Food and Religion
By Reverend Tom Capo
Preached on November 23, 2014
What is the significance of food as it relates to spirituality or religious tradition? In Steve’s story, little Carrie travels to different homes looking for her brother, but instead finds various cultural dishes made with rice. Just like Carrie, I spent much of last week exploring the ways in which various religions include food in their rituals and traditions. In this journey from virtual house to house, I was surprised by what I feasted upon.
Our journey starts with the Sikh religious home. The Golden Temple Complex is the Central worship place for Sikhs around the world, and it is in Punjab, India. The Sikhs are serving a free communal meal known as Langar. The concept of `Langar' is a very old tradition of great importance for the Sikhs. This tradition was started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, color, creed, age, gender or social status. This was a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th century India where Sikhism began. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind.
Let’s now head to the Christian religious home. I grew up Catholic and I felt I had some knowledge of this religion and food. Communion. The little wafer and a sip of wine that is given out in remembrance of Jesus Christ. According to the Catholic faith, this wafer and wine is transubstantiated, actually becomes, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In Protestant Christian traditions, this wafer and wine is either though to be consubstantiated, that is, becoming the body and blood of Christ while still being wafer and wine, or is thought of more metaphorically, not actually changing. The wafer and wine are used to remember Jesus, his wisdom and life. But what is interesting to me is that this tradition of bread and wine didn’t really become part of the worship service in the Catholic Church until the time of Constantine around 313 CE.