The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday Good.
— T. S. Eliot (Four Quartets 2: East Coker)
Nothing brings people to church like food. Hold a regular Sunday night service, and 50 people might show up. Announce, during the morning service, that there will be cake and ice-cream following the evening service and 100 will be there.
It’s not just the fact that there’s food, either. Everyone could eat at home if that were the case. No, there’s something about eating a meal (even if it only consists of cake and ice-cream) together.
This passage of Ezekiel concludes his new Torah—the new teaching. Starting next week, we’ll look at Israel’s new land, that magnificent vision of the Temple with water flowing out from under it to replenish the countryside. But this week it’s all about sharing a meal. Ezekiel draws a major section of his prophetic work together with instructions about eating together.
. . .
Verses 19-24 cover two paragraphs. The first paragraph deals with the Zadokite’s food. They are the ones specially commissioned to handle the holiest of things. In fact, their meals are so holy that they have to prepare them in special quarters, lest the inherent holiness of it all infects the commoners.
The second paragraph covers the public kitchens. In each corner of the outer court, there was a place where (presumably) the Levites would prepare the general population’s sacrifices and serve them. Levites in the Old Testament had quite a skill set—they had to be everything from security guards to chefs!
Ezekiel understood that there was something important—something numinous about sharing a meal together in the presence of God.
. . .
Isn’t that what God calls us to do? On the one had we fall at his feet, in awe of his holiness. Like Isaiah we cry,
Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts! (Isaiah 6:5, NRSV)
On the other hand, the most frequent command in all scripture is, “fear not”. God extends his holy hand to us, picks us up out of our fears and invites us to eat with him.
If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3:20, NRSV)
The next time you take Communion (or the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, whatever you call it) think about those two things. We eat this meal in the presence of an awesome and holy God. On the other hand, we share it with our co-creatures.
. . .
Dear Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to share meals in your presence, and in the presence of our neighbours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.