Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jesus is Slow Food - 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Click above to listen to the sermon online.

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, August 23.

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

Most of you know we have a new puppy, she’s a little yellow lab named Frinkles. Now Frinkles has two speeds when she eats. The first is when you put food in her dish. It’s this sort of puppy hyperdrive. I swear you put about a cup and a half of food in there and you look down 10 seconds later and it’s absolutely gone. Only you don’t have to look down to know that it’s gone. You see in order to take in food that fast, Frinkles probably inhales about a cup and a half of air right along with it so before you even have a chance to look down you hear the slurping and crunching stop and all of a sudden you hear this BUUUUUUUURRRRRRRPP that you would swear could never come from something that small.

That’s the first speed.

But then there’s what happens when she’s in the mood to settle down, and you give her a bone. Then she’ll flop down and man, she really sets to work. And it’s not SLURP it’s more like ARRGGHH ARRRRRGH ARRRRRGH. It’s something different entirely. There’s almost a desparation about the first speed. Oh my gosh, I’ve gotta eat! I’ve gotta eat! I’ve gotta eat! But there is a satisfaction, a savoring to the second. And when she breaks a piece of that bone off, maybe I’m just projecting here, but it almost feels like she’s saying – Yeah, all right, that’s the stuff.

There is a quality of life that exists when Frinkles eats that bone that isn’t there when she inhales her breakfast. I don’t know if it means anything to her. I think it does. But it sure means something to me sitting on the porch watching her.

But here’s the thing. You see, I don’t think Frinkles is that different from us.

How many of you have eaten fast food in the last week?

Did you know that 75% of Americans eat fast food more than twice a week? Did you know that one in three American children eat fast food every single day? Now we could talk about what that means in terms of nutrition, but let’s just think about what that means in terms of the pace of our lives!

How about this one? How many of you have eaten in your car this week. 19 percent of American meals are eaten in cars.

We all do it … or almost all of us do. And whether it’s followed by a burp like Frinkles’ I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there is an anxiety to the pace that drives us through that drive-through. Maybe it’s not the famished desparation of the five month old puppy but it’s that “I’ve gotta eat because I’ve gotta get to the next thing. And the next thing. And the next thing.”

So let’s slow it down for a second. I want you to picture something else for a minute. I want you to think of your favorite food or drink? What is your favorite taste in the world.

Is it an inch-thick medium rare steak so fresh off the grill you can still hear it crackling? Is it a peach that is so ripe you can just feel the juice dripping down your chin when you bite into it? Is is a Chateau Neuf de Pape that’s just been aging just the right number of years and when you put your nose in the glass you can feel all the different intricate parts of the wine wafting together as you breathe them in?

Whatever it is, I want you to imagine it. What it looks like. Close your eyes. Now breathe in through your nose. What does it smells like. Imagine yourself taking a bite and just letting it sit in your mouth. What flavors are swirling around your mouth?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Chew. Taste. Swallow. Be whatever it is you are eating or drinking.

Now isn’t that better than wolfing down a Big Mac and a large fries on 44?

This morning’s Gospel finds Jesus at the synagogue at Capernaum, and he says something absolutely stunning. He says “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.”

This was shocking to the people of the synagogue. We know it was because after he said it, John’s Gospel tells us there was a big division and many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him. And it’s no wonder. For one thing – the biggest thing -- Jesus was putting himself in the place of God. But it’s not only that. If the concept wasn’t scandalous enough, the language he was using was almost vulgar. This was not the language of dine and dash. The greek word John uses here for eat is “trogo”. Trogo doesn’t just mean to eat, and it certainly doesn’t mean to gulp. Trogo literally means to gnaw on. Those who gnaw on my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them.

Now that’s really graphic language, and it’s no surprise the people in the synagogue where pretty freaked out by it. But there is a larger message there. And that’s that communion with Christ is not fast food. It is a long, slow process. It is a process of gnawing and savoring and working. You’ve gotta want it. You’ve gotta work it.

Jesus is slow food.

Think about that. Let me say that again. Jesus is slow food.

That has profound implications for us. I think about it in terms of our liturgy and how we receive communion, which sometimes seems more like going through the drive-through than anything else. On one level is there anything that seems less like gnawing on the life of Christ than coming forward for 10 seconds and having someone put a quarter-sized wafer on your tongue?

But even as we look at how we change our liturgy the clock is a primary concern. One thing the 9 o’clock worship design team has struggled with is how do we create this experience that communicates the luxurious love of Christ knowing that we’ve gotta be done in an hour so we can move onto the next thing. There are ways I long for my time in Ghana and Sudan and Rwanda where church began when everyone got there and it ended when we were done praising. That’s slow food.

But it’s more than just not having to look at your watch.

When I was a college chaplain at Wash. U. we used to do a Sunday evening Eucharist at St. Michael and St. George and after the Eucharist there’d be a dinner … and that’s where we’d all catch up from the week and share our lives as we broke bread a second time together. And one of my students, Amber Stancliffe – who is now a priest in the Bay Area – said to me once that she always felt that dinner was our real Eucharist. Because that’s where we really put our lives on the table and shared them. That’s where she really felt the presence of Christ. It was leaving that table that she really felt renewed.

It’s not just freeing ourselves from the ticking clock. It’s what that allows us to do – really share our lives with each other. Really taste. Really gnaw on Christ in word and relationship.

So how can we embrace a slow food Jesus? What does it mean to gnaw on the Body of Christ?

Well, first it means not doing with our relationship with Christ what we do all to often with our meals and that’s shoe-horn it in. We need to take time. And that’s hard because even more than money, time is so often the thing we seem to have less and less of. We need to spend time in prayer. We need to spend time studying scripture. Every week in the e-newsletter I send you the scripture readings for the coming Sunday. That’s so you can taste the slow food Jesus. That’s so you can gnaw during the week and not just come here for the McNuggets. Try that this week. I’ll even send them out early so you can do it. Take five minutes each day this week and just sit with the Gospel for next week. Breathe it in. Chew on it. Maybe call a friend and talk about it. Then see if what you taste next Sunday doesn’t taste a whole lot better.

But if we are the body of Christ it also means something else. It means spending that same time with each other, gnawing on, savoring, working at each others’ lives. It means that the old joke about Coffee Hour being the eighth sacrament of the Episcopal Church really has some truth to it. That Amber was right, that the time spent with each other sharing our lives is sacrament. It is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace – God giving us to each other.

It means one of the best things we can do for our relationship with Christ is to make sure our families actually sit down to dinner together more often than not. That we have regular date nights with our spouses or partners or time just hanging out with the friends without any agenda but doing life together. That we take time to reach out to new people with no other goal but to meet and experience Christ in them. That we consistently let the tyranny of the to-do list take a back seat to the sacrament of real presence – with each other.

It’s hard. Ask me how many times I have been home this week for a family dinner and I will be ashamed of the answer I give you. The truth is, I need your help to live this kind of life. We all need this help from each other. But as much as anything that’s why we’re here. Because God’s dream for us is not life lived juggling the dipping sauce and the McNuggets as we cruise down the highway. It’s not a life of desperation of trying to cram what we’re doing in so we can get to the next thing.

The abundant life of Jesus Christ is the ultimate slow food. It’s life like that juiciest of peaches. Life that spills out the corners of our mouth when we bite into it. Life that we suck the marrow out of.

God’s dream for us is not a life that is inhaled so quickly we rattle the windows with our belches. It’s life gnawed at and worked at and savored like a dog with a really, really awesome bone. Yeah, that’s the stuff. Amen.

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