And Jesus said . . . “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.” – Luke 5:30
Commensality is a fifty-dollar word for a ten-dollar experience. It means fellowship at table or the act or practice of eating at the same table. Com: with. Mensality: meals. Lots of fancy theologians argue that Jesus was crucified because he ate with the wrong people. Surely this story about the Levite announces that Jesus is in a kind of eating trouble.
I was walking down the Manhattan street, doing my usual eavesdropping. You can’t help it because everybody is already on top of everybody else. One highly heeled woman said to another highly heeled woman, “I don’t want deli sandwiches; I want an artisanal sandwich.” As their heels clicked in a kind of jazz point and counter-point, the companion said, “But a deli sandwich is so much cheaper and you get so much more meat.” Click, click. Click. Response: “But I don’t want people to see us eating a deli sandwich. They might think we were under-employed.” Click, clack, click.
In a world where even sandwiches have class bias, joining most humans who also have class bias if not class perspective, I wonder where Jesus would eat. The artisanal sandwich has a certain Orwellian appeal. It is a status marker. You could be a peasant but you’re actually a chic peasant. Plus you get a higher class of vegetables on your artisanal sandwich. A pickle. A piece of one of the ultimate status markers, arugula, or avocado. On the deli sandwich wilted tomatoes join wilted lettuce.
I wonder who I should have lunch with today.
Help us to learn to eat with one another, O God, and build a world of peace, sandwich by sandwich. And for those without, help us to notice. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.