Have you ever noticed that in the gospels Jesus seems often to be at a meal, coming from a dinner, or on his way to a table? Eating together is one of the most important things we do. Gathered around a table we learn how to receive each other and the world as gifts from God. We discover that we are gifts meant by God to be given to each other for the healing of the world.
The knowledge that we and the world are gifts is much harder to come by in our drive-thru, fast-food culture. That is because we don’t take as much time to enjoy each other’s company or discover that life is a miracle. We don’t linger over the amazing and never-to-be-taken-for-granted truth that God has created a hospitable world that tastes good!
The discovery of God’s graciousness to us begins (though it certainly does not end) when we enter the kitchen and invite people to our tables. Cooking good food that comes from God’s life-giving ground and water (see Genesis 2) puts us in touch with elemental gifts of carrots and peas, tomatoes and wheat, chickens and cows. These gifts nurture us as a sign that God cares for us and wants us to live responsible and healthy lives.
But God also gives us these gifts so that we will learn to share them with others. Cooking for others, and enjoying the delights of delectable food, enables us to move more deeply into the love of God. I mean this in two ways: first we come to “know” God’s provision and care first hand (the Latin verb sapere,from which we get the phrase homo sapiens, means “to taste or savor”), and second we get to participate in and extend God’s loving ways with the world.
The truth is that many of us are not sure about how to live in the world. Cooking good food (it is a bit harder to eat junk when you are making it yourself), inviting others to eat with us, and then inviting God to bless and inform our table fellowship, is one powerful way in which we can witness to God’s healing and reconciling ways with us.
Norman Wirzba is research professor of theology, ecology, and rural life at Duke Divinity School.