By Rev Julie Yarborough
June 28, 2009
Genesis 1: 29-30 and Psalms 34: 8
(mp3, 4.4Mb) ]
a song sung by Emmy Lou Harris and Mark Knopfler called, “This is Us.”
In the song, a couple is looking at photos and reminiscing about their lives.
Each photograph they look at brings back memories of their lives together,
and in the choruses they sing: “You and me and our memories, this is us.”
“You and me making history, this is us.”
“You and me, we were meant to be, this is us.”
I love this song, because it captures the little ordinary moments of life
as well as the more significant ones, and celebrates them all.
It reminds me to live in the moment and to celebrate life each and every day,
because time passes so quickly and in the scheme of things,
life is so short.
fact, my husband, Jeff and I turn to one another at moments that we want to
capture in memory and say, “This is us!” As our kids dissolve in uncontrollable
laughter at some silly joke, or shout in amazement at the sighting of a bald
eagle, when we dance around the kitchen to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” as we
eat fresh strawberries out of our garden or walk hand-in-hand on a starry
summer night, we take a mental snapshot and say, “This is us!”
Frederick Buechner describes this
practice of living in the moment as sacramental.
A sacrament is when something holy happens. It
is transparent time, time which you can see through to something deep inside
Generally speaking, Protestants have two
official sacraments (Communion, Baptism) and Roman Catholics these two plus
five others (Confirmation, Penance, Sacrament of the
Sick, Ordination and Matrimony). In other words, at such milestone moments as seeing
a baby baptized or being baptized yourself, confessing your sins, getting
married, dying, you are apt to catch a glimpse of the almost unbearable
preciousness and mystery of life.
Needless to say, church isn’t the only place
where the holy happens. Sacramental moments can occur at any moment, any place,
and to anybody. Watching something get born. Making love. A high-school graduation.
Somebody coming to see you when you’re sick. A meal with
people you love. Looking into a stranger’s eyes and finding out he’s not a
If we weren’t blind as bats, we
might see that life itself is sacramental.[1a]
Life is sacramental, and we need to
slow down, open our eyes and ears, and pay attention in order to be present in the moment.
Today I’d like to explore the idea
of food as sacrament. This
…is not a stretch when recalling Jesus’ last
meal with his friends. At dinner, Jesus took bread and wine, the commonly
available, everyday elements of a meal in that time and place. He then broke the
bread and poured the wine both to remind his disciples of his life and
teachings and to serve as an invitation to follow his acts of love and
compassion. It is not accidental that Christ chose a meal for the setting and
bread and wine as the symbol for instituting what has become the most central
of Christian sacraments. The settings and elements of everyday meals carry with
them a “sacramental power.”
Mary Beth Lind, co-author of the
cookbook, Simply in Season, says, “Food is part of my spirituality. My garden
and kitchen are the places where I am most aware of God's presence, as well as
the places where I flesh out my beliefs and values. For me there is a
connection between what I eat and how I pray.”[2a]
Making the connections between what
we eat, how we pray and how what we eat impacts our health and the health of
the world: that’s mindful eating. That’s sacramental.
I haven’t always been aware of
making these connections in my own life. A couple of years ago, I was at a
parenting conference where I heard two pediatricians talk about the links
between diet and disease. They said that
the rate of disease in this country has increased tremendously since 1900 and
that there is a direct correlation between what we eat and our health. The
incidence of heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes have all risen dramatically
in the past one hundred years as our diets have changed from a mostly agrarian
model to one that relies heavily on processed food. I was astounded to hear
that one third of all children in the United States are living with
chronic illness of some sort. Both physicians said that by changing our eating
habits in this country we would see a remarkable improvement in overall health.
Thinking about the prevalence of
strokes and diabetes in my family, I went home from the conference determined
to change my eating habits and those of my family as well. I drove into the driveway and met my husband
and kids, who were outside playing. After greeting each other warmly, we stood
chatting in the driveway.
“So, what did you guys do today?” I
asked my kids.
“Daddy took us to Burger King for
lunch!” they said, with big smiles on their faces.
The color drained from my face as I
told my husband what I had just learned at the conference and the color drained
from his face as I describes how our eating habits were about to change
dramatically. Needless to say, we
haven’t been back to Burger King since that day! In fact, we rarely eat fast
food at all anymore.
As I began to educate myself about
healthy eating, I became aware of the Slow Food movement. Their international
website describes the organization in this way:
“Slow Food is a non-profit,
eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to
counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions
and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat,
where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of
Slow food places an emphasis on
good, clean and fair. Food should taste good, be produced in a way that does
not cause harm to people or the earth, and those who work to grow and produce
food should be compensated fairly.
Only 100 years ago, almost all food
that was eaten was local food, grown and harvested or hunted, fished and
prepared by those who were going to eat it, and shared with neighbors and
friends close by. Today we have very little knowledge of where our food comes
from, and how it gets to our tables. We are not aware of the ways in which our
eating habits affect our bodies and the very earth we live on. We are alienated
from the natural world in unprecedented ways, and that alienation leads to
further destruction of our planet.
There are many simple ways in which
we can participate in more mindful eating:
We can buy more locally produced foods and support
We can buy organic and sustainable produce when possible.
We can prepare food lovingly.
We can eat meals with other people, sitting down at a
table, instead of standing at the counter, or eating in our cars or at our
We can be deliberate about saying grace before each
meal, giving thanks to God for the food on the table and the journey that it
took to get there.
We can savor each bite that goes from our forks to our
We can grow some of our own food in gardens in our
backyards. You can start small, with tomatoes and herbs in pots on the back deck.
All food that you grow yourself tastes better somehow!
We can cut down on our consumption of meat. “In the
United States, it takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef;
over 70 percent of the U.S. grain harvest is fed to livestock each year, the
majority of it to cattle…(simply eating one less quarter-pounder a month saves
600 gallons of water.)”
We can visit our local farmer’s market – Summit has a
great one on Sundays right in the parking lot on DeForest Avenue across from Calvary Episcopal Church.
Did you know that 1.1 billion
people in this world don’t get enough calories to stave off hunger, while
another 1.1 billion people get too many calories, and many of them are
overweight? One in
five adults in the US
is overweight by over 100 pounds. Our
habits of mindlessly eating get us into trouble.
I heard an interview with author
and food activist Michael Pollen on the radio last weekend,  and I was struck by something that he said. He
was asked about the high cost of eating healthy food and he acknowledged that
it is more expensive to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in
this country, because our government subsidizes corn, wheat and soy, which make
processed foods much cheaper to eat than whole foods. Overall food costs have gone down in the past
60 years or so because of these subsidies, but as food prices have gone down,
health costs have gone up. When food costs were a higher percentage of our
family budgets, health costs were lower – presumably in part because we were
eating healthier foods. Simply adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains
to our diets and eating less processed food is a very good place to start
eating in a healthier way.
I encourage you to start making
connections between what you eat and how it affects your health and the health
of the world. If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend
books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, or Barbara
Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable,
In a moment, we will gather around
the table to remember Jesus and his last meal with his disciples, as we
celebrate the sacrament of Communion: the gifts of God, work of human hands,
food both of earth and of heaven. Today, as we gather around the table, let’s
do so mindfully. Be present in the moment, savoring the taste of the grape
juice and the bread (which, incidentally, was made slowly and lovingly for this
occasion by Lynn Starun.) Together we eat and drink in remembrance of Him. And
as we gather to celebrate and to remember, we can look at each other and say in
all honesty, “You and me and our memories, this is us, this is us.”
From the CD “All the Road Running”
“Sacrament” from Wishful Thinking: a
Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner, Harper Collins, 1973, pp.82-83; as
found in Food & Faith: Justice, Joy
and Daily Bread, edited and compiled by Michael Schut,
Living the Good News, a division of Church Publishing Incorporated, Denver,
Colorado, 2006, pp.256-257.
 Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily
Bread, edited and compiled by Michael Schut, Living
the Good News, a division of Church Publishing Incorporated, Denver, Colorado,
Simply in Season, by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-wert, Herald Press,
Scottsdale, PA, 2005, p.9.
 Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily
Bread, edited and compiled by Michael Schut,
Living the Good News, a division of Church Publishing Incorporated, Denver, Colorado,
Health Organization statistics, as reported in Food for Life: The Spirituality
and Ethics of Eating, by L. Shannon Jung, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN,
2004, p. 59.
 From “Bob Edwards Weekend,” Interview with Michael Pollan and Robert Kenner about their new film, Food Inc., June 13-14, 2009, produced by
Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, as heard on WNYC.
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