We have some very good friends who have a child with Prader-Willi syndrome. This is a genetic issue that manifests itself in many different ways, but one common issue everyone with Prader-Willi shares is an insatiable appetite. This terrible condition leaves those afflicted with a never ending desire to eat. The condition is so great that refrigerators, pantries, and other avenues for food storage must be locked at all times and their contents carefully monitored and managed to prevent people with this condition from literally eating themselves to death. For more on Prader-Willi, please see this link http://pwsausa.org/
But recently they made a comment about what will happen when their daughter reaches this age where the hunger is triggered and their concern over how it will affect her, their other children, and even their relationships with other friends and family. We get together often with them and other friends at events such as parties, Colts games, etc... and every time we gather there is a great host and selection of food available. We all pitch in and share and no matter what the purpose of the gathering eating is an important part of each get together.
Ministerially thinking, it has led me to consider the balance between food and eating as an important bond of fellowship and food as an idol. Our American society is dominated by the abundant presence of a food culture. We throw away more food in a week than many populations have available in the same amount of time. Eating together is an important aspect of fellowship (think of how often our social time is connected to food and eating- dates, parties, celebrations, etc...). The Scriptures are full of these references from the Jewish kosher system to the New Testament examples of the Last Supper (part of the Jewish feast) and early fellowship issues (food sacrificed to idols, etc..). It is obvious that food plays an important part of establishing and developing human relationships.
So then how do we respond to our friends when food and eating has become for many purposes the enemy? How do we prepare for that moment when the trigger kicks in and this darling little girl develops an insatiable appetite? Is there a way to redeem the importance of a shared common meal together as a means of fellowship without allowing these gatherings to become an idol to excess?
Of course there is. But it will take some adjustments. It will ask us to place more importance on the fellowship of community and less on cakes, treats, and grilling out. It will force us to consider whether we enjoy each other's company based upon our personalities or on our culinary expertise. It will shift our emphasis to focus around the joy of community and the event planned rather than bowing down to worship at an idolatrous dinner table. These are important adjustments that this community of friends will be asked to make. I believe that these adjustments are important and necessary. Not just for the sake of this family and their precious daughter, but also for the sake of the community of our friends gathering.
If one is a believer in the resurrection of Christ, then it is important to understand that the resurrection is about life. It is about life in abundance. It is about a transformed way of existence that pays attention both to the blessings of the present and the hope for the future. The resurrection of Christ Jesus reminds us that God did not just die for us- God lives for us! And calls us to be alive as well. This gift of community, this presence of friends and loved ones, reveals the abundant life God makes possible to us today. This adjustment will not just be about a sensitivity to the needs of our friends. It won't be just a change so that a growing child has a chance to be included. It will be a commitment from us all- friends and loved ones- to discover and reclaim the gift of life and fellowship that God has provided for us.