Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eat And Drink What?!

Interesting discussion lately. Although I was raised Catholic, (yes, I went to 11 years of parochial school; was an "altar boy," even serving at the nun's private Mass at their convent; and was adamantly one of those who proclaimed "I was born a Catholic and will die a Catholic"), after having come to realize that what the Catholic church taught was more philosophies, rituals and traditions fashioned and fusioned from non-Biblical sources, I searched for and found a true worldwide brotherhood whose only source for beliefs comes from the Holy Bible. But that's another story.

Coming back to the discussion I mentioned.... It was something I had long-since forgotten about--the teaching of transubstantiation. Big word. Many today do not even know what it means. It refers to the idea that during the Catholic services, the wine actually, literally, transforms into the blood of Christ and the bread (Eucharist) into the body of Christ. Those who have never been Catholic may be instantly repulsed by this idea as nothing more than cannibalism. That reminded of the passage in the gospel of John (chapter 6 verses 22 through 68).

In verse 26 Jesus observes the true intentions of the crowd that was following him--they wanted the free food he was miraculously providing. (see verses 10, 11) So he decided to test out the intentions of their heart by teaching them a lesson about desiring spiritual nourishment more than physical nourishment. At first, (verse 34) they seemed to appreciate what he was saying. But then, using a forceful illustration, he said that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood (verses 53-56).

Was Jesus really advocating cannibalism? No. In verses 35 and 40 Jesus hits the real reasoning of the point: The people needed a faith so complete, so deep, so unreserved that it would be as a person devouring a meal (as opposed to those that turn up their noses or just "pick at" their plates). Nonetheless, Jesus' audience was repulsed and incensed at the idea of his suggesting what sounded to them as a recommendation of cannibalism. They found it so objectionable that, according to verses 60 and 66, the majority of them left without even attempting to understand.

In verse 63 Jesus helps the ones that did wait around long enough to hear a hint of an explanation that "It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all." Later, in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 15, verse 50) Paul states that "flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom" and goes on to explain that when they entered heaven, they would be changed into spirit bodies something like the angels. Returning to John's gospel, Jesus himself indicated that he was originally in heaven (verse 38) and the rest of scripture supports the thought that after his death and resurrection, he returned to heaven as a spirit person.

So it is impossible to take Jesus' words literally. Why? Because that would mean that only those living during his earthly lifetime had any chance of living forever and only if they performed cannibalism. There is no record of any faithful followers of Jesus attempting that, before or after his death. They knew his teaching was a figurative one, illustrating deep commitment.

Later, at the "Last Supper" (a term coined by people decades after the fact and not one directly found in scripture), Jesus instituted the means by which he wanted his followers to commemorate his life and death for us. Recorded both at Matthew chapter 26 verses 26 through 28 and at Mark chapter 14 verses 22 through 24, Jesus did say according to numerous translations, "this is my body" and "this is my blood." Did those eating with him (the 11 apostles that remained after Judas' dismissal), understand that he was teaching some transubstantiation concept?

Although Paul wasn't one of those there, even from the first-hand accounts he heard he was able to draw the right conclusion:

At 1 Corinthians 11:26,27 he acknowledges that the two substances are indeed just bread and wine but the commemoration event was to be so respected that dishonoring the event was viewed as dishonoring Christ himself. I provide two different renderings of the passage below:

Good News Bible: This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. It follows that if one of you eats the Lord's bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord's body and blood.

Amplified Bible: For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are representing and signifying and proclaiming the fact of the Lord’s death until He comes [again]. So then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is unworthy [of Him] will be guilty of [profaning and sinning against] the body and blood of the Lord.

So no, Jesus was not teaching some odd form of cannibalism. He was not even remotely suggesting that the bread and wine would, while maintaining their appearance and taste, actually become another substance. But the lesson remains a critical one even for us today: Do we "just pick at" spiritual food, or do we really make a real effort to understand who God is and what He wants from us? (John 17:3; 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 4:14,15)

See also:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cooking Up A Storm

Well, maybe not a storm. More like a little dust devil.

I like cooking--I just don't. Actually, I started teaching myself to cook about 20 years ago, but my wife didn't like what I made and usually (teasingly) shooshed me out of "her" kitchen. In the past 4 or 5 years, I started watching the Food channel and, purely through osmosis, learned things I'd never known or understood before--such things as terminology; which tools to use for what; the indicators of knowing when something was "done."

Over the years I started feeling more comfident in the kitchen. Now, when my wife is out of town, I actually enjoy trying to prepare a meal. I must admit, my biggest downfall is multitasking in trying to prepare more than just a single item meal. I did observe that those on TV worked "smart and not hard" in that they prepared to cook by having previously measured portions in readily available cups, dishes and plates. I also learned that high heat is not necessarily the most effective way to cook. (I can see you giggling, but yes, I didn't know that before.)

When I was child, my grandmother taught me how to make homemade ice cream and that was something I would do at least once every summer when our children were growing up. In my teens, my mother taught me how to make a cake. (I have a recipe for a killer chocolate frosting that would even make my mother jealous....  She'd ask: "Why does the cakes you make disappear in a couple days and the ones I make sit around and get thrown out?" I'd laugh and say mine were moist (and they were) and tasted good.)

When I was in my 30's I finally learned how make scrambled eggs. (Hey, it was an achievement for me. I know, you're a professional chef and you find this all quite amusing.) Well, just last week, I got tired of scrambled eggs and wanted to be daring. I wanted to make something really hard--an omelette. So I watched some Youtube videos and then set out to do it--to make a French omelette. (I still struggle with coordinating anything beyond one item. So, I just can't time even making a piece of buttered toast or some hashbrowns. I just get too flustered. So I diced up some ham, pre-grated some sharp cheese, chopped some chives, mixed the egg with a little milk and whipped that with a fork. That was the prep. Next I heated the pan, dropped some butter, then poured the eggs and added the chives. I carefully followed the instructions in the video. Long story made short: It was delicious, but the presentation was lacking--it fell to pieces when I tried to plate it. (Ok, catch your breath and stop laughing so hard.) Oh, and I was actually able to make some tea that was ready just on time for me to plate the eggs.

That's pretty much my experience with cooking. (Altough I do make a great cappacino, that really isn't cooking.)

So, at nearly 61, I can make desserts (oh yeah, I forgot to mention I bought myself a Creme Brulee book and have gotten pretty good with that dessert.) I can scramble eggs and make coffee and I know how to prepare bagels and lox, but that's little more than assembling cold cuts. Even I know you can't call that "cooking."