There was a raising of eyebrows and a whispering of surprise around the sanctuary on the Sunday of my childhood when garlic matzah crackers and fruit punch accidentally got served for communion. It detracted, admittedly, from the reverence, but it did contribute somehow to the general sense of fellowship.
Growing up in the church, I have always appreciated the capacity food has for carrying sacramental significance. I sense it most clearly in the matter of the Lord's Supper, but I have also sensed it at other times. My parents befriended Latin American immigrants who were intent on expressing their appreciation by cooking us a meal in our own kitchen. The parsonage on that occasion was more holy with the smoke of a spicy offering than any temple ever was, and there was something pentecostal about our happy scorning of the language barrier.
Then there were the "Agape Feasts" my father organized in the fellowship hall of our little church. Those feasts captured my imagination because of the menu (such foods as Jesus and his disciples might have eaten: fish, pita, honey, dates, olives) and the utensils (we ate everything with our fingers,) but the testimonies I heard on those occasions and the sense of being part of something connected to an ancient reality made an impression on me as a young believer.
Such "agape feasts" were a regular feature of church life from the early days of the church (there are directions on how to observe such a feast included in the Didache written in the Third Century,) and they have been an important part of our own tradition.
John Wesley was first exposed to a "love feast" in a meeting of the Moravians in Georgia in the 1700's, and for years afterwards they were a feature of Methodist worship and faith life, though it has now fallen out of practice.
But in this season we sense that God is calling us away from an expression of church that is focused on the platform and back to a vision for church that revolves around hearth and table. It's time to rediscover the sacramental power of shared meal.
Rules for a "Peace Meal"
Pastor Tate will be hosting these meals in a regular ongoing way at the church as soon as we are established in our new location, but we want this to be happening in homes all around our area. We are asking everyone to try to participate in at least one such "Peace Meal" every month, either as a host or as a guest.
This is an important thing for us to do together as we make our church a church of hearth and table. What do you say?
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog