I woke last Monday morning with an empty stomach. Because of a busy Sunday the day before, I had eaten a small supper and gone to bed exhausted. So, as I prepared for my day, one thing filled my thoughts with glee and my mouth with saliva: the barbeque sandwich I was going to eat for lunch.
As noon rolled around, I pulled into an eerily empty parking lot only to be reminded of something that all North Carolinians know. All good barbeque restaurants are closed on Mondays! For whatever reason, there is a long held belief amongst the purveyors of barbeque that pig cannot be sold on Mondays. My cravings would have to wait another day.
Fasting (whether intentional or unintentional) has a way of bringing us close to God. I do not know if I was angrier with the barbeque restaurant for not being open or with my stomach for forgetting its training in the ways of North Carolina cuisine, but as the day went on, I began to ponder my failed feast more intently. As I finished my work day while visions of pork butt danced through my head, it became clear to me that the slow labor-intensive process of cooking barbeque, the small scale of most good barbeque restaurants, and their long held practice of closing on Mondays all stemmed from the same principle: how a barbeque restaurateur lives her life makes a difference. There are habits that must be employed in order for the business to be successful. Early working hours to cook the meat, family involvement to make the restaurant run, and one week-day off per week to rest from their labors are all necessary habits to maintain the health of everyone involved. Without these habits and many more, the restaurant would surely fail.
I believe that barbeque restaurants have two important things to teach us about our faith:
They know that they have something that people want, desire, and need. They are confident enough in their product to understand that closing for one day per week will not drive their customers away. In a world of fast food, the 24-hour drive-thru, and chain restaurants promising service 8 days per week, barbeque restaurants still maintain that slow cooking, surrounded by long held community practice, is more important than constant availability. How can we as a church model this type of behavior? Do we believe in Jesus enough to let our faith in him shape and pattern our churches’ habits?
Second, barbeque restaurants have been able to train their followers (myself excluded) to limit their cravings for barbeque to Tuesdays-Saturdays. How can we as a church better train the appetites of the followers of Jesus? How can the practices of our church help to shape healthy practices in the lives of our communities?
These are just a few questions to ponder next Monday...when you are not eating barbeque.
Rev. Duncan Martin D’09 is a Rural Ministry Fellow Alumnus  and pastor of Antioch-Oak Grove UMC in Rural Hall, N.C.