Today, we will hear from Julie Clawson:
The Kingdom of God is like a well-cooked Italian meal. Now it might seem a bit strange to start off a reflection comparing the Kingdom of God to Italian food, but I recently stumbled upon an encounter with the Kingdom of God in a book about food. This wasn’t even some esoteric aesthetic encounter with the beauty of the earth or even a divinely inspired recipe for the perfect chocolate cake, but an exploration of food that is ethical and good. In the foreword to Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Nation I read Alice Waters’ summary of the themes of the book and the Slow Food movement:
“[Carlo] argues that, at every level, our food supply must meet the three criteria of quality, purity, and justice. Our food must be buono, pulito, e giusto – words that resonate with more solemnity in Italian than do their literal English counterparts. Our food should be good, and tasty to eat; it should be clean, produced in ways that are humane and environmentally sound; and the system by which our food is provided must be economically and socially fair to all who labor in it. Carlo’s great insight is that when we seek out food that meets these criteria, we are no longer mere consumers but co-producers, who are bearing our fair share of the costs of producing good food and creating responsible communities.”
As I read those words, the concept of people being co-producers in creating an alternative and ethical world intrigued me. Christ proclaimed that the Kingdom of God is among us and gave his followers the task of being the witnesses (or heralds) to the advent of the Kingdom. Although the Kingdom was already a reality, it took the work of these witnesses to make it concrete to those who had not yet heard. In a sense they were the co-producers of the Kingdom – proclaiming its existence, spreading it values, and training others in the way of Christ. Active ongoing work was required to insure the Kingdom visibly reflected the pictures Jesus had so vividly portrayed it as in his parables.
In reading the goals of the Slow Food movement of being co-producers in ensuring that our food is good, clean, and fair I saw a parallel to the Kingdom of God. This movement stands in opposition to the dominant systems of the world and insists on a better way of producing and eating food. Bypassing the destructive industries of agriculture and the siren’s lure of fast food represent struggles undertaken only by those with a commitment to this better way and a compassion for others. The goal is to care for people, to care for the earth, and to care for ourselves. I think in many ways the Slow Food ideals have captured the ethos of those who serve and witness to the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God exists as a radical alternative to the systems of the world, challenging the status quos of oppression and injustice. It includes the calls to love and to serve and to seek a better way of living that cares for those around us. The outworkings of these endeavors often echo the goals of the Slow Food movement in our commitment to care for God’s creation, our celebration of the good, our passion to treat people fairly and with dignity and respect, and our desire to bond together in responsible communities that seek to live on earth as it is in heaven. It is a call to a life that isn’t merely “convenient” or rubber-stamped by the dominant paradigms of the world, but one that takes deliberate effort and committed passion to maintain. Being witnesses (or co-producers) of the Kingdom requires lifestyle choices that are often seen as odd as the Slow Food desire to cook a sustainable, fair, healthy, authentic and natural (not to mention yummy) Italian meal. But oddity and difficulty don’t impede the committed. In seeking God’s Kingdom we are never mere consumers of the way things are, but witnesses proclaiming the good news of a different way.
And so the Kingdom of God is like an Italian meal, but with far greater rewards.
Julie Clawson currently serves as a church planting pastor in the Chicago area. Julie is originally from Austin, Texas, and attended Wheaton College where she met her husband Mike. When she is not devoting time to her 3 year old daughter Emma, Julie is a sci-fi/fantasy/board game geek who is passionate about social justice, emerging Christianity, gender equality, and really good Tex-Mex food. You can find more of her rambling thoughts on life, theology, and justice at julieclawson.com.