July 4, 2021
Order of Worship:
During the summer, I often try to get ‘off-lectionary’ and preach a creative series just for fun. This year, as we return to Fellowship Meals post-pandemic, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at just a few (there are many!) stories in our scripture that revolve around food. We pray the Spirit would open our hearts to the lessons of the Word:
- What is one of your most memorable meals – a summer picnic, a fall holiday feast, a dinner date, a night out with friends, or a night in with family? Who was there? What did you eat? What was the conversation like? What makes it stand out in your mind today? We humans seem to know instinctively that meals have great significance; so many of our traditions, holidays, and most important celebrations center around sharing food together. How many Bible stories can you think of that also revolve around a meal?
- Hospitality is at the heart of this story of Abraham and Sarah’s visitors. Abraham rushes to greet these strangers and, as later scripture describes the encounter, thus “entertains angels” (Hebrews 13:2). When were you last welcomed in to someone’s home? How did that invitation make you feel? Why do you think hospitality is repeatedly valued as one of the highest virtues in scripture? How do we practice hospitality as individuals and as a church?
- The food that is served is “choice, tender, and good” (verses 6-7). Even though these nomads are living out of a tent and dining under a tree, they offer up the very best to their guests. Have you ever made assumptions about what another person might ‘bring to the table’ only to be surprised? How much cleaning and preparation do you do before you welcome someone into your space? What is your expectation of that in others?
- One of the memorable moments in this story is Sarah’s chuckle in verse 12. How many times can you think of someone laughing in scripture? We sometimes think of the Bible as a text which needs to be taken very seriously (which it is!), but that can be taken to such an extent that we miss the jokes and joy of this ‘Book that we Love.’ Consider: “A cheerful/laughing/good/satisfied heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15, the Hebrew word in this verse has a range of meanings). Perhaps it is obvious that good company and good food should go together. Is laughter a common sound around your table? Why is fellowship, especially during a meal, important? How might you minister to someone who frequently finds themselves eating alone?
- Re-read the passage, using sensory experience to help bring it to life. What does Sarah’s laugh sound like? Can you smell the fresh bread/cakes? Can you taste the tender meat? How refreshing would it feel to sit in the shade of the tree and eat out of the pounding desert sun? One of the unique claims of the Judeo-Christian faith is that we believe that God is present in our physical experience, not merely a spiritual or cerebral being; the God who created our bodies and became incarnate in the flesh values the senses we’ve been blessed with. What do you think of a God who smells the “pleasing odor” of a sacrifice (Leviticus 2:2)? Have you ever tasted a fresh, sweet fig like the ones Jesus craved (Mark 11:12)? Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that our scriptures are ‘peppered’ with stories and metaphors about food; the sensory experience of eating and sharing meals in good company make up some of the most holy moments in our lives (that is certainly true of the Supper Sacrament, which we’ll talk about more in a few weeks). Pay attention this week to moments of sweetness or bitterness in your life; practice noticing God’s presence and offering brief prayers during those times.
Our lesson this week asks: “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”
“Taste and see that God is good!” it says in the Psalm (34:8). I pray that you do indeed experience God’s wonderful goodness and blessings in the coming week!
Grace and peace to you all,
-Pastor Maggie Rust