Grace and peace are yours from the Risen Christ. Amen.
My daughter Alice is from Sierra Leone, in West Africa, and so I’ve spent quite a little bit of time there. And in Sierra Leone, dinner is usually eaten a little bit later, around 8 or 9. There isn’t much electricity in Sierra Leone so people are usually eating by candlelight or maybe a camping lantern. There’s maybe one big bowl of rice with sauce on top of it, and a few different spoons sticking out of that bowl. So everyone is huddled together over the bowl. Sharing. Eating. The saying there is that, “Once you eat out of the same bowl, you become family.”
I grew up Lutheran and so for us celebrations mean potlucks and hot dishes. We might be frozen in our pews during worship, but the unveiling of a new Jello mold in the fellowship hall afterwards fills the space with murmurs and coos and conversation.
So, It’s easy for me to picture the scene described in Acts chapter 2. “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” I can picture this scene because there have been scenes like this in my life, too. Friends gathered around me, buzzing on wine and inside jokes, passing around food and laughing…Eating is one of our most basic human needs and sharing a meal together gives a sense of community. We are partaking in the most mundane and ordinary of tasks and yet, because we are doing it together, there is meaning.
There is life. God is there.
Maybe today you will receive some art decorated with teeny little handprints. Or maybe you will see mom’s face light up when you hand her flowers. Maybe you will experience that feeling, that buzzing feeling of abundance and connection at your Mother’s Day brunches when you leave worship today and celebrate with the ones that you love.
Or…maybe not. Maybe there is a rift in the relationship between you and person that you would normally be celebrating with today. Maybe your interactions will be forced, and thin. Maybe for the many us here who have lost our mothers or who have lost our babies…Maybe Mother’s Day is a stark reminder of the deep pain of that loss. For the over 300 mothers in Nigeria, whose daughters have been kidnapped from their schools and sold as slaves…today is just one more day in a long string of days filled with desperation and mourning as they long for justice and cry out #bringbackourgirls. So maybe today instead of overflowing with life, abundant, your heart feels like it is shrouded in the shadows of the darkest valley.
To you, too, God says, tenderly, “Come. Eat.”
Psalm 23 is one of those Psalms that I have heard so many times that sometimesI forget to pause and let the images take hold in my mind. Usually on a day like Good Shepherd Sunday we would focus on that first half of the Psalm…the picture of God as a Good Shepherd, gently leading God’s sheep. But today the part that really stands out to me is the second half of the Psalm, where we experience God as a gracious hostess who prepares a table before us, anoints our heads with oil, and offers us a cup, overflowing.
Just like the neighbors who bring over the casseroles after the funeral is finished and murmur gently to us to, “Sit down and try to eat something,” the God in this Psalm is with us, the suffering wanderers who are journeying through the valley. And in the midst of all of that darkness, in the midst of that unspeakable pain, God is there…. “preparing a table” before us.
God says, “I know you are lost. I know you are tired. Come. Eat.”
Food is so at the center of our lives and our interactions with one another, whether it be wedding feasts or funeral casseroles, birthday cake or brown bagged PBJs. When we come together to celebrate or we come together to mourn, we often gather around a meal. And so how appropriate is it, that whenJesus asks us to remember him, he does it through a meal. And that is why we do what we do, each time we gather together. That is why we come from places of abundance or places of darkness and we come together, together, and we take this bread and we take this cup and we remember. We remember that God is with us.
God is with us when we eat and drink, when we rise, when we sleep. God is with us on all days, whether they be Acts 2 days or Psalm 23 days…at the center of it all, God is there. God is there in the abundant celebrations, God is there in the dark valley. God is there. God is with us.
God, who refused to be detatched. Who refused to stay remote, enthroned. But instead came down to earth and lived among us. Who experienced abundant Hosanas, who experienced the darkness of the grave. Who laughed and cried and walked and slept and drank and ate, like we do. Who provides for us in our daily lives and in our spaces of worship, simple reminders of God’s presence.
So, If your day is full of flowers and brunch, may you take pause, and smile and remember that God is there. If your day is full of darkness, may you give yourself the space to be as tender with YOURSELF, as the Great Hostess is with you. And in the days to come, whatever they may bring, may you rest in the great and beautiful truth that God is there with you.