When I was a kid, my mom would get up early on Sunday morning to prepare the meal for our Sunday dinner. Back then, people in my church rarely went out to eat on Sundays. They didn’t want to cause other people to work on the Sabbath. Mom would work for an hour or two in order to have everything ready for after church. Then she would put it all in a cold oven & turn on the timer. Sometime during church the timer would come on and start cooking. By the way, you’ve got to give the woman props for figuring out the timing on who to cook a meal when you put it in a cold oven. How’d she figure the time without pre-heating? Impressive… Anyway, we’d go to Sunday school and church, arriving home a little after noon. We’d walk in the door and melt at the aroma of the food cooking in the kitchen. We’d run to our rooms and change clothes and come back to the table and eat together as a family. Often extended family or friends would be around. It was the best meal of the week.
Then something happened that never happened on other day of the week. There was this time between when we all finished eating and when we got up to clean the kitchen. That time between the last of the eating and the beginning of the cleaning is what the Hebrew people call menuha. The idea developed while considering the turn from Genesis 1 to Genesis 2, where it says God finishes on the 6th day then finishes again on the 7th day. Why the two finishes? Norman Wirzba says the Hebrew answer to that question has always been menuha: tranquility, repose, delight, celebrating and delighting in the goodness and delectability of all creation. Menuha is the kind of finishing God accomplished on the 7th day, as though creation wasn’t quite complete until it was properly enjoyed.
I’ve started to think about the importance of a theology of food. I’ve been thinking about this ever since spending time with Wendell Berry and Norman Wirzba at the Louisville Institute. Food is an incredibly important part of our lives. We spend a significant amount of our time and income dealing with food. Yet we rarely think of it theologically or spiritually. Hopefully, yesterday’s sermon will soon be on the website. It is the first time I’ve spoken publically about food; hopefully not the last.