I wrote last week that my husband and I are leading an adult education class at our church on Wednesday nights. We are using a guided study on faith practices. Faith practices are ways to live out our faith as we grow in our discipleship. As Martin Luther said “Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith.”
I was actually really excited about this course – I think this is a useful, thought-provoking topic that could hopefully help me make changes in the way I live my life. I expected we’d discuss the typical faith practices: service, worship, study, prayer (which we discussed last week). So, I was surprised and curious when I saw the theme for our second week – Food.
Food as faith practice? I don’t get it. But it definitely peaked my interest, and I was eager to see what kind of conversation we would have, both with the group at church and as a family at home.
Week 2 – Food
It was a very small group this week, but our discussion was good. We talked about experiences with food, memorable meals, food as both a barrier to and builder of relationship. We focused on the ways we experience food as part of a church community – food pantry donations and volunteer work, shared meals, Holy communion. Food is everywhere, all the time. (We are Lutheran – we are bound to gather for potlucks or coffee and rolls!)
It is easy to identify the many times we gather with food, but are we taking advantage of our experience with food to build up relationship, build community and show God’s love? Have we allowed food to become a faith practice? I think sometimes yes, sometimes no. Either way, the questions were thought-provoking and I was hopeful they would trigger a change in the way I think about the act of eating.
Unfortunately, this was a busy work week. We led the class on Wednesday night and then I proceeded to have 9 of the next 12 meals alone at my desk – just me and an excel spreadsheet. (Most of those meals consisting of pizza, donuts, fast food and lots of coffee.) I am NOT off to a good start in trying to use food as a faith practice. But there is a new week ahead of me.
So, my husband and I had discussion with the kids about food as faith practice. (Ironically, the discussion was held as we shared a meal.)
I actually tried to ask my daughter a question from the study guide. Let’s see if this 2-year-old could surprise me and throw out some inspirational wisdom! So, I ask her – much like the question posed to her brother – who do you like to eat food with? She looked at me, blinked her big, dark eyes, and then responded, “I saw a bird at school Mommy.” So, maybe not quite ready for the deep faith building conversations with my daughter…
But we did have good discussion with the 6-year-old. In the adult group we discussed memorable meals – is the enjoyment of a meal more about the taste of the food or the people you are with? As adults, we agreed that the people you dine with is most important – which stressed how critical meals can be in building relationship. But my son surprised me – he was adamant that he would rather eat really good food with people he didn’t like, than mediocre food with people he loved to be with. Is that his young age, or is that how we have subliminally taught him to eat food?
But maybe my kids are young enough that we can work to encourage a change in how they view food consumption: food is not just something to shovel in to alleviate hunger, but should be a tool to build relationships and practice faith. If we can do that, maybe they won’t have this love-hate relationship with food when they are older, or find themselves eating fried food alone at work all the time.
Food is such a common, everyday part of our culture. What is amazing is that God can use the common for extraordinary things! That holds true for food, and with any other seemingly trivial part of our day.