I love fall for many reasons, and one of the main ones is food and drink. We had friends over the other day for a leisurely meal, some good wine, and meaningful but relaxed conversation. That’s not an unusual occurrence. But somehow on this occasion, looking around the table, I became acutely aware that “it doesn’t get much better than this!” Somehow that moment captured a little piece of heaven on earth for me—the beauty and mystery of both human connection, and our connection to all of creation.
Fall is harvest time, when we celebrate the miracle of photosynthesis! All spring and summer the innumerable solar panels we call leaves have been soaking up the energy of the sun and converting it into a variedly delicious energy source that we get to eat. In Europe and North America, fall is time for the grape harvest. The meticulously tended vines relinquish their cherished fruit, and in years to come will reappear in bottles of complex, delectable wine. These bottles contain years of work, heartache, joy, soil, weather and history. And we get to drink them! My body is now replenished with this miracle of food and drink. All that energy, all that history, all that humanity is now literally part of me!
Jesus loved food and drink. One of his favorite ways of referring to himself was the term “Son of Man.” It’s a mysterious term, with roots in ancient Hebrew prophetic literature, and carries certain apocalyptic connotations. Certainly, on many of the occasions where the Gospel writers report Jesus using the term, he seems to be talking about the future (even possibly the end of the world), which gives it a somewhat sinister feel. For years scholars have debated what it means and why Jesus used it as a self-reference so often. But perhaps it has a much more down-to-earth meaning.
What I find personally intriguing is that on three occasions Jesus uses it to describe his purpose on earth. In Luke 19:10 he says, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” In Mark 10:45 he says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” No great surprises there: for centuries, we have celebrated Jesus as Savior and, for many followers, we have always seen servanthood as the means by which Jesus saves and heals us. Jesus came to save and to serve.
But in Luke 7:34 Jesus says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” Jesus is saying that he came to eat and drink with us, and he loved doing it so much that he was accused (falsely by his enemies) of being a glutton and a drunkard. The way Jesus befriended “tax collectors and sinners” (people like you and me) was by eating and drinking with them. He broke down all manner of cultural barriers of race, religion, gender, political persuasion and social hierarchy simply by sharing food. He ate with Pharisees and tax collectors, men and women, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles—and he was loved and hated for it. In his final moments with his closest friends, he eats a meal with them. After he comes back to life, he cooks his friends a meal on the beach. It seems that a big part of the way the Son of Man saves and serves us is through food and drink!
So, as we seek to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, and as we “dare to dream of heaven on earth,” a momentous step would simply be to open our homes and eat together. It’s no coincidence that the early communities of followers of Jesus are described as eating and drinking in one another’s homes. It’s no coincidence that the way these churches sought to remember Jesus was by eating a meal together. Over the years we’ve made that meal (communion) very ceremonious, but what if we were as mindful of Jesus every time we eat and drink, no matter who we are with? What if every meal was communion?
Food and drink is reconciling: it connects us to one another, it connects us to the universe, and it connects us to God. So let’s throw open the doors to our homes. Let’s cook good food (or get take out!). Let’s invite friends, neighbors, family, coworkers and general acquaintances, and let’s celebrate Life itself with the Son of Man!