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Vol. 80 - No. 7
July 2009

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

Theology of the Pig Roast

A few days ago, my family hosted a pig roast to celebrate my son’s high school graduation. About 60 members of the St. Paul’s family attended, as did about 20 of my son’s classmates and peers. The Pigman came, and, assisted by his able and faithful sidekick Pigette, prepared the feast. Lots of fun was had at the event–some of it rather bizarre...like when the recent graduates took the pig’s head and began reenacting scenes from Lord of the Flies. The hog’s head ultimately ended up with a little mortarboard on top–photographs show the pig in this graduation cap, with an apparently smiling snout, looking quite proud at having achieved a milestone in his life. One of my son’s friends ended up taking the head home–I trust the skull will repose on his college desk, as a reminder of the mortality of both pigs and people.

Strange behavior, perhaps–but the pig roast is an inherently strange event, because you can see what you’re eating. You see, not just an anonymous slab of meat, but a critter with ears and snout and tail. I once knew a lady who couldn’t eat any animal that retained its original shape on the plate–she could eat beef, but not chicken; pork, yes; rabbit, no; lamb, yes; Cornish hen, no. The contours of a chicken’s leg reminded her too much that she was consuming a living creature. But a chunk of pork or beef–she could imagine that it wasn’t a living thing at all, but was manufactured at the same factory that made the little styrofoam tray upon which it sat. The pig roast would have sent that dear lady screaming down the street. Because the donor of these pork chops was on display for all to see.

Strange as the pig roast is, I found it also spiritually healthy. It gave me a different perspective on food. I felt strangely bonded to the pig–a deep sense of gratitude that he (or she?) was giving up himself to feed us and help us celebrate. That’s a feeling you don’t usually have toward a slab of meat on a styrofoam tray. When I eat a pork chop or a steak, it barely crosses my mind that this food came from a living creature. But when you’re looking the fellow practically in the face, you’re tempted to say: Thanks, pal. (I suspect tribal hunters, who always see the animals they eat, feel the same kind of bond). Seeing the pig is a reminder that we live by consuming other living things. And we should be grateful to all those plants and animals that give of themselves to feed us–and ultimately, grateful to their creator: "All creatures look to You to give them their food at the proper time..when You open your hand they are satisfied with good things (Psalm 104:27,28 ).

A few days after the pig roast, I was sitting in a parking lot phoning the church office...when suddenly across my windshield there appeared a sparrow trying to devour a beautiful yellow butterfly! The struggling pair flew above the vehicle and beyond my sight, so I don’t know how their tussle ended...but I was certainly rooting for the butterfly! Yet the sparrow has to eat, too. All living things survive by consuming other living things. (Broccoli and asparagus are living realities, remember–and yes, even the dread lima bean is a living thing!) If we tried to subsist on a diet of non-living things, of dirt or metal...well, we would certainly have lots of minerals in our bodies, but would be grossly short of protein and vitamins. We need living things to live and thrive.

That is an incredible and sobering thought. To keep me alive, something else has to lose its life. Whether it be Brother (Sister?) Pig, or some asparagus shoots, or a bunch of snow peas, something else has to give itself to sustain me. That could fill me with guilt. Or it could make me want to be a better person. To honor the countless cows and chickens and green peppers that have given themselves for me by making something worthwhile out of my life (and to honor the Creator who gave them to me).

These thoughts lead me inevitably to the cross of Christ. In the physical world, living things give themselves up to nourish our bodies. And my spiritual life, my life with God, comes from One who gave Himself on the cross for my forgiveness. He is truly the Living One–"in Him was life" (John 1:4), He is the source of all life–and yet He surrendered Himself into death for my sake. His death is my life. That, too, could fill me with guilt–I caused Jesus’ death! To give life to a sinner like me, He had to die. Or it could cause me to think: Because Jesus gave Himself for me, I’m going to make something worthwhile out of my life. I’m going to love Him, follow Him, obey Him, and show His love to those around me.

It’s amazing to think that He makes Himself literally food for me, when He gives me His body and blood in Holy Communion. He truly becomes the Bread of Life as He gives Himself to us in the visible, earthly bread. When I eat the body and blood given on the cross, my life with God is sustained and renewed.

Whenever you sit down to a meal–whether it’s a pig roast, or a steak that was seemingly spontaneously generated by a styrofoam tray, or some nice vegetables–remember that a living thing gave itself so that you can stay alive. Give thanks to God for those living things! And then let the meal take your mind to the cross–where the blessed Lamb of God gave Himself so that you and I can live with God now and forever.

God loves you and so do I!

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