Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 72

FOOD AS A SYMBOL OF GRACE - Harper Food is truly a life-and-death issue. Not mostly for us as middle-class Americans, but around the world food is a life-and-death issue. And really it’s a life-and-death issue beyond the physical to the relational. Interestingly, animals do not become a food source until after the Fall, until Adam and Eve sin. When you read the original story of creation, God doesn’t say anything about giving the animals to humans for food. He talks about animals being there, but he doesn’t talk about them as a food source. What he does talk about is that all the production of land is yours for food. I don’t know what to do with that in some sense. Is it only after the Fall when food becomes connected with death and thus we get animal death in sacrifice and in food consumption? This leads to some interesting questions about the future. When God brings back creation to the way it’s supposed to be, will there be meat on our tables? Will we be eating meat at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rv 19:6–9) or only vegetables? Taking this even further, one of the symbols of the Eschaton, of the future, seems to be no eating meat because we have this symbol of the lion that stops eating lambs. Isaiah says the lion will eat grain, just like the lamb does. Obviously that is very apocalyptic language, so I don’t want to just throw that into the literalist category. But it does make you wonder if, in fact, originally God offers the produce of the land for food and not animals. Animals become a symbol of death both in eating and in sacrifice, and God says, “By the way, in the end the lion is going to lie with the lamb. The lion won’t be a carnivore anymore.” Does that speak to us and give us a bigger picture? Even from a pragmatic standpoint, wasn’t it fascinating what Dr. Steven Kolmes was saying earlier today in the conference about how much energy it takes to create a pound of meat to eat? And if we just took the grain we were feeding our animals, we would feed the rest of the world. Does that connect with the fact that maybe God didn’t originally design us to eat meat? Food as a Symbol of Relationship and Community with God and Others Third, food is a symbol of relationship and community both with God and others. This is a huge issue in Scripture, both in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. One of the places where we see food as a symbol of relationship is in Deuteronomy where we see the showbread, the bread of God’s presence. What happens is that in the holy place in the temple, laid out on the table is this loaf of bread. It symbolizes the presence of God. It’s 69