Eating Together with Glad & Generous Hearts 5-11-14

Acts 2:42-47 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instructions and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the powers. A reverent fear overtook them all, for many wonders and signs were being performed by the apostles! Those who believed lived together, shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, sharing the proceeds with one another as each had need. They met in the Temple and they broke bread together in their homes every day.  With joyful and sincere hearts they took their meals in common, Praising God and winning the approval of all the people.  Day by day, God added to their number those who were being saved.

May 11, 2014

Eating Together with Glad and Generous Hearts

In my younger years, my faith led me into a very idealistic phase of life when I wanted to practice the kind of communal life and care that is exemplified by our passage this morning. Right after I graduated from college, I did some serious traveling on a kind of quest to find people living a community life in which they shared their wealth and community life together.
I travelled to Israel to live on a kibbutz. I lived on Kibbutz Shefayim for nearly 6 months, studying Hebrew, picking clementines and avocados for export, and learning about the kibbutz movement in Israel.  I picked up a lifelong appreciation for the amazing experiment of putting Jewish life into practice in this new place.
When I came to Philadelphia, it was to live with a group of similarly idealistic young people in a community called the Philadelphia Life Center, which involved five to nine unrelated people living together in big houses in West Philadelphia, where I still live to this day. Living together with other people is a pretty complicated thing to do.  People develop close relationships that get strained to the breaking point by trying to decide who is going to do what cleaning and who is supposed to repair or buy what.
I’d be glad to talk to you at length to you about the great experiments we had back in those days. For today, however, I want to hold up one part of living on kibbutz and in the Philadelphia Life Center, that had some of the most success – that was the practice of eating together, cooking for each other and eating together.
Christians since the very beginning have known that this practice of feeding each other and eating together was a powerful spiritual practice.  We have held our communities together and healed each other through sharing  common table and serving each other good food to eat.
We joke about it in the United Methodist Church, – how much we love our potluck luncheons. But it’s true. Eating together for us is a sacrament. It is a holy meal – whether a symbolic meal of bread and wine, or a real meal of fried chicken, scalloped potatoes and broccoli salad.
It’s holy not just because of the prayers we pray. It’s holy because we know God’s presence in the breaking and the sharing of the bread, in the love that we share as we eat together in and through God’s presence.
When I was in college, I opted out of the dining hall system and became part of a group of about 12 to 15 people who cooked for each other and ate together every night in our own special out of the way room. I had to learn to cook every other week or so for this big group of people. We cooked delicious meals for each other – much better than anything you could get in the dining hall. It was a holy time.
It was a healing time. Feeding each other is a wonderful healing thing to do. How many of us had mothers who doted on us when we were sick, bringing us chicken noodle soup or ginger ale, or grilled cheese sandwiches? It wasn’t the food that made us feel better, it was the love and the care and the serving of that food that made such a big difference.
On Tuesday, May 20th, we plan to have a healing service here in the sanctuary. We have several people in need of healing prayer and comfort, so we are going to come together for this time of singing and praying for each other. We probably won’t eat together in that particular service, but the prayers we pray for each other are a way of caring for each other in the same way that bringing food to each other is.
Some of us may associate services of healing with a more charismatic type church than we are. We may think of it as a kind of hokey TV evangelistic service where the preacher purposely knocks somebody over and declares them healed – or sets up false healings to try to get credibility as a healer.
I want us to think about this healing service the same way we think about a mother who gives her child some chicken noodle soup and loving to help them in their healing. That kind of prayer and love can make a real difference for any of us. I hope you will be a part of this service of healing – and that you will accept the love and care of this community in the places where you need healing – so you can boldly pass on that care and healing to others.
We have all experienced the gift of a mother or a person like a mother soothing a skinned knee with a Band-Aid and a kiss. When we come together in community, sharing a meal with each other – even symbolically, we provide room for tears, we provide room for listening, we provide room for God’s work of healing to be accomplished. This is God’s good news.

Responsive Hymn  3174  Christ, We Are Blest