Thursday, April 13, 2017

Shared Meals and a Poem for a Maundy Thursday

Here we are at Maundy Thursday again. How will churches celebrate this year?  My church will have a traditional noon service, and our evening service will be more experiential, a meal shared with a congregation that meets at our church and with members of a mosque which is a half block away.  We will discuss love across different cultures.

I say "we," but I will not be there.  Tonight is the last night in town for my sister and nephew; my mom and dad will be here until Tuesday.  My almost-11 year old nephew loves chicken wings, and my spouse loves grilling, so our last supper will be chicken wings. 

Will we go to Jaxson's?  Perhaps.  We went there last night, and my mom was sad to not have gotten to go.  I saw a box of a matzo on the counter and thought, ah, yes, Passover.

That reminded me of a time when my in-laws were down during Passover week.  We went out to eat in a seaside resort town, and the family at the table next to us whipped out their box of matzo.

I'm thinking of other Maundy Thursday meals I've made, other meals I've shared.  One Maundy Thursday at a different church, we did a Seder meal of sorts.  The impediment to doing a Seder during the daytime was that the preschool used every bit of space in the building except for the sanctuary.  I came up with a way we could have a meal in the back of the sanctuary.

As I researched the Seder, it became apparent that I had volunteered for more than I could accomplish.  So, I switched to a simpler meal.  I made a big pot of lentils and bought pita bread.  I bought feta cheese and olives.

We sat and ate and talked about how the simple meal was similar to the food that Jesus would have eaten regularly.  We talked about the Seder meal.  We talked about Maundy Thursday, since the people who came to the meal were like me, unable to get back for an evening service.

Did we also have a service?  I honestly cannot remember.  What I remember is the joy of sharing a meal, and everyone's surprise at how good lentils tasted.  I remember being pleased that my experiment worked.  We had just enough room for everyone who came.  If the whole church had attended--well, what a great problem that would have been, not having enough room.

But we had a small, select group, which I was fairly sure would happen, when I made the plans.  It was neat to sit in the sanctuary and enjoy a real meal, not the scrap of bread and sip of wine that we usually got. 

It was very cool to do Word and Sacrament in a completely different way--and wonderful that it seemed to work for people.

This week, with its mix of Spring holidays, Passover, Holy Week, and Easter, also reminds me of a poem I wrote long ago now, while all these images swirled in my brain and my quilt group met.  We wouldn't have had the meal that the poem describes, but everything else is factual. Well, I wasn't exactly the lapsed Lutheran in the sense that I once was, but like the rest of the poem, it's true, if not factual.

It was first published in Ruminate.


I knead the bread leavened with beer,
stew a lamb shank in a pot of lentils,
prepare a salad of apples, walnuts, and raisins,
sweetened with wine and honey.
No one ever had herbs as bitter as this late season lettuce.

My friends gather at dusk, a motley band
of ragtags, fleeing from the Philistines of academia:
a Marxist, a Hindu, a Wiccan, a Charismatic Catholic,
and me, a lapsed Lutheran longing for liturgy.

Later, having drunk several bottles of wine
with prices that could have paid our grad
school rents, we eat desserts from disparate
cultures and tell our daughters tales from our deviant days.
We agree to meet again.

Gnarled vegetables coaxed from their dark hiding places
transform into a hearty broth.
Fire transubstantiates flour and water into life giving loaves.
Outcasts scavenged from the margins of education
share a meal and memories and begin to mold
a new family, a different covenant.

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