Body, Mind & Spirit

Faith and food have always gone hand in hand. The Israelites ate manna and quail for 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus fed 5,000 people on a few loaves of bread and some fish. The early church continued the tradition of hospitality and welcome by celebrating the Lord’s Supper and feeding the needy.

Today’s churches have, in part, continued this affinity of faith and food through the use of our church kitchens. Much happens in these rooms. Dinners are warmed and served. Hospitality tables for coffee and donuts are arranged here on Sunday mornings. New-member lunches are prepared. Sometimes, the poor are fed and the banquet table of God is celebrated in large gatherings. At Calvary Church, we even have a casserole ministry, where the sick are comforted and the shut-ins remembered through a gift of food. I’m sure every congregation could boast of such excellent ministries.

It does, however, take a great deal of faith to eat church kitchen food. Pastors can attest to the fact that few church refrigerators and freezers are cleaned on a regular basis. I have discovered food in church refrigerators that defied description. Raccoon? Possum? Not sure, but whatever it was, it was green.

And how about all of those two-liter soda bottles left over from the youth lock-ins? Talk about flat. Likewise, I’m not sure who is cooking with all that butter, but there is enough butter in most church refrigerators to open a deli. And our freezers are always full of Popsicles from the Vacation Bible Schools of yesteryear.

I frequently lunch on the food I discover in the church kitchen. It’s like a treasure hunt, and I often make some great finds and create some fantastic combinations. How about peanut butter and a sack of stale potato chips, or green bean casserole and lime sherbet, or donuts and Mountain Dew? The combinations are endless. I hate to see anything go to waste. I run my house the way I run the church kitchen. Everything goes, eventually. The way I figure it, if it’s left behind in the church kitchen, it’s fair game and sometimes, gamey it is!

Still, there is something spiritual in all of this. I might find myself eating off a plate donated by Aunt Marge or some other saint of the church. I’ve sipped soup from patriarchal gravy boats. Sometimes, when larger groups gather for prayer or study, we eat from the historical artifacts and memories of the cupboards that have sustained the community for decades, if not centuries.

The fact is, we like to eat – and must. And that’s why Jesus gave us a supper, memories and the longing for spiritual food. If we don’t visit the kitchen of God from time to time, we become malnourished and depleted. We need this bread of Jesus. We need this cup of Christ. And we don’t have to venture far from the church kitchen to find Him.

Todd Outcalt gets his food at Calvary UMC in Brownsburg and writes daily at two blogs, and He also contributes regularly to Rev!, Group, The Upper Room, and The Christian Century.