When a Potluck is More than a Potluck

We have a Garden Goodness potluck lunch after church at St. John’s this Sunday. Lunch is a pretty ordinary thing for all of us and not an extraordinary thing at church. We do it pretty often, lunch provided by the Men of the Church or our good friends at Lizard’s Thicket. It is good that we eat together so often.

This garden potluck format does resonate on some deeper levels. Each dish will be the fruit of our own labor, each household in the church offering something for the common good, for the whole household of God. Each dish will feature some simple thing from the creation God has named as good (Genesis 1), enriched by your care and preparation, and offered on the buffet table for the building up of the body of Christ. Generosity, sacrifice, mutual commitment, and even risk for the sake of others are seen on an ordinary church potluck table, reminding us of the priesthood of Christ and his church and the Eucharistic feast.

Let’s say you start with your bumper crop of yellow squash (or someone else’s). Much preceded the final act of harvest; cultivation back in the spring, planting the seed, watering, weeding, and praying against the borers. If you make a casserole of it, cheese, butter, an egg, bread crumbs, and maybe Ritz crackers or Cheez-its, will all be added to the basic goodness of the squash.

That sounds quite ordinary, but the general priestly work of humanity is to take the gifts that God gives us and enrich them with our devotion, intention, and creative capacity, turning the bare seed of squash into a delightful dish that nourishes others and gives God glory in the process. You sacrifice time, money, and attention to make that squash casserole, all to the glory of God and the welfare of God’s people. You do the same in many other acts of ministry and discipleship, using the gifts that God has given you not for your own profit but for the common good.

We enact that week by week at God’s altar, where the gifts of our life and labor are presented to the Lord. Bread, wine, and money are the things we place on the altar, all of them products of care, creativity, and discipline. When we willingly sacrifice those things by giving them to God in worship, we acknowledge God’s glory and sovereign power and are reminded of Christ’s willing gift of his life on the altar of the cross. But then, to our wonder, God gives those gifts back to us again, further transformed by the Holy Spirit’s work. We receive Christ’s spiritual body and blood back from God’s altar in Holy Communion. We receive the gift of a lively church and loving Christian community back from God thought the sacrifice of our money.

We are thankful that we can sometimes cater in a meal at St. John’s and that supper crews and the Men of the Church feed the rest of us on many occasions. It is wonderful to be taken care of. But these potlucks wonderfully follow the model, in their broad participation, of the sacred meal of Jesus Christ. Many gifts are offered on the potluck table, a wide array, in generous portions, so much that all can find something they will love, so much that even those who forgot to bring something can find the plenty of God through the gifts of their neighbors. A sustaining, mutual sacrifice delights us in such gatherings and can, with a little reflection, animate our devotion to Christ in worship and the world.

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