Come Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest

November 8, 2010 | 13 comments

Blue-gray morning light slants through the kitchen window. I arrange strips of bacon in a hot skillet.

They pop, curl, emit an aromatic wake-up call to youngest daughter. She shuffles across the wood, dragging a pink blanket through crumbs behind her, rubs eyes with a closed fist.

I crack eggs, season, butter 12-grain bread. We gather at the wooden rectangle for a Sunday morning feast, steaming in tendrils from pottery.

We link fidgeting hands, pray. One child sneaks bites, mid-petition. We ask for God’s blessings on our country church, its steeple rising over our poplar windbreak. We pray for our Sunday School teachers, the children in Haiti and the man missing from this table — Daddy. He’s away on retreat in the hills.

Our oldest daughter thanks God for the bacon — her favorite food, she says. She knows that pork doesn’t come from WalMart, but from farms. And she knows these browned slices came from a pig that her Daddy fed.

And, like we do every meal, we deliver a unison invitation for Jesus to pull up a chair: “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let these gifts to us be blessed, Amen.”

We linger long at the table this morning. This feast engages the senses.

I chew deliberately, savor the sweet of the strawberry, the tangy crisp of bacon, the egg, running in lazy yellow rivulets on my plate. I lift the cup, drink deep from Pattycakes “Rise and Shine,” the private-label coffee of a baker-friend who buys her coffee wholesale from an Iowa roasting company.

On this Sunday morning — before we step foot in the sanctuary — our food delivers its own sermon from a pulpit-plate. Steam rises, and so does my praise.

Can even this — our eating — be worship? When we invite Christ to the table, aren’t we partaking in worship, and aren’t we dining with Living Bread?

I’ve been pondering much these days about what we grow, how we grow, what we put in our bodies, and what we don’t. Perhaps it’s because we watched for weeks from this kitchen window as farmers gleaned fields. By now, the farmers have tucked combines into barn-beds for winter hibernation. Over pews and mailboxes and corner-cafe tables, we reflect on the autumn bounty.

Perhaps, I’ve been pondering this because when the seasons shift, and the cooler weather drives us indoors, we gather ’round the table longer and more deliberately over comfort food.

And surely, I’m pondering these things because she sent this book to me. Even as the girls and I dine on our Sunday morning feast, I’m flipping through its pages.

I savor her words:

“Every pot will be holy to the Lord. Mine. Yours,” Leslie Leyland Fields writes, hearkening the prophet Zechariah’s ancient words. “And every soup and vegetable and grain and fish and casserole and souffle and crepe prepared within them will be holy to all who partake, and holy to the God to whom it belongs.”

“Perhaps we’re not to wait for this day. Perhaps we are to begin now, growing, harvesting, cooking, serving from pots made holy to our work, our love, our worship.”

Yes, I nod, then say the words aloud: “Perhaps we are to begin now.”

I lift a fork to my mouth, and think about this: Even as a farmer’s wife, I sometimes pay scant attention to what I put into these bodies that God has entrusted to my care.

Yes, on this morning with homegrown bacon and Iowa-roasted coffee, we know where the food comes from. My little girl-duet decides that Daddy’s bacon really does taste better than the kind at the store.

But this is not our everyday practice. Many meals, we dine on PopTarts, frozen waffles, waxy fruit. In our garage freezer, we stock up on breaded chicken parts and artificially-colored ice cream that blazes lime green and neon orange. I don’t know where these things come from. They sit behind glass doors in aisle eight. They woo me, and I mindlessly drop them into the wire basket, pushing forward to the next aisle.

Back home, these things find a place next to the brown-paper bag with the words: “Scott Lee bacon.”

Anna pushes tines onto a yellow egg hump. What if these eggs were bad? How would I know?

In 1973, my mother didn’t know, until I lay limp in her arms. I was hospitalized as a toddler with salmonella. And just a few months ago (and three hours east of our farm) an Iowa egg-operation was a source identified in a major egg recall.

Anna eats the egg. I taste guilt, fear.

But that’s not true worship — this shame-ridden, self-accusatory finger-pointing.

I want to make good choices, but I don’t want the choices to control me.

I want to do better, yes. But I don’t want to get paranoid, or legalistic. Legalism is a salmonella all its own, tainting our praise.

On this Sunday morning, Christ comes to dine with us as we savor the homegrown food. And he’ll come to dine with us on the nights when I pull the frozen pizza from the freezer and serve fizzy grape sodas.

We’ll pray again on that night, “Come Lord Jesus.” And He will.

He dines with sinners, breaks bread with the broken, nourishes the hungry, feeds the five-thousand … and the pajama-trio at the breakfast table.

And we bow our heads in gratitude today, we ask him to increase our understanding of what we eat. We want to do better, Father — not out of legalistic obligation but out of a heart of worship.

“Perhaps we are to begin now,” Leslie’s words challenge me again.

And yes — I whisper to our invisible Dinner Guest in the seat of honor — I do want to begin now.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
— 1 Corinthians 10:31

***

This weekend, I began reading The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God (Leslie Leyland Fields, Editor.) What a word-feast it is, full of delectable essays and recipes that glorify God and draw us into a deeper understanding of what we eat.

Here’s the back-cover copy:

You are invited to a feast for the senses and the spirit! Thirty-four adventurous writers open their kitchens, their recipe files, and their hearts to illustrate the many unexpected ways that food draws us closer to God, to community, and to creation. All bring a keen eye and palate to the larger questions of the role of food–both its presence and its absence–in the life of our bodies and spirits. Their essays take us to a Canadian wheat farm, a backyard tomato garden in Cincinnati, an organic farm in Maine; into a kosher kitchen, a line of Hurricane Katrina survivors as they wait to be fed, a church basement for a thirty-hour fast; inside the translucent layers of an onion that transport us to a meditation on heaven, to a church potluck, and to many other places and ways we can experience sacramental eating. In a time of great interest and equal confusion over the place of food in our lives, this rich collection, which includes personal recipes, will delight the senses, feed the spirit, enlarge our understanding, and deepen our ability to “eat and drink to the glory of God.”

by | November 8, 2010 | 13 comments

13 Comments

  1. Lyla Lindquist

    If worship is really as pervasive as we say, if it reaches into our every day and every moment, then yes, it includes the nightly (or at least a few times a week nightly) feast of who knows what at my table, punctuated by the occasional house-shaking belch (we have a 1-10 rating scale) and food stuck on fingers and chins and good-natured ribbing and thoughtful conversation when a whole pile of testosterone pulls up chairs around the table with me.

    Because we too invite Him to be our guest and welcome Him to the table. And I wonder how He might fare in the belching contest.

    Thank you again for reminding me of His ever-presence, our ever-opportunity to engage Him no matter the moment's occupation.

    Reply
  2. mom2six

    I remember my Grandmother's story of her father butchering a pig right in the back yard of the house we now live in. I'm with your oldest – bacon is one of my favorite foods. Longing for the day we can be more self sufficient. For today we seek God's blessing as we make wiser food choices.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Lyla, I'm laughing here … the thought of the belching, and the holy participation in it. You always make me smile, always.

    mom2six — Me, too. So much of what I select is out of convenience. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  4. patty

    Thank you, once again, Jennifer for your words. Every time I serve a customer, or decorate a wedding cake or get some strangers birthday goodies ready, I pray that my food might bless the partakers. As much as God is able to use food to minister, I pray He uses mine. So, whether it's worship to the ones eating or not, it's already been worship to me. 🙂
    And Lyla, you make me laugh…I hope to meet you in real life someday! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Andrea

    We should be living out our relationship with our Heavenly Father..worshiping and loving HIM in and through all we do!
    Blessings,
    andrea

    Reply
  6. Lyla Lindquist

    I might have to find me some of that Patty coffee sometime…

    And you guys laugh because you think I exaggerate.

    Not so.

    Reply
  7. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Lyla … Next time you head this way, we'll need to take a little trip over to Sanborn. You would love Patty's shop, her cakes, her breads, her coffee … and her conversation.

    Maybe we could have a belching contest.

    Reply
  8. The Soap Sister

    Hi Jennifer! What a great post. I think I may have to order the book -it looks fabulous. "Come Lord Jesus" has been our family's table prayer since way before my time -hopefully will continue for generations to come!

    Isn't it amazing that Christ is ready and willing to help us do all things through Him -what a blessing that is! 😀 (Thanks, Lord!)

    "Whatever you do, work heartily, as though for the Lord, and not for men" Co. 3:23

    Reply
  9. Kathleen Overby

    I loved this book and your post. Good pairing. 🙂

    Reply
  10. Sara

    I love this post because I feel the same pull of "this is what I would like our table to be" and "this is the reality of what it is." I like the idea that eating frozen pizza can be an act of worship. For me, it's the attitude I bring to the table. Once, in seminary, we took communion with a blueberry bagel and cranberry juice from the cafeteria because that's all our instructor managed to grab in the morning. And, my husband has done communion before with Oreo's and milk. Does that mock God? I don't think so if the intent is a purposeful pursuit of God.

    Reply
  11. Shaunie Friday @ Up the Sunbeam

    There is nothing in all the world like Iowa bacon! No other bacon tastes just like it. Your pictures are flooding me with the memory of childhood sights and smells. Your words are creating a hunger in me to once and for all finally figure out what it means to glorify God in my eating. Thank you for this Jennifer!
    Shaunie @ http://upthesunbeam.blogspot.com

    Reply
  12. Laura

    I love the idea this book is making real to me: cooking (and eating) as worship. I read a quote out loud to my husband from the book about this very thing and it brought tears. This very life-giving thing does deserve a bigger place of consideration in my life…this I know. But like you, Jennifer, I struggle with the legalistic tendencies. I will not feel guilty for living the life God has led me to. I do not always have the time to make a homemade loaf of bread or a soup stock from scratch. This book makes me want to do better, and your words too. My first priority is to seek Him. Sometimes that means pop-tarts for breakfast :).

    Love you, girl. Thanks for linking this to the book club.

    Reply
  13. Ann Kroeker

    I just finished reading Zechariah in my One-Year Bible and stopped briefly on that passage about every pot being holy. In that day, even bacon can sizzle in Israel's pots! 🙂

    When we invite Christ to our table, aren't we "dining with Living Bread."

    Amen.

    (annkroeker.com)

    Reply

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