Sensing Lent: Taste
March 27, 2022 – Rev. Drew Stockstill
I get really excited about food. In our house, we plan our week around food. We have Taco Tuesday, Curry Thursday. Then Friday, I usually cook a more special meal to celebrate the end of the week and the start of the weekend. We almost always sit down for dinner together around the table, thank God for the food, eat, and talk about what we’re eating. Often, we’re persuading our children to just have a taste of whatever we’ve prepared, because I like to cook, and I really like watching my children enjoy something I’ve prepared. I love them, and so it feels good when I see them experience my love and enjoy it in food. I see them taste my love for them.
Recently, Lydia Grace, who just turned 7, has been discovering this joy of cooking for others, and it makes me so happy. On Saturdays she makes us all stay out of the kitchen while she makes the coffee, toasts bread, scrambles eggs, washes berries, and sets our plates with truly artistic presentation. It’s so great. And she loves the reveal. She beams when she sees us enjoying the food the prepared for us. We taste and see her love.
There is a command in the Bible that comes from Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is, good.” That’s a command: taste! Taste and see the Lord is good. Beloved, the good news of the gospel is this, that God has commanded us to make good use of our sense of taste. And that is the heart of our sermon series this Lent, to explore the glory of the Lord with our God given senses. God created us as sensory creatures and filled the world with delicious things to eat, and feasts of color for the eyes, and sweet, sweet music for the ear. Today we taste and see the goodness of God.
This is a command I delight in keeping and one God delights in us enjoying. We see this delight in the story of the Prodigal Son. Please rise in body or in spirit.
Luke 15:1-3; 11-32
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 1The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled
with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
This is one of Jesus’ stories that gets right at the heart of who God is and what God is like. Did you notice what started this whole story? Some folks were grumbling about Jesus’ choice to eat with sinners. There were people grumbling because they had an opinion on who Jesus should NOT be spending time with at a table. Imagine that, people who grumble. So, Jesus tells this story about a father and his two sons. The whole thing comes to a head when the father throws this feast for his younger son who left home, wasted all his money, made all the mistakes, and lived a generally selfish and irresponsible life. But that doesn’t change the father’s love for his son when his boy finally comes home, full of shame. Out of the father’s love, out of his joy, there appears not only instant forgiveness, but the father says, “Let us eat and celebrate!” Jesus tells this story to teach us that’s exactly what his father is like.
And of course, the older, responsible son struggles with this. He hears the music and dancing, he smells the roasting meat and he refused to go in. But the father, he longs to celebrate with ALL his children, so he’s outside, not inside partying, he’s back outside as he was when he was waiting for his younger son to return. The father is back outside pleading for his other son to come in and feast. “Son,” he says, “Son, we had to celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead but here is he, back in our lives; he was lost but now he’s found!”
This is exactly what God is like. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. God sets the table, hosts the feast, fills it with fine food and music and dancing but only when all the lost and wandering and broken down are safely home, and still God waits and pleads with the last grumbling holdouts to come and enjoy the feast: Taste and see the love of God for his children.
Jesus was the same way. Jesus, he was definitely a foodie. He is eating so much in the gospels: from the wedding banquet where he turned water into fine wine and kept the celebration going, to meals that stirred controversy because of who he ate with – sinners. He broke religious laws to allow for his disciples to eat on the sabbath. He taught us to be salt of the earth, which is to say, the followers of Jesus should be known as adding flavor to life. Christians aren’t supposed to leave
a bad taste in the mouths of those they meet, we aren’t supposed to be bland and boring: “Be salt,” said Jesus, “Be flavorful, add enjoyment to the world.” At the last supper, what did Jesus do? He broke bread, gave it to the disciples and said, “take and eat, this is my body given for you. Do this and REMEMBER me.” Now every time we eat this bread, we taste this wine, we REMEMBER the goodness, grace, hospitality, and love of Jesus. He was such a foodie. After Jesus rose from the dead, you know what does? He eats dinner with his disciples who still didn’t recognize him, until they saw him eat, and they were like, “Oh, yeah, this is definitely Jesus risen from the dead.” He was such a foodie. Before he ascended into heaven Jesus appeared on the beach while some of the disciples were returning from a fishing trip. They were dragging their nets full of fish onto the beach and you know what Jesus was doing? John tells us, he was
sitting by a fire on the beach, toasting some bread, grilling some fish. He called out to them, “Come, have some breakfast.” Life with Jesus centered around food. To be with Jesus was to be with one who loved to enjoy food and fellowship, who wanted those with him to, “taste and see the Lord is good.”
And here’s why this is so important. It’s not just that Jesus enjoyed a good meal. Jesus was communicating something really important to us about God, something that I think people forget and it’s that GOD IS GOOD. GOD LOVES YOU and God wants you to have a good, beautiful life that you ENJOY all the flavors. There are folks I know, maybe you worry about this sometimes too, who think they have to walk on egg shells with God. God cares about egg shells if you’ve broken them open to make a delicious omelet. But God created us to enjoy life, not to be afraid of constantly disappointing God. God’s always down to celebrate and rejoice. I know there are folks out there who have created a culture of fear around God, afraid of doing or believing the wrong thing, afraid of going to hell, afraid of being too judgmental or not judgmental enough. Afraid that enjoying life is somehow unchristian. But that’s not what the Bible shows us about God. We see in Jesus a God who enjoys life and helps others enjoy it too. Jesus sees a crowd of thousands of hungry people and he tells his followers, “You feed them.” Jesus brings a little girl back from the dead and the first thing he says, is, “Get this girl something to eat.” And it’s in God’s nature to welcome everyone home to a banquet of love. Taste and see the Lord is good.
Karla Hoyos is a chef from Miami. When Russia attached Ukraine and started the largest refugee crisis in Europe since WWII, she packed up and headed to Poland where she is now cooking for refugees on the border of Ukraine. She posted on her Instagram account a few days ago a picture of her stirring this massive pot of stew and another of a mother in a pink backpack kneeling down to share soup with her young daughter. Karla wrote in the caption, “A couple of days ago I had a little shock moment where everything kind of hit me. Processing so much suffering in front of my eyes was just hard. I said to myself that I would stay in the kitchen and not go back to the border because it’s really affecting me, but yesterday I needed to deliver meals in an urgent matter so I went again.
As we were bringing in the pots with the hot meals - chicken and potato stew – in below freezing temperatures in this cold I have never experienced before, I glanced at this family, eagerly enjoying the meals our team had just served them. The little girl was eating with so much joy, and you could tell the soup was steaming hot, but comforting. And it hit me. This is why I do what I do. This is what it is all about. For some it might just be a plate of hot food, but it’s more than that. It’s hope, love, and a reminder that they are not alone in this.”
And this is who God is, this is what God knows about feeding us, and this is why God has blessed us with the ability to taste and see that even in a world that bombs innocents, and in a neighborhood where children die from gun violence, and in a nation where people hunger, and wander, and are lonely and desperate, miraculously a simple meal within the sound of rockets is enough to bring hope, love and joy, where even the most broken taste and see the Lord is still good. God is doing what God loves to do, welcoming the wanderer home and reminding us he is our brother, welcoming the refugee to the table, serving us hope and love, reminding us all we are not alone in this. “Take and eat,” he tells us. It’s my body, given for you. WE HAVE TO CELEBRATE AND REJOICE. Amen.