Friday, August 24, 2012

The Sanctity of Food

I've resisted long enough.  Blog post #1 from the husband's perspective, here we go.

This last week, Alissa's parents took us to an amazing little cooking class/demonstration put on by a sweet lady named Dorothy (  It was a wonderful time of sharing food, wine, and conversation with a small group of delightful folks.  At one point during the evening, Dorothy remarked that if all countries in conflict would lay down their weapons and share a meal together, war would cease to exist.  Her experiences and passion for all things food got me trying to formulate my own thoughts about the matter - something that I'm always thinking about quite a bit.  Here's what I got...

Anyone who is close to me knows that I am passionate about food.  I love to cook it, eat it, and share it, and am always eager to experience something new in the culinary realm.  For me, food has acted as a creative outlet, a therapeutic exercise, and an integral way to encourage and build community.  Yet, lately I've been experiencing some inner conflict regarding this love.  Is it a misplaced passion that should be replaced by things more important or consequential?  In the grand scheme of God's Kingdom, are my thoughts, time, and effort squandered in this pursuit?

One of the books that I've read during these two months off is C.S. Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms, a short book of varied, personal musings on different subjects within the Psalms.  My favorite chapter by far is entitled "The Fair Beauty of the Lord," an exploration of instances in which the Hebrew poets experience the indescribable beauty, intimate connection, and evasive "presence" of God.    Lewis explains to, or rather cautions his readers, that to most modern Christians, these experiences are most often associated with overtly "spiritual" or "religious" activities, say in a corporate worship service, communal prayer meeting, or personal meditation.  He goes on to emphasize the role of the Temple to the ancient Jews, and therefore, those who penned these poems.  For them, the Temple and thus the overall worship of Yahweh was integrated into all aspects of their lives - their normal, everyday routines as well as prayer, teaching, and sacrifice.  Lewis insists that if we spoke with a writer of a Psalm, "you would do him wrong by asking him to separate out some exclusively religious element in his mind from all the rest - from his hearty social pleasure in a corporate act, his enjoyment of the hymns (and the crowd), his memory of other such services since childhood, his well-earned anticipation of rest after harvest or Christmas dinner after church... He had never hear of music, or festivity, or agriculture as things separate from religion, nor of religion as something separate from them.  Life was one." 

I won't elaborate on his other points, but his conclusion, in my opinion, is this: don't downplay the meaningful and worshipful potential of what we often deem as nonreligious or nonspiritual activities - that if we read these Psalms properly (see Psalms 27, 42, 50, 64, 84) an event such as preparing a delicious meal and sharing it in community can be a beautiful and sacred happening through which we experience the "fair beauty of the Lord."

A second comfort to this inner-culinary-conflict that keeps coming to mind has its roots in my research on Christian worship last summer.  I put together a few services on the value of worship for Hope, and I chose to focus on corporate worship in particular.  I became fascinated with the question of the types of worship that Jesus himself taught us to practice.  One could say that the only truly "new" forms of worship that Jesus intro were Baptism in the name of the Godhead and the Eucharist (which in and of itself speaks to the weighty importance of those two rituals).  Yet, many sources list the Agape or "Love Feasts," at which early Christians (and some modern folks) would gather and share a meal together, as an entirely separate, sacred worship ritual.  I don't know how scholarly this notion is, but I must say that I am personally a fan of the idea.  (And, on a side note, I think it would be incredible to be a part of a community one day that intentionally practices Agape Feasts)

Lastly, I can't help associating my love of food with my wholehearted belief that our God is a God who loves, inspires, and demands creativity.  It would be far too difficult to summarize my heart regarding this matter, but I think that Linford and Karin from Over the Rhine put it pretty well: "I don't wanna waste your time with music you don't need."

Needless to say, I do not feel the need to shy away from my culinary enthusiasm; my passion for food will certainly continue to endure.  As we embark on this journey that will involve learning the nuances of a new culture and community life, the subject of food-related adventures is at the top of my list of things that I'm excited about.  So, it's safe to say that this is the first of many food-related blogs to come.

- Mark

1 comment:

  1. Some of my favorite and richest times in that first year out of college involved sharing food at the Blue House!