While I have always celebrated the ritual of eating, I have often wondered why civilized people still make such a big deal out of it (note that “civilized” naturally includes those beyond the scope of Anabaptism). We eat to celebrate the big events like weddings and benefit auctions. Every year the president eats dinner with members of the press so that he can make fun of them. Sometimes we assemble just to eat.
At it’s root, eating is an desperate act of survival in which we open a hole in our head and shovel in energy-filled substances. Why haven’t we, in our 21st efficiency craze, developed efficient alternatives to eating, like taking pills?
As a bachelor I think I now understand. At least in part. It came to me tonight as I sat at my table–alone, and faced with a morbid arrangement of scrambled eggs (because I still haven’t figured out the over-easy method) and dry pancakes (because I forgot the maple syrup at Target). When I cook for myself, my number one goal is edibility. Aesthetic appeal comes and goes at will. Usually the latter. Even the better meals, like grilled steak or chocolate cake, are quickly devoured. Because who wants to linger over food with empty chairs leering at you? In short, it really bites to eat alone (sorry, but I’m sure it would have been funny if Jay Leno would have said it).
Tonight I pondered the why question and here’s what I came up with. God created life. He created humans to revel in this life. To revel in life is to share it. When we share food with fellow lifers, we celebrate our aliveness in an earthy sacrament complete with chewing, crunching, slurping, swallowing, and related digestive acts. Yet in these acts we glorify God for life. In them we thank others for being alive with us.
This is why gluttony is evil.
This is why ignoring the hungry is such a deadly sin.
This is why Jesus ate supper with his disciples before the climax of history.
And this is why he invited his disciples–us–to dinner with him at the conclusion of history.