“$376.23” Luke 24:13-35 4/30/2017
Keep this dollar amount in mind: $376.23. We’ll come back to it. But first, consider this scenario: You’re on the way home from the office, or shopping, or caring for the grandkids, or whatever, and you are tired and stressed.
You’re hungry, but you know that the refrigerator at home is as empty as your stomach, or what is inside isn’t very appealing. If you are like most Americans, where are you going to stop for food for the evening meal? Maybe, but probably not McDonald’s, Burger King, or Subway.
Where then? Would you believe a gas station; one of those with a food-mart. You’ll pull up to a gas station, fill the tank with a high-octane premium gasoline, run inside and grab some fruit, a three-cheese burrito and double espressos, and take off for home.
This brings new meaning to the term, “Full Service.”
For the past number of years you have become part of a swelling demographic group of Americans who dislike fast food, but don’t have time to cook up an elaborate home meal. You’ve discovered the joy of not cooking, and are snapping up what the food industry calls HMRs, the Home-Meal Replacements, a growing $100 billion-a-year phenomenon.
As you have probably noticed over the past number of years most grocery stores have moved into takeout catering services of some sort where you can pick up chicken cordon bleu or Chinese sweet and sour pork, or a veggie platter.
And now most grocery stores offer full meals ready for pickup and eating.
- Of the $691 billion spent on food last year, 46% was for food dishes bought outside the home.
- Ravenous Web surfers can preview full menus and order prepared meals from their favorite grocery store.
- Restaurants have developed delivery systems that will bring such meals as spaghetti in clam sauce to your home within minutes.
- For many families and individuals cooking in the kitchen is now a hobby, not a duty.
In 1987, 43% of all meals included at least one item cooked from scratch. That figure dropped to 38% in 1997; and is now at 31% and still dropping. We love eating at home; we just want someone else to do the cooking. That’s what HMRs are all about.
Now when and how did all of this get started? Back in 1879, Heinz produced the first bottle of catsup and marketed it with an ad that said: “For the blessed relief of mother & other women of the household.”
In 1953, just a year before the first McDonalds Golden Arches went up; a Swanson food dietician named Betty Cronin created the “TV dinner.”
- This was at a time when meals took on average two hours to prepare.
- TV dinners hit the shelves with the promise of providing relief to mothers “burdened with baby-boom offspring.”
- What once took two hours now has been “shrink-wrapped to a tidy 15 minutes.”
Oh, yes. $376.23 – I’m getting to that.
You think you want to spend two hours getting supper ready? I don’t think so! We don’t want to take time for dinner, but there’s a lot we miss when we skip this meal.
What do you think the disciples walking the Emmaus road were thinking about that late afternoon on Easter Sunday? They were discussing the amazing events of the past few days in Jerusalem, but when the stranger who had joined them, Jesus, was about to leave them, there is no doubt that dinner was on their minds, and they wanted Jesus to share it with them.
It was when they were eating with Jesus that these disciples realized with whom they were sharing their food. Jesus didn’t appear to these two at the empty tomb, or in the temple, or on a mountain peak, but at a spiritual gas station, so to speak, a refueling place known as a home-cooked meal.
Jesus came as a companion.
Companion comes from two Latin words, com & pania and literally means, “The person you break bread with.” Jesus is someone who comes to us with bread, with a home-meal replacement.
Meals are important. Good things happen when we share food.
Jesus still visits us at mealtime, often through the friends, family and strangers we entertain around the table. Jesus is found in our companions, the ones with whom we break and eat bread. And the dinner table is the everyday cathedral for Jesus. Furthermore, it is in the saying of table blessings and the breaking of bread with one another that a meal with Jesus is celebrated, and his resurrected presence is experienced.
We don’t know for sure where the biblical Emmaus was located, so we can say that Emmaus is anywhere that Christian people gather for table fellowship. Emmaus can be here, or there, or anywhere, because Jesus will travel wherever his followers are going, and will appear wherever and whenever they break bread.
What do you really miss when you skip supper? Well, not just good cooking, but a great chance to encounter the resurrected Jesus. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbors & friends are the holiest objects presented to your senses. If they are your neighbor & friend, they are holy in almost the same way, for in them also, Christ is truly hidden.”
The simple act of sitting down around a table is something a lot of people don’t find particularly important – but for Christians, the shared meal is a vital aspect of the spiritual life. Listen to the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together: “The Scriptures speak of three kinds of table fellowship that Jesus keeps with his own: daily fellowship at table, the table fellowship of the Lord’s Supper, and the final table fellowship in the kingdom of God. But in all three, the one thing that counts is that ‘their eyes were opened, and they knew him.’”
Bonhoeffer continues, “The fellowship of the table teaches Christians that here they still eat the perishable bread of the earthly pilgrimage. But if they share this bread with one another, they shall also one day receive the imperishable bread together in the God’s house.” Communion begins at home around the table. As author Dorothy Bass puts it, “The eat-in kitchen is a place of both nourishment and devotion. Food and family are blessed together through the common ritual of table graces.”
In addition to table graces the use of pictures, posters and wall-plaques as the fixed counterparts to these spoken prayers, pointing to God’s presence with the family and in the routine labors of cooking and cleaning should also be used.
Have you ever heard this little poem or seen it in someone’s kitchen, maybe shellacked on a decorative piece of wood? “Christ is the Head of this house, the unseen Guest at every meal, the silent Listener in every conversation.” Here’s another: “O God, warm this kitchen with your love, and light it with your peace, Amen.”
Photos of children, grandchildren & other family members might be hanging on the refrigerator, & family relics and souvenirs might crowd the counters and sink. This is also good. At worst, religious mementos are sentimental and saccharine-sweet. At best, they manage a sacramental blessing, and connect everyday meals to the meals hosted by Jesus. There is nothing wrong with objects that remind us that Jesus Christ is present at our tables.
The Bible makes abundantly clear that Jesus loved to eat and drink.
- Jesus enjoyed the wedding feast at Cana.
- Jesus fed 5,000.
- Many times Jesus ate with tax collectors & sinners, & sat at table with his disciples.
- And Jesus spent some of his final hours eating with his disciples & other followers.
In the early church the sharing of the Eucharist – the Holy Communion, was around the sharing of food and drink. Like the first disciples, we can eat and drink with joy because Jesus is with us. The resurrected Jesus is “The unseen Guest at every meal,” offering us peace and guidance. That is why it is important that we acknowledge the presence of Jesus.
The challenge for us is to slow down enough to make a connection with Jesus, and with one another.
- We can do this by scheduling a meal that we can consistently enjoy together with family members or with friends – be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- We can do it by resisting the lure of fast food, and taking the time to enjoy some slow food; food that is not prepackaged in individual servings, but comes from a common platter or bowl, and must be served to a group that is sitting down together.
- We can do this by taking the time we need to actually eat a meal, not jam food in our mouths as we run by the table on our way to sports practices of all kinds, dance lessons, church meetings and appointments.
At times, meals should be well-planned, well-served and well-paced. It is, of course, a fact of postmodern life that schedules conflict and meals must be skipped. But there is a cost to this frantic pace, one that is often forgotten as people dash from one important event to another: namely, when we skip a meal with each other, we are skipping a meal with Jesus.
When we dash away from the table, we are dashing away from the presence of Jesus Christ and his fellowship with our companions; whether family or friends.
The questions that we should always be asking ourselves as we race wildly from place to place are these:
- Is this next activity more important than the nourishment that comes from breaking bread together?
- Is this event more valuable than the guidance I might receive from conversation over dinner?
- Is this schedule making me feel more at peace with others and myself?
Unless you can answer, “yes” to these questions, you would do well to find a way to spend more time at the table with Jesus.
The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through him” (Colossians 3:17).
Whatever … whatever you do … at the dinner table, on the road, at work, at school, on the sports field, with the grandkids … do everything in the name of Jesus. Plan your day in such a way that Jesus Christ is always your companion, and in such a way that you can find him in the people with whom you break bread.
This is the per capita, or per person amount Americans spend each year on fast food. That means that on the average a family of four spends $1,504.92 a year on fast food. The Italians, in contrast, only spend $8.61 per person, per year.
Will it be fast food? Or slow food, with Jesus as your guest? You miss a lot when you skip a meal! You miss a meal with your companions – your family and friends; but you also miss the Com-Panion, the One-Who-Brings-Bread, namely, the resurrected Jesus.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, 4/2017