Taste and See that the Lord is Good

Published: November 21, 2012

Norman Wirzba discusses the spirituality of eating at Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, NC.

In October, the Food, Faith and Religious Leadership Initiative sponsored an event entitled “The Spirituality of Eating.”  On Friday afternoon I found my way through downtown Asheville to Malaprops bookstore.   As people began to gather, this vibrant and stimulating environment became even more alive as we eagerly waited to hear Norman Wirzba of Duke Divinity School and Fred Bahnson, Director of the Food, Faith and Religious Leadership Initiative, speak about their new book, Making Peace with the Land.  The discussion was lively and earnest as people responded to the stark contrast between valuing creation and our current food system.   Norman Wirzba gave us a great image to ponder.  He described his grandfather playing with the chickens on his farm, caring for them and considering their happiness.  He recognized them for what they were: a beautiful part of God’s creation.  How different is this from the way our farming systems turn food into a commodity, and treat animals like machines?   Why is it that we eat 20% of our meals in the car?  Why is it that we only spend 10% of our disposable income on our food?  And why do we boast in a food system that produces food that is cheap?

These challenging questions were a part of the conversation that night, but also around the tables at First Baptist Church of Asheville on Saturday.  The room was filled with people of all different backgrounds and specialties, making the small group conversation time fulfilling and fruitful.    We spent time looking at Scripture and not only lamenting the painful realities and injustices of our food system, but also spent time imagining redemptive solutions.  I gleaned insights from several people from my table, including a minister who recently moved to the Asheville area, a retired military man, and his wife who started a non-profit to help feed the hungry through community gardens.   I was inspired through this weekend—through the discussion, fellowship,  the thoughtful and provoking words of Norman and Fred, and the examples set by organizations like the Lord’s Acre—just one instance of community members already tackling these issues.

A student from the Spirituality of Eating course holding fresh harvested carrots from Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, NC.

Since then, a certain phrase has been echoing in my mind—“Food is God’s love made delectable.”  When Norman Wirzba spoke these words, my breath caught in my throat and my eyes filled with tears.  Several days later I repeated this phrase over a beautiful breakfast my mom had so lovingly prepared, and her eyes filled as well.  Do we recognize the gravity of this phrase when we sit down to eat?  Do we take the time to be truly thankful, and to “taste and see that the Lord is good?”  After this weekend I began to conceive of the world (and my place in it) in a new light.   Fred Bahnson spoke about the creation account in Genesis, when the first way God is depicted is as Gardener, knees and hands in the dirt.   He said, “we are soil people, inspired by the breath of God.”  The ways we care for creation and what we choose to eat should reflect this deeply rooted identity.   Then we will truly be able to experience God’s love anew through the food we eat, and feel the gravity of gratitude.   And not just at our Thanksgiving meal, but every time we gather around the table.

Shannon Axtell Martin
MDiv ’11
Regional Consultant with the Partners in Health and Wholeness