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Thursday, December 6, 2012

What to serve at a church dinner.

Here's an extra blog going along with my most recent post about the conflict in the early church over food sacrificed to idols. Our situation with food today is very different, and with so many people with food allergies or food preferences the situation is somewhat more complicated when it comes to hospitality and Christian community. I mean, what do you serve at a church dinner to meet everyone's various preferences???

Here's my favorite quotation on the topic from Kim Peterson’s book “Keeping House: the Litany of Everyday Life.”

          Dietary preferences are another area in which individual practices can either foster or hinder connection with others. The trend in modern American culture is toward ever more individualized eating. Diets are touted as suitable for people of a particular body type or even of a particular blood type. Deciding what one will or will not eat becomes a primary means of defining one’s own individuality. “I don’t eat carbs,” “I don’t eat fat,” “I don’t eat red meat,” “I don’t eat animal products,” “I don’t eat cooked food.”
            And with every good added to the list of things one does not eat, the shorter becomes the list of people with whom one can enjoy table fellowship. Dietary practices become a means of warding off contact not only with foods that are deemed objectionable but also with people who are deemed objectionable because they eat whatever it is that the diet forbids. Like the religious reformer who considers himself too spiritually pure to worship with others, the modern American dieter often ends up too pure to eat with others.
            Of course there are people whose dietary preferences and restrictions are a matter of necessity. Where this is the case, honoring those preferences or restrictions by serving and sharing acceptable foods can be a profound expression of hospitality and mutuality. But for those of us whose health permits, partaking readily of whatever is offered can be a way of affirming that eating together is a least as important as whatever it is that is eaten.
The simple act of eating together is perhaps the most fundamental of all the ways in which food can express and foster the community that God desires should exist among people and between humans and God.

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