Today’s the Fifth Sunday in July. I capitalize the word “Fifth” because fifth Sunday brings back childhood memories of Fifth Sunday Rally and long stretches of tables piled with food. We were a farm community, and if not farmers, all the people in the church of my childhood were small town people who knew how to cook well.
The women were the cooks, for the most part, and vied for the honor of taking home the emptiest dish or platter. Piled high lemon-merengue pie come to mind, or my mother’s apple pie, the crust proudly flaky, even on the bottom. Of course, the ubiquitous fried chicken also took prizes: those women who knew how to really fry chicken were lauded.
The basket dinner came after Sunday services. And then, after dinner, and after we kids had some time to run around and work off some steam, and the men had time to tell stories of fishing or bowling or crops and the women had time to clean off the tables and get the dishes washed in the kitchen, we’d all file back into church for more Bible-story-telling or gospel singing. Gospel singing. Now there’s a lost art in too many of today’s churches. W
hat’s not a lost art is feeding people when families or friends gather. We share food, and that communal meal is larger than simple nourishment – it’s a sharing of ourselves – a sharing of those who prepare the food and a sharing of those who put it on the tables, a sharing of conversation as we eat, a sharing of stories and life. Last Sunday afternoon, we went to my cousins’ house for a meal with family – several members who lived elsewhere were home for a visit. The same sharing of food, stories, community, occurred.
The act of preparing, feeding, eating, sharing a meal, is as old as humans. It has become an automatic ritual of communion. Perhaps it would do us well to recognize the “communion” in every day meals, too.
Last week, one my nieces was home from West Virginia with her two-year-old almost three daughter, Josey. Another of my nieces, from Colorado, was also home, an aunt to Josey. I am a great-aunt, not so easily placed for a two-year-old so she had rejected all my advances. Okay, that’s fine. I understood. I took my plate out to the patio and sat with some of the other cousins and we talked story. Josey came out the sliding door, walked over to me and said, “hot dog.” So I asked her if she wanted a bite of my hot dog, she nodded yes, and I shared my meal with her. Suddenly, for a moment, I was her new favorite. I later learned Josey’s aunt had told her I was also an aunt and she needed to come out and say hello. So she did. In the way she instinctively knew: sharing food.
Give some thanks for the food you share with others today – but more than the food, share with the people who are present. Food is simply a necessary accompaniment to feeding each other.