Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Last Suppers

In the closing weeks, now days, of our time here in Gloucester and at St. John’s Church before we move into retirement, we are being treated to many last suppers, breakfasts, lunches, teas and coffees. The bounty is varied and all of it bittersweet.

I can understand the impact and value of the Christian tradition’s focus on Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples and friends. I know why they picked this moment as the scene that would be re-enacted over and over weekly in most Christian churches to remember the love of God communicated by Jesus Christ— a love so broad, so rich, so free as to include us all as guests without invitation, RSVP or conditions.

I can understand the sacred Friday Shabbat supper with ritual candles and remembrance of God’s faithfulness in the covenant.

I can understand why a prisoner facing execution is given a last meal, whatever he or she want without condition, to say goodbye to earthly life. Grace in a meal.

I can understand why as a child I was offered my favorite meal on my birthday and sometimes while recovering from a bout of some childhood illness. Mine would always be tuna fish casserole sans the peas but with potato chips crumbled on top, chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Now it’s meat loaf of any variety with peas, potatoes smashed, then red wine and dark chocolate.

And I understand why the Last Supper became the Holy Communion/Eucharist sacrament of remembrance, justice, thanksgiving and forgiving, compassion and hope— the food of grace.

Don’t we all know this same experience around a family dining table when the food is sumptuous, the conversation heartening, and love connects? And don’t we all also know the truth that this ideal is rarely unbroken by more difficult feelings like anger, fear, guilt or sorrow?

But we come to the table anyway—again and again and again—with outstretched hands.

Our “last suppers” have all been holy too— lots of love sprinkled with the sorrow of goodbye and the hope of new life and the fear of loss.

For us the theme of “last supper” had many variations: from tea or coffee with dunking biscotti, to caesar salad with chicken times 5-6, to elegant dinners with wine and quail or some bird or other, to the most precious of all, a dinner out at Friendlys complete with my old favorite vanilla with hot fudge sauce no cherry.