Funeral Teas and picnics in enemy territory – the theology of comfort

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A silly Facebook conversation sparked by the shocking revelation that most Americans don’t know what a sausage roll is has had me thinking about church funeral teas. (I know, my mind is a funny place to live!!) It got me to thinking that everyplace I have lived in has marked the passing of a loved one with gathering together around food. The food changes from country to country, but the tradition of bringing food to the bereaved and sharing a plate together is the same. I remember in Ireland after my mum’s passing being loved by plateful of scones and traybakes (for those who don’t know what a traybake is you really need to visit Northern Ireland but there is one recipe in photo above). This happened both at the house and at the church after the service – no one went home without having shared a cup of tea and a bite to eat. In Malawi I have sat around shared plates of nsima and stew. In South Africa I shared tea with samosas and milk tart amongst other yummy sweet thing. There is comfort in eating together and bringing food to share is a tangible way of showing our care.

God says He brings us that same comfort in Psalm 23

Psalm 23.4-6 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil;my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Now, I’m not someone who easily loses her appetite, but for many people eating whilst stressed, in trouble or grieving eating can be hard. But God says to us that even amongst your enemies, the place where you are most afraid and scared I’ll set up a picnic for you. He says in tough times when you don’t know where to turn – sit down and eat with me.

He did the same with the disciples when they were running scared after’s Jesus’ crucifixion:

John 21.12 -13 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

So I figure that when we bring someone in trouble or sorrow a plateful of something yummy to share it is a God-image way of saying: I love you, I care for you. Of saying that things look bad, but let’s take a breather and have a cup of tea together.

The next time that I feel overwhelmed by what is around me I plan to take the same strategy – sit down, take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and have a chat with my heavenly father who lays on picnics in enemy territory.

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