Norman Wirzba

Eating with the Chinese and God (AND---special invitation!)

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It is a week of harvest. My eldest son and his beautiful wife are here. We are twelve at the table now. But yesterday we were 26. Twenty-six people including 10 from China, seafood professionals here on a tour to see Alaska wild seafood at its source. 

What do I feed them? Salmon, yes of course, but how? I fixed "Peroke" (per-awk'), a traditional Russian-Alutiiq fish pie that is the signature dish of Kodiak Island and other coastal areas where the Russians settled. 

It's a messy, tactile, glorious multi-day affair that starts with putting out a net, wrestling the salmon from the net, then knives are involved, pie crusts, steamed rice, sauteed vegetables, rhubarb, a lot of smoke (I use smoked salmon in mine) and a host of aprons. There is blood too. Creatures die for our table. But many are fed. 

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If God made this whole ball of earth and wax, and if God is watching the daily news, surely he is too busy (and too angry) to care about food. Jesus came down and he had a lot to do in a short time. Surely he was too busy to care about something as trivial and earthy and earthly as food!

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But no. Of course. 

Jesus came as "the bread of life," and he spent a lot of his time feeding the hungry loaves of real barley bread. He taught us to pray for "our daily bread." He ate and drank so freely he was known among the disgruntled as a glutton and drunkard, as crazy about food as they were about their own brand of righteousness.  

He spent his last  hours on earth at a dinner with his friends, where he chose homely bread and local wine to mark his death and his promised undying life within us. He told us to eat and drink remembering him. 

When he returned after his death, he cooked fish on the beach for his astonished friends who did not know of any body who could rise from the dead. And who among them could even dream of a God who could kill death then show up calmly after as their breakfast cook? 

Food matters.

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I'm saying this to myself as much as to you because food is . .. food is not always my ally. Food consumes so much of my time, my life. Especially this week with my hands and arms flesh deep in fish flesh. Yesterday I filleted 35 salmon, and then there will be berries and rose petals and so many jams and jellies to be made. I will be busy all summer with this work. 

But God doesn't tire of feeding us, thank God, and he feeds the world through us, at least in part. It is work to be sure, but it is joy to take part in God's feeding of the world. God allows us to be the answer to others' prayer, "Lord, give us this day our daily bread." 

For that, for that great joy, yes, I will dirty my hands with blood, go to bed with fish scales in my hair, remembering each night the gladness at my table, which is your table, Lord.

Thank you for feeding me the daily bread that feeds others theirs.

Amen. 

 

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Would you like to join me on Harvester Island next summer to make peroke, smoked salmon, and whatever else our hearts and appetites desire? I am hosting the first ever "Spirit of Food Retreat" July 14 - 20 with world renowned theologian of food and ecology, Norman Wirzba and Melissa D'Arabian, a chef on the Food Network. We'll forage, fish, gather food from our gorgeous wild environs. We'll cook together, learn about the theology of food and creation care. We'll eat out on the beach, watch whales, go ocean touring and just generally celebrate food and our loving Father who feeds us so well. I can't wait! I hope to see some of you here! Couples welcome. More here: (Space is limited. Taking applications now. ) 

 

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