Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Taste and See

True confession: I didn't eat whole olives until I was in my fifties. I had horrid associations with olives based on some federal food surplus program in the 1960s that sent vast amounts of black olives to my school lunchroom. They were probably classified as vegetables, along with the ketchup. Since olives were not a food friendly to the palettes children, we quickly decided that they were actually projectiles that could be launched from any finger. Not a memory that inspired me to actually want to try eating them.

While I am not a picky eater, neither am I an especially adventurous eater. So it is exceedingly hypocritical of me to be judgmental of picky eating. There are very few childish behaviors that I won't excuse. I can tolerate exuberance, argumentativeness, excessive curiosity, repetitive behaviors, obnoxiousness, messiness, and even a little bit of rudeness, but picky eating drives me crazy.

I guess that for me, food has always represented wholesomeness, providence, creation, and care all rolled up into one neat package. I know that there are people who see eating as a chore but because I have imbued food with so many other qualities, picky eating feels to me like rejecting the generosity of God, nature, and the person who prepared the food.

Given my sanctimonious attitudes about picky eating, it's funny to think that lack of finickiness around food was one of the things that ticked off the Pharisees about Jesus.  He didn't always dine in homes that kept kosher. He sometimes dipped his bread in the same bowl as people who didn't take their ritual cleanliness seriously. The Pharisees called Jesus out on this more than once. The question of what the early believers were allowed to eat nearly created the first schism in the church as Peter and Paul argued on opposite sides of the kosher diet question.

Here, however, we see God at God's finest. For where are we most united in faith? At the table. Gathered around the altar. Meeting to eat and drink together; Christ's very body and blood, given for us. There and then, beyond all other places and times, we are united as one. What if we were too picky for that?

Every family has ideas about when children should be welcomed to the Lord's table.  In my congregation we leave it up to parents to decide. Theologically, it seems to me that any time is the right time. As a parent, I think that the right time is when they reach for it, or ask for it. I think that when your child reaches out to actively participate in the life of the church, it is the right time. Who would turn down a child who wanted to help decorate the Christmas tree or dye Easter eggs? We know that participation adds meaning to events so I support letting them participate early, and in as many ways as possible.

What introduced me to the wonderful world of olives was a curiosity about Middle Eastern food, about what Jesus ate. Your children may be curious about the meal at worship.  Help them expand their food choices by bringing them to the table.

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