Formations 03.06.2016: What’s Your Comfort Food?

Luke 22:14-30

last supper

My grandparents kept a painting of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper hanging, fittingly, above their dining room table. We shared meals at that table on almost every major holiday, or birthday, or whenever relatives came to visit. This is where I learned my Granny’s painstaking three-hour recipe for Hollandaise sauce, which we used to make eggs Benedict every Easter. It’s where I learned their post-Great Depression ways of reusing almost every piece of plastic, foil, or tin. It’s where I listened to their corny jokes and old Army stories and went into fits of laughter. It’s what comes to mind whenever I eat collard greens, peach cobbler, broccoli casserole, flaky biscuits, and countless other dishes. It’s an image that brings me peace and joy when I eat the dishes that have become my comfort foods. It’s the reason that, when I feel lonely, I instinctively reach for food.

Of course, we’re all familiar with feelings of nostalgia when we eat comfort foods—and it’s not just because we’re Southerners. Last year, a psychologist at the State University of New York, Buffalo researched the scientific link between food and legitimate feelings of comfort. The link depends on the kinds of associations, conscious or unconscious, we have with that particular food. Her study found that people who were prone to building strong emotional relationships with others were also more likely to feel satisfied and comforted by what they ate.

As psychologist Shira Gabriel concluded:

“We tend to think about the need to belong as a fundamental human need. And by doing that, we’re equating it to other fundamental human needs, like the need for food or water…. When it’s not fulfilled, you’re driven to fulfill it, in the same way that when you’re hungry, you’re driven towards food. So when you feel lonely or you feel rejected, you’re psychologically driven towards finding a way to belong.”

In this week’s Scripture text, Jesus asks his disciples to eat and drink “in remembrance of [him]” (v. 19). The disciples are hungry for a place at Jesus’ table, and they think their hunger will be satisfied by the promise of power and recognition. They are searching for comfort in something familiar, something they associate with earthly satisfaction.

When we search for comfort today, where do we spend our time looking? Where do we reach when we need fulfillment?

“Why Comfort Food Comforts” The Atlantic, 3 April 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/why-comfort-food-comforts/389613/ (Accessed 15 February 2016).

Discussion

• What are your “comfort foods”? Why do you feel comforted by those dishes?
• When have you reached for something familiar, only to find that it did not bring you the comfort you needed? When has your “comfort” become a distraction from real fulfillment?
• Why do you think it’s important to share meals and fellowship with a community of followers?
• Why is it important to share a meal “in remembrance of” Jesus (v. 19)?

Reference Shelf

Sacraments

With respect to the Lord’s Supper, Christians have variously interpreted the words of institution uttered by Jesus at the last supper. Emphasizing the words “This is my body,” some Christians have developed theories about the nature of Christ’s presence in the consecrated elements—e.g., metaphysical, real, and symbolic. Other Christians have focused on the command, “Do this in remembrance of me,” and have determined that the supper should be practiced as a human response in faith to the command of Jesus. […]

Regarding the frequency of the Lord’s Supper, some Christian communities celebrate the Eucharist daily, while many congregations do so weekly, monthly, or quarterly, and on special occasions like marriages and special feast days. Others practice the Lord’s Supper only on Maundy Thursday. Regarding form, some traditions require that the consecrated elements be distributed only by a priest; a few insist that participants kneel at the altar rail wile receiving the brad and wine; others prefer passing individual portions of the elements to seated participants; and several share a common cup. Some break unleavened loaves of bread; others use small wafers, sometimes imprinted with a sign for Christ. Many drink wine; others use unfermented grape juice. […]

Despite these differences, sacramental Christians recognize that Christ is the source and substance of all sacraments, which are, at the very least, visible metaphors of God’s self-giving.

Joseph L. Price, “Sacraments,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 783.

Michelle Meredith is a graduate of Mercer University, where she was the editor for literary and arts magazine The Dulcimer. She taught third and fourth grade in Mississippi for two years with Teach for America and became even more obsessed with live music and southern food (don’t even get her started on Delta tamales). She loves comedy, board games, roller derby, and hanging out with her dog. She is happy to be back in Macon, Georgia as the associate editor of Formations.

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