Thursday, April 17, 2014

eco-lent: holy week

It's Holy Week, and today is Maundy Thursday: according to John, this is the day Jesus ate the last supper with his disciples and was arrested, then stood trial and was crucified on Friday, in the late afternoon just before the beginning of Passover (since the Jewish day goes from sundown to sundown, and Passover was a high holy day that year where the Passover coincided with the Sabbath, Saturday).

In reflecting on my Eco-Lent experience over the last several weeks, the instructions of Jesus to eat together (what we've turned into communion) and to serve one another (he washed his disciples' feet) feel particularly poignant. In ecological theology, much is made of the physicality of eating together as a community with Christ in our midst, and the memories of the pre- and post-resurrection scenes including food. As we bring food into our bodies it becomes part of us and is the very energy source that gives us life. We eat and we are sustained, or in our day, perhaps, we eat empty calories and can never be filled with life and health.

Although Friends don't practice the physical sacraments, seeing all of life as a sacrament, I like to broaden the ameliorated ounce of grape juice and pasty wafer into all food encounters. I take in the good gift of life, health and energy in the food I eat; I take in the sustaining friendship and fellowship with my family and community when we eat together; my hunger, gratitude and satiation link me to the Divine.

Therefore, the very food I eat becomes an opportunity to experience a sacrament: an opportunity to be open to God's life-giving Spirit filling me, sustaining me, and connecting me with others. I'm literally sustained by the world God created, taking it in so that it becomes me.

The choices I make about what food to eat, what chemicals it has soaked in, what has been done to the Earth to get it to me--these are choices that directly affect me, my body, my community and my world. I can choose to participate in a life-giving sacrament of preparation by growing my own food and encouraging the use of healthy farming practices, alternatives to fossil fuels, refusing to use products that leach chemicals into the soil and groundwater and that provide my body with sustenance and health.

I feel like this might be guilt-inducing for some, whose food choices are limited or who struggle with this topic in terms of eating healthily. I hope that this is an alternative to viewing food as a commodity. I hope it helps us see our choices sacramentally, not so that we feel bad about not living perfectly, but so we feel invited to participate in the Emmanuel sacrament, the sacred space of God-with-us, each time we choose a food and choose with whom to enjoy it. I hope it will encourage us to symbolically feel the presence of God sustaining us as we eat and receive life from the bounty of God's creation, and that we feel we can joyfully share the overflow of this abundance with those around us. It's a reframing of our desire for "more," translated into "not enough," that recognizes abundance and gratefulness in place of fear and guilt.

Also, we have an instruction to serve one another, to think of ourselves humbly as the ones who serve, rather than the ones entitled to be served. As Americans who expect the world to serve us, or who "generously" give out of our abundance so that others can barely survive, what would foot-washing look like in our context? Would it possibly mean rejecting our sense of entitlement to ever-more, to having what we want whenever we want it? Might it mean letting go of our dignity and receiving what we need from Christ?

My prayer is that each of us can eat at least one sacramental meal this Holy Week, remembering Christ and listening about how we are called to participate in carrying our own cross. I pray that as you eat your meals and enjoy fellowship around the Easter holiday, you'll be reminded of abundance and life, freed for joy and delighting in the goodness of creation, feeling loved and valued, and extending that abundance to others.


Paul Klinkman said...

I see foot washing as partly an act of energy healing, consistent with Jesus's healing ministry.

Foot massage feels good. If you have energy in your hands, holding someone's feet grounds them. Holding a child's feet can put the child to sleep. Reflexologists believe that you can work on any part of the body by massaging a certain part of the foot.

Cherice Bock said...

Good point, Paul! Foot massages are definitely something peaceful as well as healthy. If only that was part of every worship service...