It’s always fun when people send you free books.
A few weeks ago, I got a package in the mail containing a couple of books that other Patheos writers were going to read and review, forming a virtual book club. The fun part (other than getting free books in the mail!) was that both seemed timely for things I’m doing in ministry right now. I mean, I’m in the midst of a sermon series called “Manna: A Gospel of Food.” And what shows up in my mailbox but a book called Recipe for Joy. It’s like getting free sermon notes from Jesus!
My sermon series focuses on some of the rich and wonderful food texts in scripture: the Garden; loaves and fishes; the 23rd Psalm; Elijah and the widow; and of course, manna from Heaven. Each of these passages points to the centrality of food at the heart of community, creation, and the shared human experience. Each reminds us that God cares for us–sometimes very directly–by feeding us. And each calls us to live more deeply into a sense of abundance, gratitude, and connectedness.
When I read Robin Davis’ memoir, I felt like she was preaching me a sermon. But instead of biblical texts, she draws on her own very real, very honest experience of life around a table. In Recipe for Joy, Davis shares a journey of life, faith, and family, and serves it to readers like a meal. Literally. Each chapter takes us through a ‘course’ of the story, and comes with–what else?–a real recipe.
Literal food talk aside–this is not really a cook book. It is the story of how a woman can give up everything she thought she wanted (dream food critic job in San Francisco); and go where she thought she’d never go (back home to small town Ohio); and do something she never thought she’d do (marry a man with three children). As Davis learns to care for her new family, she speaks the language of abundance–not just in terms of actual food, but in her language of faith. It’s a language she thought she’d lost; but comes to hear, with clarity, in this uncertain and evolving stage of her life.
When I think of ‘the gospel of food,’ I think of all the ways God cares for us, feeds us, nurtures us through the love of others, in times of crisis. Robin Davis seems keenly aware of God’s care for her, as she learns to navigate life as a new wife and mother. But I was keenly aware of another layer of good news at work in this story… The man Davis marries is a widower, still learning to navigate life as a single father; and the three children, still grieving the loss of their mother. As the author learns to connect with her new family around kitchen work and shared table, it is apparent that God is also caring for the husband and children–through Davis’s own presence and ministry of food.
If she’s aware of that dynamic, she never spelled it out…but it’s a beautiful and powerful gospel, all the same.
If you think food is a powerful tool for ministry, a powerful witness to God’s love, and a daggone essential element in bringing people together, you should read this book. In so many ways, it is just full of good news.