A friend's adult son is in the start-up stages of a new ministry based upon serving God through feeding others. The friend and I had a spirited discussion about the ministry of food. At the time, I had just ordered The Spirit of Food, a book of essays about "feasting and fasting toward God" (and about which I cannot say enough great things, now that I have read it), and I had just finished reading Hidden Kitchens, some chapters of which are about building community through feeding others.
I get excited and impassioned when I talk or read about the intersection of food and community. There are so many ways in which we can build and strengthen our communities. Serving someone a bowl of homemade soup is one of them.
For me, it is the way of community building with which I am most immediately comfortable. One of my favorite lines by writer Jesse Stuart is "we went to our supper table hungry, and we came away happy, full of food and great dreams." When I serve others, I hope that some of that fullness finds its way into the food.
Christian writer Frederick Buechner wrote about the ministry of food when he described a post-resurrection meeting between Jesus and the disciples one early morning by the Sea of Galilee. When the disciples, who had been fishing all night, came ashore, they saw a fire and smelled cooking fish and baking bread. And then Jesus invited them to breakfast.
Buechner wrote, "Instead of all the extraordinary words we might imagine on his lips, what he said was, 'Come and have breakfast.'"
"Come and have breakfast."
Simple words. Easy words.
"Come and have breakfast."
We so often get discouraged by the weight of the world, getting bogged down in the immense details of a global solution. The problems are so insurmountable, the challenges are so great. There is war and strife. In Japan, thousands have died and hundreds of thousands are suffering. In my own town, there is hunger and despair. Small wonder we throw up our hands and feel helpless. We feel we must make a Big Effort on a Big Scale, something far beyond the skills and resources of so many of us.
But it is easier than that. It is as simple as bringing others to the table. It is as quiet as saying "come and have breakfast."
A small task. A simple task. Feeding the world one sandwich at a time. Building community one pie at a time.
The friend's son has been serving hot chocolate, for a goodwill donation or for nothing at all, downtown during our First Fridays. He has dreams beyond that bare bone start, but rather than putting them off until he could launch a Big Effort, he jumped in, rolled up his sleeves, and began serving.
"Come and have a cup of chocolate."
"Come and eat breakfast."
Take and eat.