You are what you eat, what a weird phrase. You are what you eat. The idea that we become the image of what we put in our mouths is odd, because who doesn't like a good dessert or junk food binge. We are all guilty of it, but that doesn't define us. Indeed, the idiom you are what you eat, is a reminder that our bodies are powerful and beautifully made engines which need support and nutrition to thrive. I’ve learned this first hand over the pandemic as I increase my exercise levels, that the way I perform is diminished when I don't take care to fuel myself properly. It is, then, food that helps me build capacity for growth and development, a development that reminds me that our bodies are built for endurance and to do hard things- even when our minds don't think we can. So what does what we eat say about who we are this thanksgiving? What we eat forms us, it forms us into the one Jesus healed who returns to him in gratitude and praise. It is this transformational encounter that Luke challenges us to live this morning.
Luke’s narrative invites us into the tension of space, a middle ground between a known and unknown reality. Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, and his arrival this morning here is a bit strange as it's not exactly on a direct path to Jerusalem. This is important because of what Jesus is describing to us by this encounter on the road to the Cross, that the kingdom of God is coming in through the unexpected and forgotten places of our world. This immediately feels heavy and hard because of how convoluted it becomes. Human capacity loves a straight forward understanding of the path before us, it's the mental side of the physical experience of our bodies. Our bodies are designed for hard things, but our minds will often see that and look for the simpler way around. So Jesus coming to us in this harder way is not just a reminder of the nature of the kingdom, but a reminder of just how Jesus acts for us, in the midst of the ordinary, in unlikely places, we are transformed by his presence in our lives. It is this presence that is our food, food which transforms us for the hard work of the kingdom.
Gathering around our tables was weird as a kid at thanksgiving, not because I didn't love my family, but because of how awkward it felt. Maybe you know what I mean… my mother would be cooking an amazing meal for what felt like days, making us wait hours before we could eat it. The table would be set with fine china, sometimes with flowers. We had to be well dressed. This was often so different than our day to day dining experience, something that was more about fuel than purpose, but what it always taught me was how I should look at the world because of what we were doing. We were not wealthy growing up, my parents worked hard to give us what we needed, and yet there was always a sense of abundance on our table. Abundance that wasn't just about us, but about those around us and the abundance of God. In our grace we always prayed for the homeless, the hungry, the isolated, those separated from their families, and over time these prayers began to form the questions which lead to my action in the world. It was these prayers that built awareness, all from the dinner table, a table not unlike ours here in the church.
Our tables are sacred spaces because they bring us together with others to share what it is we have. Often though, I wonder if we actually see what we do everyday as a sacred activity. We practice this sacred movement every Sunday here in this church at the altar, God's table, where we are all invited, sinner and saint together, to receive him in faith with thanksgiving. Altars throughout history have been consecrated and set aside for public worship, we reverence them, we place relics in them, but it is not the artifact that we acknowledge, it is the person it represents. Our altar, God's table, represents the tomb of Christ, on whose very grave we celebrate and receive the food which both gathers and sends us, because it is through it that we are set free. This, then, places the act of reception and distribution of food as a formative experience: we receive this food, this body of Christ, to feed us in our movement back out into the world in his name. A movement we are called again this thanksgiving weekend to embrace and live.
Gathered around my childhood table we gave thanks for what we had, yes even those brussel sprouts no one liked, in order to slowly be conformed to a life of gratitude and thanksgiving everyday. We gather around this altar every week to receive within us our saviour, in order to be conformed again and again to his purpose for our lives. We are then, what we eat, because in receiving Christ we are declaring our desire to follow him in our everyday life. An everyday that can feel lost and challenging in these times. It is telling then, that the lepers recognised their need for healing as Jesus came close and reached out for it. They recognized in Christ the freedom from their challenges and dared to ask for what they needed in order to achieve that. They asked for a direction through this time of social isolation, and in Christ's healing they recieved it. His healing was more than just a passive act, but a formative one which calls us to see the world differently because of what we have received. This thanksgiving we are changed because of what we receive, in mind, body and spirit. But do we dare to reach out and ask for what we need?
We may not have leprosy, but there is something within all of us that feels isolated, alone, fearful, challenged, worried, just like the lepers, yearning for freedom and new life. This morning we are called to name those places within us, and ask God to heal us through showing us a way forward through it into new life, a life lived and given for His service in our world. Where is God calling you to new life? Where are you struggling to see and feel God's freedom in your life today? What relationships are challenging to you? Offer those up to God, and receive into you the food that conforms you to a new way of being. Receive into you our savior Christ, in whose body we serve with thanksgiving this day and throughout time.
While the church is closed to congregational worship, you are invited to register for sunday afternoon home communion with me as we re-commit ourselves to this path of healing and service this Thanksgiving. A path which transforms us because of who we meet, and transforms our neighbourhood because of the work we do together through the food we receive at this table. Give thanks, church, you are what you eat! And we feast today on the body of Christ, a body which sends us out in healing to love and serve everyone. You are what you eat this thanksgiving, church, so get up and go- say’s Christ, your faith has made you well!
Thanks be to God!