Raleigh.

Eating is sacrifice

Now for most us and with the people we meet, eating will not mean life or death. But that connection is never fully lost on us, and it should not be. When we miss a meal we feel hunger pangs and that hunger pang is a reminder of the fragility of our life. We say, “I am so hungry I could die.” A hyperbole with a bite of truth.

Eating reminds us that we are not immortal. That we are mortal. Eating says we are always dying.

We don’t self-generate. We are never self-sufficient because we are never self-sustaining. Food is a limited resource.

And it is a resource that comes from the sacrifice of other life. What we have on our plate, no matter how much layers of cooking techniques we have used to garnish and display our food, what we have before us is something that was once alive and is now dead to give us life: the burger that was once a grazing cow to cauliflower that was a living plant that sought the sun.

The very fundamental need to eat reminds us that we are dying and that we need sacrifice to live.

Eating tells us that life is always a gift that comes from the sacrifice of another life.

I remember one person praying for the meal, just pointing out this sacrifice. Thank you for the cow that died, giving us his muscles so we can have this T-bone.” That’s too much, but it’s true. He went on, “and the microbes that went to breaking down the soil so these plants can live.” Food is getting cold. But every eating is a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that goes to keep us alive.

Three times a day. It is as if God is forcing us to stop and think about the nature of life, interdependency, sacrifice, not once but three times.

And so here is mission work. Say grace. Growing in church it becomes a meaningless habit, like cracking knuckles. But how can it be? It becomes meaningless only because we don’t see the food on our plate.

Alton Brown, that great scientist-chef, says he always prays before his meal. Why? When you think about how food gets to you, how can you not? For him it is not religion, it’s life!

And in today’s world, just saying prayer, thoughtful, intentional. I don’t mean fancy new words. I mean thinking about every word. That’s a witness.

We have neighborhood kids. They come around 11am, stick around till 12, then ask can we stick around for lunch. So even if had three hot dogs, we put more on the skillet. And like yesterday, we pray. And that prayer is a proclamation, that we know life comes from life and that ultimately it is God who gives us life.

When you eat your lunch, say to your co-workers, mind if I pray for our lunch together?

Eating is Communal

No one wants to eat alone. I remember when I was a single, going to Chinese restaurant to pick up my food and seeing a man eating alone and I said to myself, loser, and I would go home and eat my Chinese alone watching TV. You eat alone occasionally out of necessity. Because there is no one around. Or you really need solitude. But no one wants to eat alone regularly.

Eating is communal. It doesn’t have to be a communal thing if you look at it purely materially. It is just getting energy. You save more time just gulping it down. In the busy world we have set up for ourselves, we often end up doing that.

But humans don’t eat just to get energy. Humans don’t just need calories, we need connections. It is our mixture of the spirit and physical. We never eat just to eat. We eat so to be with people.

Saddest time of my life was my first two years of ministry in Maryland because I ended up eating alone most evenings.

I hated the evenings. Where I would cook a meal for myself, and it was basically a cabbaged stew with different meats rotated, then eat it alone, then wash the dishes alone, and then go to bed alone. I eventually got a cat, but it wouldn’tpurr at my coming. Then I got a dog and it would bark at my coming but it wouldn’t talk to me and ask me how my day was while eating. So I was still sad and lonely.

I hated it so much I did lots of visitations.

-How about a dinner visitation tonight?

-Pastor Sam, we did one last night.

Story of Tammy – are you going to come back?

Tammy Rodman does ministry out of her home for her neighbors. She lives in a poor and dangerous town in Durham. It is the place people try to move out of. She moved in. She takes in abused women. Her ministry recently expanded. She brings children in to her home. In the summer, she brings them to her home and feeds them lunch. They need the nutrition. They are one of the night kids of the statistics.

They get free lunch in school. But when they are out of session, most of them would skip lunch because they can’t afford it. So she feeds them. It is a necessity of calories. But it is so much more than that. They are hungry for connection.

I went there last week with my three kids and elder Hwaam. After lunch, Elder Lee made an origami and they thought him origami master and a class was created right there, the table cleared, eight kids sat around him and said, “Sansei.” But I could see it in their eyes, it wasn’t just the origami they were excited to show off, but that an adult was taking time to teach them.

A third grader asked to play connect-4 boasting she is the champion. So I played with her to prove her wrong. I was thinking, I am going to go easy on her but beat her at the end, yeah I don’t like to lose on purpose, she beat me.

So the next one, I concentrated and won. We were on our third, winner takes all, when it was time for bible study. Tammy called the kids to bible study. I said, “Wait, I almost beat her.” But we had to put the game away and as we were cleaning she asked, “are you going to come back?”

Eating is communal. So here is the missional thing to do. Invite people you don’t usually eat with. It is a neighbor. It is a co-worker. The ones hungry for friendship. Invite them. Perhaps it is a homeless you pass by. Go out and have lunch with him.

This is probably the great difference of a missional life. The non-missional life has a closed table. The missional life has an open table and invites anyone, especially the weak, hurt, lonely, even enemies.

And it does strange things. It helps relationships that goes bad. It helps hurting people forgive each other and find love stronger than when before it was questioned. It turns enemies into friends. It can even turn a nightmarish mugging situation with a gun into a group hug session.

Backyard barbecue story

Washington DC, and Michael, his wife and 14 years old daughter gathered their family and friends around a backyard barbecue dinner: awesome food, French wine, magical night,

It was around 10pm, stars were out, cool night breeze was gently fanning them when a young man, medium height came into their backyard and pointed a gun at his guest, Christina’s temple, and then at Michael’s wife’s temple, and said with menace, “Give me your money or I am going to start fing shooting!”

The perfect evening turned nightmarish. They fished for cash. None of them had any. They tried to explain it to him. He didn’t believe them. They tried to talk him out.

-What would your mother would think of you?

-I don’t have a mother. Someone’s gonna get hurt

Then Christina, the woman who felt the cold muzzle on her temple pick up an empty glass and said,
“We are celebrating today, have a glass of wine?”

The look on the man’s face changed. Everyone could feel the difference in the air. The tension left. He took the glass and drank it and said, “damn that’s a really good glass of wine.”

-Have some cheese?

He reached down for the cheese then drank the wine, the wine then the cheese, letting the pungency of the cheese and the bitterness of wine mix in his mouth.

Then he said, -I think I’ve come to the wrong place, and put his gun away.

For a while, they sat together, star, night insects, wine, cheese.

Then he asked, -Can I get a hug?

-Can we have a group hug?

They all gathered around him and gave him a group hug

-I am sorry, and he walked out with a glass of wine.

As they were cleaning up later, they found the glass neatly placed on the sidewalk.

Eating is pleasure

We love to eat because it also gives us pleasure. Yes it’s a necessity but it’s also pleasure. That God would make something so necessary into one of the greatest pleasures of life tells us something about the nature of God, our God is God of joy and pleasure.

Animals don’t relish their dish. They just eat. They have the satisfaction of hunger satisfaction. But I don’t think the lions gather around and say, “I prefer the gamy and tough meat of gazelles over the tender meat of zebras.”

They don’t ask, “What do you feel like for dinner?”

I know that question is the perennial existential question. But that question speaks of choice of pleasure. What tastes do I want to explode in my tongue?

And eating experience is not just taste. It engages all our sense. Think even of the perfect peach. It is sight, that round orange like the sun, touch, fuzzy hair that tickles your fingers, you push it and it is soft and the skin dimples but all the juice filling the flesh pushes back, the scent of citrus but not acidic, sharp yet stretched out like a summer, and the sound as you sink in your teeth, no crunch just a slight warble as your teeth sinks in, it’s all such a pleasurable experience.

Or as this poems puts it, which really captures everything we said about eating:

From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
This brown paper bags of peaches
We bought from the boy
At the bend in the road where we turned toward
Signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
From sweet fellowship in the bins,
Comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
Peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O. to take what we love inside,
To carry within us an orchard, to eat
Not only the skin, but the shade,
Not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
The fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
The round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
As if death were nowhere
In the background; from joy
To joy to joy, from wing to wing,
From blossom to blossom to
Impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Mission work is hard work but it is joyous work. We invite people out of joy, we invite them to our joy. Christians are to be the most hedonistic people for we seek pleasure not in sin but in the things themselves! Thomas Merton says, “sin is boring.” God is all pleasure. Nature is pleasure.

Christians should relish eating of all people. We don’t hoard food. We savor food. We don’t save food we share food and share it’s jubilance. Christians should be the best cooks and the best type of food critics, those who can share the pleasure of their eating.

Yes, I am saying be a good cook. Like Abraham. Or rather is was Sarah. Still in a patriarchal society.

Abraham

What I love of this story is the details of preparation.

The best flour. Kneaded, directly to the fire, and on a plate. You can’t get fresher than that.

Abraham himself inspects the herd, and chooses a calf with the most tender meat. How you do that is beyond me, poke the muscles, but he is going to serve the best.

Bread and meat served with milk and yogurt to finish off the meal.

These strangers are angels of God, the very presence of God. But Abraham doesn’t know that. It’s just the way he lives his life, strangers are lord’s worthy of the best in the house. Abraham is a missionary without knowing it.

The stranger who is God chews on the rib then the bone itself, sucking the succulent juice from the marrow, takes the bread and soaks the juice on the plate and tastes meat juice in the chewy texture of bread, tastes different, then finishes it off with a gulp of milk that whitens his moustache and asks, “Where is Sarah, your wife?”

Then makes a promise.

“She will be with a child by next year this day.” Up to this point, the promise has always been huge, I will give you descendants like the sands, like the stars, huge, out there, vague.

But this one is concrete. So concrete that it is easier to doubt, and easier to stand on.

A concrete blessing from a meal. But this isn’t the biggest blessing, was it?

The strangers get up from the meal. Verse 16 gives us that specific detail. They are fully satisfied and go out for a walk. And they are on a cliff and the sun is setting and it has put a fiery blaze over tamarinds, oaks and olives, and the city they see below the valley, Sodom.

And the stranger-God debates, “should we tell Abraham of what we are to do?”

His stomach is full, he is satisfied, feels like Abraham is a friend, so he talks, what happens after all well cooked meals, people talks, so God talks.

God tells Abraham his plan to judge Sodom for the sins that they have piled for generations. And Abraham talks with God. He has earned the right. Abraham just fed God.

Abraham has heard of wickedness of Sodom, his nephew lives in that town. Stories from his nephew Lot has been terrible. Told Lot to move out. But Lot’s got a job and kids and it’s never that easy to just pack up and leave.

But Abraham is not interceding just for Lot. He is interceding for the whole city. Look God, how about 50 righteous, wouldn’t you spare them?

How was that rib? Perfectly caramelized, without losing the juice? How about 40?

And that bread, no one in Palestine can make bread like my wife Sarah, every bite full of flavor, all nine grains! 30?

And that milk, hits the spot for you on a hot day like this huh? 20?

That yogurt, perfect balance of sweet and sour as if they were couple in love wasn’t it? 10?

I would call that mission work.

Concluding story

Mission work is eating together because mission work on foreign mission field is actually is exactly that, eating together.

My uncle was a missionary to Gypsies in Athens. I visited him in college and just shadowed him. What I remember is going to migrant Gypsies makeshift tents, and my uncle would always buy a goat on the way, who would be tied for the day and when the afternoon came, they would take the goat, skin, gut, and clean him, then slowly roast him over a fire, and they would slice off meat.

That was the best meat I have ever tasted.

And one of the gypsies comes to me and says something to me in their dialect and Baladi, who is an adopted son of my uncle translate, “Asian man throw best party!”

So when I faced my faith crisis at the age of 25 I went to Europe. I backpacked with two books in my bag, Hans Kung, Being Christian, and James Joyce, Portrait of a Young Artist, whose character loses his faith. With cigarette staining my nails and a journal to write down my thoughts I wandered through Europe in search for truth.

I arrived at Athens to spend my final 2 months. And I remember a meal. He took me to a small apartment of a Korean-Russian woman. A Greek man brought her to Athens and then abandoned her with her then 10 years old girl. He told me to play with the girl that he would be back. He came back an hour later with two illegal Albanian refugees. And in that small 10x10 room, that served as kitchen, living room and dining room, he prepared a table. My uncle brought fried dumplings made by his wife. He picked up some souvlaki picking up the Albanians. The Albanians brought something of their own dish which I can’t recall. And the Korean-Russian woman brought out kimchee. Koreans, wherever they go, they will make their kimchee.

And we had a lunch and it was festive, all speaking broken Greek.

Then one of the Albanian man got a phone call. He listened intensely

-What’s it about? I asked my uncle.

-His wife is giving birth.

-Why isn’t he there?

-Cops would arrest him. They can’t arrest and return a woman in labor. His wife will give birth to a Greek citizen. They are safe. But he can’t be there. So my wife is there.

The Albanian man put his hands on his eyes. He got up then shouted, “It’s a boy!”

And everyone clapped, and said “Kala!” which means great!

And we all toasted with our paper cups the birth of a boy, whose future is uncertain, who has lot of mountains ahead of him, but celebrated as if a royal boy was born, and around that table was this family, family of the forgotten, the forsaken, the illegal, the beloved, the family of God.

I remember emailing my friends that night, “I experienced the gospel!” It was my road back to faith.

My uncle’s main mission work was eating together.d

 

 

 

Reading

 

Genesis 18:1-7

1The lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. 2He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.

3“My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. 4Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. 5And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”

“All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”

6So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.”7Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. 8When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.

 

Catholic Relief Service says this about this issue:

The single most important fact about global hunger is this: You can help end it. The most difficult part of ending hunger is commitment — a willingness to persevere in times of no apparent progress.

 

 

 

From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee

From blossoms comes
This brown paper bags of peaches
We bought from the boy
At the bend in the road where we turned toward
Signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
From sweet fellowship in the bins,
Comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
Peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O. to take what we love inside,
To carry within us an orchard, to eat
Not only the skin, but the shade,
Not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
The fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
The round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
As if death were nowhere
In the background; from joy
To joy to joy, from wing to wing,
From blossom to blossom to
Impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.