Suffice it to say, the way Lutherans practice Holy Communion or the Lord's supper is different from the way the Brethren church does. We are sacramental and place special emphasis on the practice of the Lord's supper. It is a weekly part of our Christian faith practice. We do so in response to both the promise and commands of Scripture that bid us to eat and drink Christ's body and blood. God feeds us there. And we are hungry and thirsty for God's provision, so that we might experience unity with Christ. They are anabaptists. They tie the meal to the four gospels' last supper texts and the footwashing story from John 13. For them the meal is a memorial of Christ's sacrifice. It is an act of piety. For us, it is the actual presence of God.
There are three parts to the love feast, which is a biannual event. They also observe it on Maundy Thursday in Holy Week. There is a dinner, a footwashing service, and a holy communion service combined into one continuous liturgy or worship service. Men and women are seated separately at tables. There is singing of old hymns in four-part harmony. There are readings from the bible and prayers. I was asked to give a meditation on the gospel story of the feeding of the multitudes, Matthew 14. I said this::
Thank you, Joel for the invitation to be here tonight. And thank you or the eloquent introduction. I assumed you invited the Lutheran because we are known for our love of the potluck and the jello mould. We do love those green jello moulds with the fruit in the middle. But I digress.
I'm here to talk about food. Food is miracle. Food is gift. Food is the material expression of God’s grace. We live in a place and time that denies these truths. We live in a place and time when food is commodity, resource, a marketed and consumed good. Food is fast. Food is waste. Food is canned and boxed and processed. Food comes from Giant or Weis or Walmart. We have lost a healthy relationship with food and the land from whence it comes. I grew up on a produce farm. I know what a cantaloupe looks like. But many children today do not. They do not know broccoli from watermelon. They have not tasted a fresh ripe strawberry or corn on the cob. We can do better than this. Lancaster county is home of the whoopee and shoofly pie, the agricultural garden spot, Shady Maple smorgasbords and chicken pot pie…and Lancaster is home to over 55,000 food insecure people.
66% of Lancaster County adults are obese. Obesity is tied to malnutrition and lack of access to healthy food choices. 1 in 3 children in Lancaster County comes from a food insecure household, where they experience hunger. Hunger in America looks different than hunger in the developing world. The root of hunger is poverty, the root of poverty is the broken and fragmented human community.
From the garden of fruitful delight to the manna in the wilderness; the feeding of the multitudes to the eternal banquet the biblical narrative is a feast of rich food. Food is a sign of God’s gracious abundance. It is sign of vitality and life. It is promise of the life that is to come.
We just heard the story of the feeding of multitudes. My church, a small Lutheran congregation on Main Street in Akron lives in this story. This is our story. In 2008 we heard Jesus call us to His mission in this very text as he said, “You give them something to eat.” We heard this as invitation. Our response is called “Peter’s Porch.” We have taken up those full baskets and done what he has done; be bless the food and distribute it. A growing number of neighbors come monthly to Peter’s Porch, Akron. Over 190 households, 570 + people were fed a healthy breakfast and given a bag of groceries this month. 30 new families joined us in September. Zion Lutheran feeds about 5,000 people each year. We do so with partners. But mostly with God’s amazing grace. Why? First, there are hungry people around us. Second, Jesus has commanded and invited us to do so. Third, we are fed. At the table of grace, we receive the gift of Christ’s full presence every Sunday in bread and cup. God feeds our bodies and our souls. Too often Christians have thought to address one or the other, but not both. One cannot receive Christ and avoid the fellowship of the Lord’s supper; one cannot love Christ and ignore the hungry neighbor. Tonight, you are being summoned, invited to a new relationship with food. Food is God’s gift, a gift to share with those who hunger and thirst. Together, in communion, Christians are called to end hunger and restore our relationship with God the creator whose garden of grace delights and nourishes us daily. As we gather at table, let us remember those who hunger and discern the call to share until all the hungry are fed.
A Let us pray.
C Holy God, gracious and merciful,
you bring forth food from the earth
and nourish your whole creation.
Turn our hearts toward those who hunger in any way,
that all may know your care;
and prepare us now to feast on the bread of life,Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
So, that's it. For Lutherans, food matters because Jesus comes to us in the breaking of the bread. We encounter God in bread and wine, in hungry people, and in communities serving them. I love to take part in the religious traditions of other Christians. It is meaningful to be welcomed at their table, feet washed, and dinner served. For them, the love feast is one of their high holy days. It was a privilege to be part of that. I hope that they were inspired and fed by me, as I was by them.