July 14, 2009

Cooking - a Spiritual Practice

I read this, by a pastor John O'Hara, and wanted to capture it for me to ponder more and not lose it in cyberspace.
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It might just be the last honest place left. A sanctuary built into our living spaces that frees us to roll up our sleeves and creatively interact with the yield from God’s good creation, the kitchen calls us to a universal vocation and a spiritual exercise.

We cook for a variety of reasons, both noble and ignoble, sacred and common. It’s a practice that cuts across the boundaries of culture, class, religion, ethnicity and gender. It is a uniquely human pursuit and a universal experience that creates for us a bond which transcends all artificial lines of division. To cook is an exercise that teaches us to live with creation – and to live in sync with the rhythms of the Creator, if we are patient enough to wait for that goodness to flow our way. Often the temptation comes to circumvent this rhythm and flow; and it usually manifests in the towering backlit signs of fast-food drive through windows piercing the darkness of our hungry and hurried world, or in the form of fruits and vegetables shipped halfway across the earth to fulfill our dietary whims and industrial carbon quotas. How we eat what we eat and why we eat it are, beneath the surface and beyond the glittering reverberations of advertisers, spiritual questions that deserve the kind of wrestling and soul-searching normally reserved for prayer meetings and seminary classrooms. We have an existential relationship with other living things: we grow, we live, we die, we feed others from the stuff of our existence. Our relationship to food is a touchpoint for that world to which we mystically and metaphysically belong.

When I am in the kitchen, I am aware that I am preparing something real and visceral, something to be broken and consumed, enjoyed and shared. More than a mere illustration of something spiritual, it is spiritual in its’ very essence. When the Church of Jesus was in its’ infancy, the Acts narrative points to people making a daily discipline of worship and meals shared. Somehow I feel that we have lost our way in the fog of our industrialized efficiencies. Quick trips to the super warehouse mega store to pick up a slab of this and a pound of that – or more threateningly, something food-ish that has already been prepared, packaged and preheated and frozen in a factory before it reaches us – reduces us to a kind of two-dimensionality, to the vocation of a consumer; when instead we are so much more complex and beautiful creatures who were designed to participate in the food chain, not just feed off the top of it like some glorified trough. What we gain in convenience through supermarkets and fast food, we lose in the quality and tenor of that relationship to what we consume. In the preparation of food, in choosing foods that are local and in season, we are fractionally returning to a more vibrant stewardship over creation. One cannot help but imagine that doing so enhances our worship relationship with the Creator.
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