God as friend

Easter 3 2012
Luke 24:36b-48

Marian Free

In the name of God who abundantly provides for all our needs and gives us life in the present and in the world to come. Amen.

I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but food is a theme that recurs throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the garden of Eden God provides plenty of food for Adam and Eve, Abraham makes a meal for the three angles who visit him, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and ensures that there is enough food for the Egyptians during the famine and therefore enough food for his family who come to Egypt. In the wilderness God provides the people of Israel with manna from heaven and the quails. The grumpy prophet Elijah is fed by the ravens and Elijah ensures that the widow has enough food to see her through the drought.

Over and over again God provides food for the people and from time to time God’s people act as host and provide a meal for God’s representatives. God’s promises to the people include the idea of plenty for all. Isaiah’s vision urges the people to delight themselves in rich food, and Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple envisages plants for food on either side of the river that flows from the Temple.

This association of food with God continues and expands in the New Testament. Mary sings that the hungry will be fed, Jesus feeds the 5000 with the loaves and two small fish and turns the water into wine.

Jesus not only feeds the hungry, he is also a guest on many occasions. He is invited to have dinner with Levi the tax collector and by Simon the Pharisee. He invites himself to dinner with Zacchaeus and is the guest of Mary and Martha. It is while he is at the home of a leader of the Pharisees that he heals a man with drops and we are told that women provide for him out of their resources. In fact, it appears that Jesus is well known for his enjoyment of a good meal as he is accused of being a glutton and a drunkard and is questioned as to why he does not fast as do the disciples of John.

Many of Jesus’ parables or words of advice concern a meal. He says: “when you are invited to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour” and he tells the parable of the wedding banquet and of the guests who refuse to come. All the parables about the “lost” include feasting – the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. What is more we are told in these parables that there will be feasting in heaven when the lost are found.

Before he dies Jesus shares the Passover meal with his friends and alludes to the banquet that they will share in heaven. It should come as no surprise then that the resurrection appearances include the sharing of food – at least in Luke and John. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus walks to Emmaus with two disciples and is recognized when he breaks the bread. Later, when he appears to the gathered disciples, he asks if they have any food.

What is particularly interesting is that in life and in the resurrection accounts, Jesus is both guest and host. On occasion Jesus provides the food for others. At other times he allows others to cater for him.

In Luke’s resurrection accounts, Jesus is both host and guest. He joins two disciples on their way to Emmaus. When they urge him to stay, he (the guest) becomes the host when he breaks the bread for them. That same night when the two have returned to Jerusalem, Jesus appears to the gathered disciples. After revealing himself to them, he asks for food – allowing them to be the hosts.

This emphasis on eating and drinking combined with the fact that sometimes Jesus is host and sometimes guest, tells us something about the nature of God and the sort of relationship that God desires to have with us. God is not removed and distant, juggling strings or wielding a big stick. God seeks a relationship with us that is built on mutual respect and friendship with the sort of to and fro that that involves. The relationship is not a one way street, but involves God providing a welcome for us and ourselves providing a welcome for God.

It is important that we learn to grow up, to enter into a mature relationship with God, to let go of any dependency and respond to God’s invitation with an invitation of our own. Like any friendship, the relationship will change and take on new meaning or move in new directions. In our journey of faith, we must have the humility to accept God’s offer of friendship and the grace to offer ours in return.

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