JAN 5 A New Year, A New Start (Food, Fellowship and Clay)

In our scripture from Jeremiah for next Sunday morning, God is described as a potter.  Have you ever watched a potter work, the way he/she/they takes plain clay and throws it onto a wheel which then turns so the potter can use the spinning motion and clay and water to form a pot or a bowl or a vase?  Not every pot turns out beautifully.  But clay is malleable.  When something happens, and the pot is crooked or misshapen, the potter can add water and start over, forming and re-forming the clay until the pot is beautiful. Our New Year’s scripture is the promise that God is the one who keeps working on the world until it is beautiful!

We are not (Pastor Barbara and my beloved Chuck) potters. But we are very basic cooks, taught by our parents and grandparents. We will be providing lunch after worship: ham and bean soup, chicken soup, cornbread, biscuits and dessert.  Why?

Do you know the story behind the traditions of New Year’s food? Depending upon where you are from, New Year’s food symbolizes hope for a more prosperous New Year. That sounds very materialistic until you dig deeper. New Year’s food is almost always based in poverty, in what is available to the poorest of the poor and prepared in the hope that next year will provide a less difficult year.  Whether you are from the south and serve black-eyed peas or from Hawaii and serve ahi (tuna) or from Maine and serve lobster, it’s likely you serve those foods because they were abundant and cheap when the tradition began and were served in the hopes that next year better fare could be offered.

My maternal grandmother cooked for wealthy families in her Midwestern home town. She kept pigs and chickens in her tiny back yard and butchered them in order to cook up the best of those meats to serve to those on the other, wealthy side of the tracks. But for New Years Eve, she saved the ham bone and cooked that with beans from her garden and she saved the neck and backs from all those fried and roasted chickens and cooked those with noodles to serve to her family in hopes that next year she might feed her children and her neighbor’s children better food.

Why do I point this out? Because celebrating New Year’s prosperity traditions apart from their roots in poverty threatens to pervert them into a prayer to the gods of excess. Celebrating these prosperity traditions apart from their roots in community perverts them into mantras for me and mine (you and yours) and not prayers for us and all! For those of us who serve Jesus, that is a perversion of the gospel.

In honor of Jesus and our grandparents who served beans, peas or noodles and whatever else they could muster, come join us as we welcome in the ‘20’s and our prayers for a more prosperous decade for each and all!

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