This weekend, I made a family recipe from my husband’s grandfather. Though Grandpa Gray is no longer with us, somehow, making this recipe for the first time in a long while flooded me with all kinds of memories. You see, Italian Mac was the family’s favorite dish – the ultimate comfort food. One year, I finally asked for the recipe and stayed with Grandpa Gray in the kitchen while he made it. Now, as I look at the words of the recipe, I can hear his beautiful voice in the words. As I crush the herbs as he instructed, I can imagine his worn hands doing the same thing. As our house fills with the aromas of Italian Mac and garlic bread, I can remember the smell of his house. As I sip the red wine that the recipe suggests I pair with the meal, I can recall the comforting sound of his laughter.
Food has a special power. Whenever I have been on mission trips, food has created intimate connection. In Honduras, we all took turns helping the women of the village cook for our team. After ten minutes of attempting to grind corn, we were all laughing at how much stronger the women were than the men who were lifting bricks to build the church. On my second visit to Costa Rica, I wanted to learn how to make the beans and rice we ate regularly. The women were surprised that I was willing to get up early with them and learn. After that morning, our relationship shifted. In Myanmar, giggles and laughter ensued as we tried new foods and our hosts appreciated our boldness.
The same is true of the Eucharist. I have been in churches that use grape juice and a small cube of pasty, crunchy “bread.” I remember the splendor of the sweet Hawaiian bread used at another church. I remember the first time I had real wine at communion, and the way that it burned down my throat, lighting a new fire in me. Whether baked bread, bland wafers, or store-purchased pita bread, each texture and flavor imprints in my mind the church, the community, the spiritual place where I was at the time. Even this weekend, at my goddaughter’s baptism, my own daughter commented on the “yucky” communion bread they had. I would have just said it was dense, but that dense texture will linger in my mind as my reminder of our celebration.
Holy Eucharist is the comfort food of Church. That is why I love being a part of a sacramental church that has Eucharist every Sunday. But the Church offers other comfort foods as well. The pancakes we eat every Shrove Tuesday remind me of years of fellowship and laughter – with communities all over the East Coast. The Brunswick Stew of the Fall Festival at Hickory Neck will always remind me of warmth and community. There are those dishes at every potluck that you search for, knowing the comfort it will bring. And of course, there is the Sunday morning coffee – a staple of hospitality and grace. If you have been missing a sense of community and comfort, I hope you will make your way to Church this week and join us in the feast that not only comforts us, but also strengthens us for the journey. God has given us great work to do – but God has also given us the sustenance we need for the road ahead.