Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 77

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 2 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE Matthew 25 has interesting stuff about food, too. This is where Jesus talks about his followers visiting him in prison, clothing him, and feeding him (Mt 25:35–40). “When I was hungry, you fed me.” His disciples say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, when did we see you in jail?” And what does he say? “As much as you have done to the least of these, my friends, those who are poor, you’ve done it to me.” What’s so important about this theologically, the idea that Jesus connects it to feeding him when you feed someone who is hungry? Why does that matter? It comes back to that issue of serving God, being God-centered. To feed someone else isn’t just to feed someone else who is in need. It’s an act of worship, an act of service to God. It’s an act of sacrifice of returning to God what he gave us, not just giving to another person. When we talk about serving God in the world, helping those who are hungry is an act of God-service. That’s something that makes it more serious for us. In Acts chapter 6, the church has an immediate concern over widows who aren’t being fed. In the ancient world, it was often not a good place to be a widow, especially if you didn’t have an immediate family that would take care of you. Often no one would. And they just got left and sometimes became prostitutes and beggars. And the early church looks at this and says, “We can’t let this happen. We need to make sure that these women get fed because they are not going to be able to do this on their own in the world.” Jesus is saying, as much as you fed these you’ve done this to me. And this is counted in a broader catholic sense, to feed a hungry person is to feed the suffering Christ. It’s to come in and care for the suffering Christ himself. Jesus is saying, “Don’t just look at the suffering of the person. Think in terms of my own suffering and engaging my own suffering, which is suffering I took on for you in this process of salvation.” Luke 11:5–8 is another kind of community passage. Remember the story of a friend? You show up to his house at midnight because you don’t have any bread. You are banging on his door and the friend says, “My children are already in bed. I don’t want to give you bread.” But you keep banging on your friend’s door until the friend says, “Fine, here’s some bread to feed your friend.” The main thing about this is asking God for what we need, but again, we get food as symbolic of care for the other. This goes back to Middle Eastern hospitality rules that we don’t generally know in the West, or at least in America. It has been going on forever in the Middle East and still is today. When someone shows up at your house, you must feed him. It does not matter what time of day it is. You must feed him. And this comes out of the alien commands in the Hebrew Scriptures. Care for the alien who doesn’t have anyone else to care for him. So you have to 74