Feast for the SoulDec 01, 2022 06:00AM ● By Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks
Before I embraced my call to ministry, I worked in the family food business, creating culinary delicacies for celebrating holiday feasts and life passages. The catering seasons flowed one into another just as, I later discovered, the liturgical seasons do. From Thanksgiving to Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s. From Purim and Passover to Easter. Christenings, communions, bar and bat mitzvahs, graduations, weddings and funerals.
Our menu was extensive and offered variations on themes. Besides traditional potato latkes, we offered zucchini and sweet potato options. Pumpkin cheesecake in one season led to strawberry shortcake in another. Christmas Buche de Noel preceded Easter carrot cakes. There were always quarts of chicken soup with matzo balls, pounds of brisket, pans of lasagna and baked ziti, mounds of green beans almandine, watermelon boats overflowing with fruit salad, endless trays of butter cookies and luscious bowls of chocolate mousse.
Sometimes I sampled the seasonal favorites. Occasionally, I hungered for something we prepared. I enjoyed the food, though never feasted. Often, I felt overwhelmed with so much variety and would find myself nibbling leftover chips and onion dip or sipping egg drop soup from my favorite Chinese restaurant.
Over the years, I helped many longtime customers plan their family events. Two were clergy: Jacob, a rabbi and Peggy, a Presbyterian pastor. One day, Rabbi Jacob asked me about my own holiday celebration. He wondered how I would address my suffering. I wasn’t aware that I suffered, though I certainly wasn’t feasting either.
Then, I spoke words that became prophetic for me: “I don’t believe God wants us to suffer. I believe God intends us to feast.”
He nodded and smiled as if I had passed a religious test. A few weeks later, I spoke with Pastor Peggy, asking her questions I never knew I had about ministry. Eventually, my words led me away from the food business, into full-time teaching, then to seminary and church ministry.
One recent Saturday morning, as I shopped at a local gourmet market for a church potluck, I noticed preparations for the next seasonal feast. For a few minutes, I became lost among boxes of chocolates; stacks of apple, pumpkin, berry and coconut pies; cases filled with cranberry relish, turkey and dressing and three kinds of potatoes. I could feel the overwhelm again as I tried to decide what I wanted.
As I paused to enjoy a sip of chai, a clerk asked whether I was planning for my Sunday off.
“No,” I said. “I work on Sundays.”
“No,” I said. “I work on Sundays.”
“Oh,” she said, “So do I.” Then she asked, “What do you do?”
“I’m a minister,” I replied.
“Wow!” she gushed. “That’s awesome. I’m so glad to meet you. Where I’m from, women aren’t ministers.”
As she weighed and packed my purchases, she asked me several questions about my work and the church. I recognized she hungered for something more—just as I had. I also realized, in that blessed time we shared, that my work has always been about feasting. First, I said yes to providing food for the body. Now, I offer sustenance for the soul.
At the church potluck, a variety of holiday favorites, including mine, filled the buffet. I didn’t put much on my plate; I rarely do at these events. But I loved going from table to table, visiting and laughing with congregants. I felt full in their presence, reminded that God—unconditionally loving and infinitely compassionate—has created us to serve one another and thrive. I savor this truth and delight in offering it to all who want to join the feast. ❧
Senior Minister of Unity Atlanta Church in Peachtree Corners, Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks is a preacher, writer and spiritual leader. She holds a Master of Divinity from Unity Institute & Seminary. Learn more and connect with her at RevJenn.com.