Evan Rosa: For The Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. Visit us online at faith.yale.edu. This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of the Tyndale House Foundation. For more information, visit tyndale.foundation.
Matt Croasmun: Whatever we want to say about the Eucharist, whatever we want to say about communion -and we should say plenty, that is a central rite of the church - but whatever insight we have there sort of spills over into all of our, all of our living.To understand that what has happened here is God is taking up in Jesus the whole of the creation and fulfilling all that God has been doing from the very beginning with the creation, which has always aimed at that eschatological feast. But now here in the God-man - Christ - these things have come together,Word and world. These are woven together, and they're woven together quite centrally in these meals, in this food that we eat together that brings us home to be at home with one another and with God.
Evan Rosa: This is For the Life of the World, a podcast about seeking and living a life worthy of our humanity. I'm Evan Rosa with the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. Here's a riddle: you have it every day, sometimes public, sometimes private, sometimes together, sometimes alone; you need it, but you don't, sadly, have to enjoy it.It can take a minute or an hour. You can be still or moving. You can drink itor you can eat it. You can pause if you want to think about it for a second: it's a meal. And although you can be on the go at your favorite restaurant or at the kitchen table, when it's done well, every meal you have, wherever you are, is somehow at home.
Matt Croasmun joins me today on the podcast to talk about his new book, co-authored with Miroslav Volf: The Hunger for Home: Food andMeals in the Gospel of Luke. One of the most wonderful elements of this text - which characterizes the entire conversation we have, I think - is their definition of a meal. For them, a meal is a site of nourishing mutual encounter. It's this definition of a meal that makes that it'll work, I think.It's also incredibly illuminating and even delightfully surprising, really, to consider how that nourishing mutual encounter - a meal - provides a context that spans thousands of years and the whole of human history from creation to fall to redemption. It can all be understood as a site of nourishing mutual encounter with God, family, neighbor, stranger, world, everything. From the fruitful multiplying of living creatures to the forbidden fruit, from thePassover Seder, manna from heaven, water from the rocks, and feasts in the fields to the Lord's table prepared before our enemies, turning water into wine, multiplying loaves and fish, the Last Supper before the crucifixion, the final wedding supper of the lamb. It's all a meal that we hunger for always. It's a meal that wherever we are, we're still at home. Thanks for listening today, friends.
Matt, it is so good to have you on For the Life of the World to talk about your new book, The Hunger for Home.
Matt Croasmun: Glad to do it. Excited for this conversation.
Evan Rosa: Yeah, it's always fun talking, and I'm even remembering at the moment that I think we were together during a lot of the stewing, if I may use that metaphor, for the book, as you were thinking about the Gospel of Luke, we were studying it together asa team at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, and a lot of those conversations, just going through those chapters of Luke, were informing the writing in this book.
Matt Croasmun: Yeah, I mean, one of my favorite things to do is to read scripture together with a group. And yeah, there are these moments of insight that I feel like come up in that sort of context that just don't come up any other way.
Evan Rosa: Yeah.Yeah. So let's just dig into the title, The Hunger for Home. I don't wanna start with "hunger" because of that preposition,"for." I feel like you give us a bit of a vision for the goal, the telos, maybe the purpose. And "home," this is an interesting turn of phrase. Tell us a little bit about what home means to you right now and how it informs the book.
Matt Croasmun: Yeah.You know, I feel like the pandemic has both centered home, especially at the beginning, for a few months, we could only be at home. Or if you were an essential worker, you were out, and then you were right back to home. And home, for some of us, home became a place of work. It became school for our kids. It became, for all of us, it became a sort of place of refuge, which I think home probably always is - should be - sort of place of refuge. But it became sort of refuge only, and it became maybe not just refuge, but started to slide towards like fortress, right? Like it was the place that you went to like be safe from what was, I mean, literal like contagion outside. You know, I don't know if, I don't know Evan, if you were one of these folks, if you were a household that was like wiping down the groceries or the takeout food containers-
Evan Rosa: We wiped down our fair share groceries early on.
Matt Croasmun: Yeah, come on. Right?
Evan Rosa: When we didn't know what exactly this thing was.
Matt Croasmun: You didn't know what it was, and you didn't know what was coming through that boundary when it came through the door, right? Like it was almost like every time the door was open to the home, it was like this like experience of vulnerability, right? It might get infected from what's outside, and so that experience of home was like super, super intense and very focused, but also distorted, right?
Because I think home is refuge, right? Is one thing that a home should be. But I think homes ought also be places of welcome, of hospitality, of invitation, right? And for so long, our homes were not that. And so right as we were like thinking so much about home and being at home so much and home was everything to us, home was also less than it ought to be. And so what's exciting to me about this moment and what feels really sort of timely to me about this book and about our reflection as we were sort of wrapping this up as the pandemic was unfolding, is that I think we need a sort of reset on home right now.
We need to be reminded of home as a place of welcome, as a place of hospitality. Yes, as a refuge, but as a refuge that we can invite others into, and that's where the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is so persistent in figuring home in just this way, as a place of invitation, right? Whether it's Zacchaeus where, or Jesus is inviting himself over, right? Jesus makes an invitation to himself: I must eat at your house today. And part of that is that Jesus doesn't, in a certain way, Jesus doesn't have a home, right? He's always, he's constantly being hosted by other people, but in a more sort of profound sense, as the Lord, as the Word through whom the world was spoken into being, the creation is Jesus' home and our home, our opportunity to be at home with one another and with God. And so Jesus is sort of, he's constantly being welcomed and he's teaching about what it is to welcome people into our homes, but he's also constantly casting this vision for this eschatological home, this final home, this sort of ultimate destiny of the whole creation, which is to be at home, for us to be at home with one another and with the whole of creation as the creation sort of becomes the home of God.
And so in that picture that Jesus has of that home is again and again a picture of a feast, of a meal.
Evan Rosa: Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about hunger then. Tell a little bit, tell us more about the role that hunger plays. I mean, we often use hunger as a metaphor for desire. Hungering and thirsting, it's one of these most core metaphors because it is so embodied, we understand it with our body. And so, when we want something, when we deeply desire something, we often speak of it as a hunger or a thirst. Tell us a little bit about the role of hunger in the Gospels, how it acts metaphorically, how it acts spiritually, what's going on there in the Gospel of Luke?
Matt Croasmun: Yeah, well let's start - you're absolutely right about the metaphors - but let's start with the literal.
Evan Rosa: That's where all metaphors start.
Matt Croasmun: Yeah. Like that's where exactly, that's exactly where a metaphor begins. And forJesus, one of his sort of dominant images for the kingdom of God - obviously the kingdom is already a metaphor - but he's talking again and again in theGospels, especially in the Gospel of Luke, about the feast of the kingdom. That the kingdom, this ultimate sort of relationship, this at-homeness between God and God's creation, is perhaps best understood or very richly understood as a feast, as a meal. And that taps into something really fundamental and basic part of like what it is to be a creature, which is our hunger, which actually is one of the places that like Luke begins, right? And we begin, early on in the book we talk about Jesus' Temptation, and he spent 40 days in theWilderness. And he's fasting, and when the tempter comes to him, it comes in a moment of profound hunger. And so that hunger, I think speaks to our limitedness, the fancy theological word is our finitude, right? We're not infinite; we're finite. And our hunger sort of reminds us that, our thirst reminds us of this; we have needs every day. We gotta eat. I remember when our daughter was born, I was like "Dang it, man, she's gotta eat like everyday." And I'm like, "all the flippin' time." These humans that we are, we have these like bodily needs.
Evan Rosa: You know, my son though, my son Gus right now is four, and he actually only eats one meal a day, and it's all day long.
Matt Croasmun: There you go. Morning, noon, and night.
Evan Rosa: No, no, every few minutes it feels like he's scrambling for the pantry.
Matt Croasmun: There you go. We often sort of can imagine ourselves as, you know, these beings that sort of transcend space and time. Because with our minds, we can imagine all sorts of realities, we can do all sorts of fancy things, but our hunger and our thirst, these things remind us, you know, daily, we are not infinite. We are not divinities ourselves. We're creatures. And so the tempter comes to Jesus in this moment of hunger. And the temptation is, when it comes to hunger is that, you know, to ask Jesus to turn a stone into bread, to take care of that hunger.'Cause that is, that's deep, that's human, that's visceral. And Jesus' response is so interesting. He says, you know, the human does not live by bread alone.And he's quoting scripture there. And he leaves off the second part, one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of theLord. But what's striking to us in the book, and we draw this out in the book, is that, you know, Jesus doesn't, the scripture that he's quoting, DeuteronomyI think, does not say the human doesn't need bread, and Jesus isn't, you know, out there performing, you know, heroic deeds of spiritual asceticism to prove that the human doesn't need bread. The human does need bread. But the human needs bread that is not just bread. What we really need, what we hunger for most of all, is bread that is not only bread. Bread that is more than bread. Bread that we, that we take in that feeds our hunger, but also connects us to the God who created the fields from which the barley or the wheat or whatever we made our bread out of comes.
And this Lord from whom, all good things issue from the Lord's mouth, and from the Lord's Word. So this sort of tension runs throughout the book, of this constant sort of, this temptation to sort of put Word and world or Word and bread and set up of a choice that as if we had to choose one or the other.
And again and again, Jesus in the gospel of Luke is inviting us to say: no, no, no. Actually it's one thing, right? As a human, you need bread, but as a human, you also need to know from whom your bread comes and allow your bread to become this opportunity to have this profound encounter with the creator of all good things.
Evan Rosa: What's interesting about that response of Christ to the tempter is "one does not live,"right? Like the emphasis on the living. And so there's this, there's often, well, I wanna introduce this other distinction between surviving and thriving, or you know, merely like staying alive, staying sustained. Food is that source of sustenance, but food is also, as you said earlier, a feast. And it's interesting to me to think about living on the very word of God, and the role that that plays in a life worth living.
Matt Croasmun: Yeah. And so I feel like that's the challenge, is how can we make our material lives in the world, which we are never going to escape, for what it's worth, I don't even think the eschaton is an immaterial life outside the world, I think it's a material life inside a transformed world.
Evan Rosa: That's, that, we could have another podcast,
Matt Croasmun: We could have another conversation about that. But in this life, how do we have a material life that is itself a life of being sustained by the Word of the lord.Where, again, you don't have to choose between, oh, should I have lunch or should I be sustained by the Word of the Lord? Right? Should I host this, you know, this party, you know, this barbecue for this group of friends in my neighborhood? Or should I feast on the word of the Lord? I think that's a false choice, right? And so the real challenge, the real question for us, is how do we actually see what meals are meant to be from the beginning, which is that meals are meant to be nourishing sites of mutual encounter, right? So sites of nourishing mutual encounter between various human beings and the creation and God our creator, right?
That's actually what a meal can be. That's what a meal is whenJesus invites us to the table. And a meal actually, if we start to see it that way, as a site of nourishing mutual- or a mutual encounter between people, the creation and all of our creator, then every meal actually becomes a solution to that false choice that the devil is trying to trap Jesus in.
Right? Bread or Word? It's like, no, no, no. Well, as Jesus eventually says to Mary, to Mary and Martha, what is necessary is just one thing. And again, there's potentially a false choice there, right? Is it attending to the material needs of the home, or is it sitting at the feet ofJesus? And again, I think if we get sucked into that, and we think that Jesus again has answered one thing, only one thing is necessary, Jesus does lift up what Mary's doing, but not in contradistinction to the home, he just, and you know, a couple chapters, in several places in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus holds up table service as a picture of the kingdom, as a picture of his ministry and what it means. So, attending to the home isn't to be deprecated, but attending to the home, attending to our hunger, all of these things are potential sites of deep communion between us and God, between us and our fellow human beings, between us and the whole of the creation in which God has placed us. And so if we're able to see that each meal is actually a solution to this riddle of Word or world, or Word or bread, and the answer is both, it's actually one thing which is a whole world understood as issuing from the mouth of the Lord, that every good thing at this table and every field that it came from, every lake and stream from which the food came, every hand who cultivated it and brought it to this table, every hand who prepared it, and the land that we sit on as we eat it. All of these things have issued from the mouth of the Lord. And as we are nourished by them, we are in fact being nourished by what comes from the mouth of the Lord, if and as we recognize their givenness by God. And it allowed Jesus to transform them into these sort of sites of encounter.
Evan Rosa: I mean, in light of that, one, I just wanna laud and appreciate this beautiful definitionof a meal that you offered, that site of, or a nourishing site of mutual encounter, was it?
Matt Croasmun: The site of nourishing mutual encounter between people, places and God. Yeah.
Evan Rosa: Yeah, that's fantastic. Let's apply that, because the fact is, meals at least have that ideal setup, and perhaps all of us have at one time or another, whether it was at a wedding or a party or some other kind of special dinner celebration, we've felt that perhaps in various ways, but meals can also be the site of contention, sitting around the table with someone who is upset with you, rowdy kids - and I'm not talking just about the kind of joyful rowdiness or holy chaos. I know that meals can be the site of conflict and disconnection. There's two instances in The Hunger for Home that I can see at least, and perhaps in the Gospel, at least two where this is on display. Where there's some form of contention around the hungering for home at the table and one is with sinners at the table and the other is between rich and poor at the table.So I was thinking maybe we could handle those in succession as you've thought about in your previous work on sin in Romans. Sin can be this deeply disconnective thing. A meal can heal it. A meal as communion, right, brings people back together. But when there's wrongs done, injustices in the background of a meal, that really can sour the situation. How do you like to think about Jesus' teachings on sinners at the table?
Matt Croasmun: I think in many ways, Jesus' most striking teaching about dining with sinners is to just insist to us that that's the only kind of meal available. Sort of like, if I'm gonna be at the table, then there's gonna be some sinners at the table, like there's at least one sinner at the table; when I dine alone, it is a sinner at a table. So the only kinds of meals are meals among sinners.
Evan Rosa: Amen.
Matt Croasmun: You know, I think at one point in the book, we start to sort of build this phrase as we look at these different kinds of meals, right? And say, like, as soon as we start to summarize sort of Jesus' picture of hospitality, like all of these meals are meals of rich and poor sinners all, right? And you could add on those, you know, to rich and poor, it doesn't matter; whatever you say before that, you can always tag on "sinners, all." That's just the only option. And so, you know, I mean this can be overplayed a bit, but it's been said many times, and I think largely for good reason, that, you know, the folks that- one of the easiest ways to get yourself excluded from a gathering thatJesus is hosting is wanting other people to be excluded.
And especially on this ground, right? Oh, no, no, no, I don't wanna sit at a table with sinners. If you don't wanna sit at a table with sinners, then you're not willing to even dine alone, or you have fundamentally misunderstood yourself.
Evan Rosa: Yeah, but think about the context for that or the implication of not wanting to be, you know, at table with sinners. I mean it shows the kind of like, the importance of the meal and the kind of symbolic nature of it that seems to be occurring here, right? Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?
Matt Croasmun: Right.Well, and for Jesus that has a different answer than it does for us, right? ForJesus, it is because he has come, he is a doctor who has come, and so he's looking for the sick, not for the healthy. For us, we can share in that mission of Jesus, but we're not the doctor. We are fellow patients who have found the-who believe that we have stumbled upon a doctor, and we would like to commend that doctor to our fellow patients. But look, your original question raised an important point, which is that, when we're sitting around a table with fellow sinners, it's not just that like sometimes we don't want to be at that table because we don't think we're sinners and we don't want to get infected with their sinfulness or we don't wanna be associated with their sinfulness, and again, maybe there's plenty of us who had, you know, Christians have learned over the centuries in millennia, you know, to maybe to try to avoid that sort of- the most religious versions of this, but surely we have political versions of this. We police one another constantly these days through sort of guilt by association. And so I think we can understand where that intuition might come from, and Jesus warns us against it; we should take that warning seriously. But there are also moments when we sit down to a table with fellow sinners, and the sins that are potentially estranging us aren't just, you know, because of the reputational cost for us to sit down with, you know, this or that kind of sinner, but in fact, because, like, the sins that we have committed are against one another, and we have harmed one another, or we have been harmed by another, and I think it's always important to say that, and again, we point this out in some of these passages in the gospel. And Jesus is not in the business of pretending like wrong hasn't happened. You know, an invitation to the table from Jesus isn't a denial of, you know, the fact that any wrongdoing has occurred. Think of the prodigal son welcomed back. You know, the father doesn't say this, you know, this son who just made different life decisions, you know, is back and we ought to all, you know, accept him just as he is. It's this son of mine was lost. And now he's been found, right? We have to talk honestly, we have to speak the truth, the first step - and Miroslav's so good on this - the first step of any sort of attempt at reconciliation or forgiveness is you first have to tell the truth about harm that has been done. And so I think we need to make clear, and again, Jesus' response isn't that he's not eating with tax collectors or sinners. He's not saying, oh, you know, tax collecting's not that big of a deal. Or, you know, oh, sin schmin, who cares? Fair enough. Yeah, I'm meeting with tax collectors and sinners, but these are people who know that- who are willing to describe themselves just this way, right? Zacchaeus has welcomed me into his house - when I invited myself over -with an intention to change his ways. He's giving away his wealth, he's turning away from- and when we sit down at a table with sinners, sometimes there's real reconciliation work that we need to do, and a meal can be part of that, but a meal that is part of any process of reconciliation and forgivenessis a meal that's honest about who we are, what we've done, how we've harmed one another, disagreements that we might still have and need to work through. It's not a sort of, you know, sit down at the table and, you know, commit yourself to like, holy amnesia. We need to be able to speak the truth about what has happened, but also be willing to speak the truth about the goodness of the God who's drawn us together and opens up a possibility of us genuinely finding new ways forward and new ways of communion that this meal might represent.
Evan Rosa: What about rich and poor at the table? Is there much more to say about that distinction?The diversity, whether it's by class, ethnicity, way of life, culture, I mean, it's interesting even to consider, at the kind of deeply pluralistic level, the ways in which a call to life, and this symbol of life is symbolized in, you know, the living Christ, how does this draw diversity together?
Matt Croasmun: Hmm.Well, I mean, let's stick with rich and poor for a second. You know, rich and poor is, I think first and foremost in Jesus' mind when he thinks about what kinds of people need to be at the table. Once we decide- once we recognize alright, sinners all: that's who we are. I think not just like what are the dynamics of rich and poor together at the table, he's concerned with, do the rich and poor ever sit down at the same table together? Are our meals so divided by class that we would never run into the troubles that- for what it's worth, it seems the Corinthian church, for example, runs into- right, and Paul has to give them all sorts of instruction in First Corinthians about, they're doing something right, right? But you know, rich and poor are having the Lord's supper together in Corinth, and now all of a sudden they've got these class problems and they gotta figure out how to deal with them. I think in Luke, I think Jesus is mostly pointed at like, look, does it ever even happen? Do the rich and poor ever sit down at the table together? The fact of the Corinthians having their problems is a sign that they're already living in certain ways into- they're having problems that only a Jesus community would have, because they've actually dared to put rich and poor at the same table. And Jesus is inviting us to consider, does that actually happen around our tables?
Evan Rosa: And you have to say it doesn't, I mean, even after so, so many attempts- or even having lived in a kind of history that has prioritized or centralized at least theChristian story, at least in the West, we do still encounter that same question that I think Jesus is raising. So, I mean, there seem to be two questions here for those who do achieve some kind of invitation or successful invitation to have both rich and poor at the same table, they've got their own set of problems, but it's laudable that they can even get to that point. But I still sense that we struggle with Jesus' originated question around like, is this even happening?
Matt Croasmun: Yeah.You know, there are a couple of different stories that Jesus tells about the eschatological feast, and they begin to blur together in my mind, and my sense- and we sort of explore this a bit in the book - is that actually that's-Jesus kind of wants that to happen, because these stories sort of speak to one another, especially on this theme of the rich and the poor. But, you know, one of the striking stories that Jesus tells is about a rich man. Interesting that the rich man is unnamed, and a named man, Lazarus, who sits at his gate. And the rich man is dining alone. He is, I mean we don't know exactly, but we're not told about anybody else. But he's dining in his house. Sumptuous feasts day and night. Presumably he's got all sorts of folks who are serving him and making this possible. That's, again, another feature of meals is the ways that un-homed meals tend to be meals that sort of elide or even make invisible all the other sorts of people who are always present with us at the table, right?Who did the work of cultivating the food and preparing it and bringing it or whatever. Anyway, but so this man is like in a deeply un-homed home eating this meal alone, a telltale sign that his home is unhomed, and Lazarus is just sitting at his- this poor man is just sitting at his gate and is hungry.Lazarus dies and eventually the rich man dies. I don't know if Jesus has like read the actuarial tables and understands how class impacts lifespan that he tells the story in this way that the poor man dies first? Anyway, but I think part of the point, certainly that Jesus is trying to draw is that the poor man already sort of has found his way home in the world to come when the rich man arrives. And Lazarus, the poor man, is in the bosom of Abraham, as it's described; he is deeply at home with God and God's people. The rich man finds himself deeply estranged from God and God's people.
Evan Rosa: And I love how you and Miroslav point out the kinda fulfillment of Mary's Magnificat at this point, where Mary at the beginning of the text says, "he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty."
Matt Croasmun: Yeah. And so this has happened and we're watching it unfold, and Lazarus is- you know, the rich man asks Lazarus- actually, no, the rich man commands Abraham, you know, the rich man is used to giving orders and he's like, hey, would you tell Lazarus to come down here and give me a drink of water, cause it's hot down here. And anyway, it's a striking thing- and you know, basically, well you had your opportunity and that opportunity has passed. The story that I can't get out of my mind alongside this one is the story of the unjust steward, sort of servant who has a bunch of debts, or who's got a bunch of debts that he's supposed to be collecting on and apparently, I don't know, he's been doing something shady, he's getting fired, and he decides this sort of stroke of genius before he gets fired; he goes to all of his master's debtors and starts writing down their debts. Like, hey, you know, what is he trying to do? He's trying to curry favor with these folks. And the master actually commends him at the end, you know? Oh, that's clever, right? And there's this sort of takeaway that we ought to relate to one another this way, so that we will someday be welcomed into heavenly homes. It becomes clear through these various stories, and we sort of work it all out in the book, but it becomes clear that one of the pictures Jesus has for us of how do the rich and poor relate eschatologically, is that, like the rich man and Lazarus, like the unjust steward, some of us who may experience ourselves as rich or who have plenty to eat, eschatologically, we may be looking for homes to be welcomed into. And it may be the poor that have these homes. And so there's this sort of like-there's this invitation, I think, that Jesus is inviting us to think, how would this relationship between the rich man and Lazarus have been different? If the rich man had been hosting Lazarus in this life would he not then have been hosted by Lazarus in the world to come? And so this- if ultimately we are sort of destined for mutuality and belonging in the world to come, how can we make our meals now? How, or even to put it more strongly, how could we not make our meals now sort of rehearsals for that sort of mutuality? Where we each bring what we have to the table, and we sit with one another, and we discover what it is to be at home with God because being at home with God necessarily involves being at home with one another. And crucially, for Jesus that has to involve the rich and the poor.
Evan Rosa: Yeah. I mean I just wanna read a little bit from this, because I really enjoy the way that you and Miroslav write about this. Speaking of the unjust steward or the dishonest manager, "his stroke of genius," I'm quoting, "is to leverage ephemeral wealth for a much more durable mode of mutual belonging." And I take that to mean, you know, in some eschatological sense, you go on, the kingdom alchemy of the dishonest manager can be summarized as leveraging houses - and the wealth they represent - for entry into homes.
Matt Croasmun: Yeah, the house gets turned into a home, right? That in many ways, if what you have now is houses, how can you leverage those to create- both to let your house become a home now - and again, home not just as fortress or as refuge, but home as a place of invitation and welcome - in order to- yeah, I think Luke's vision is so that you might be welcomed into heavenly homes; leverage houses here for homes there.
Evan Rosa: Let's talk a little bit about the Last Supper, the concept of communion - really one of the more central elements in Christian faith in its sacramental expression.Regardless of the various and sundry ways that Christians diverge on the meaning of communion, what actually happens in the communion elements seems like we can seek a kind of common thread around the meaning of the Last Supper, and in your expression of it, Jesus being made known in the breaking of bread.Start us off with this: how does Luke approach the Last Supper in a unique way?And where's that pointing?
Matt Croasmun: Yeah.Well that phrase that you just used I think is crucial. I think that, certainly, you know, the reading that we're offering in this book is one that says: what the Last Supper means, what communion means in Luke, actually sort of is read back into it from the Emmaus encounter.
Evan Rosa: How interesting.
Matt Croasmun: Right?That-
Evan Rosa: Well start us off there then, yeah.
Matt Croasmun: Yeah, so this encounter on the road to Emmaus, right? Jesus is talking with these disciples - unnamed disciples - who had been in Jerusalem, just deeply disappointed by Jesus' crucifixion, and they are unaware of the resurrection, they are- and this just pulls at your heartstrings - they say, "we had hoped that he would be the one to redeem Israel." We had hoped-
Evan Rosa: Little did they know they're speaking to...
Matt Croasmun: Hope is gone. Yeah, but there's this great irony, right? That like, here they are speaking to Jesus, and it then says that Jesus goes on and opens the scriptures to them, and so- and I love it; it was such a great moment writing the book. To consider like, we spent so much and so much time in this book - rightly, I think - trying to illuminate Luke based on the sort of Hebrew scriptures, and we're trying to open the scriptures, right? As I think about the sort of, you know, little bible study that Jesus gives on the road to Emmaus, you know, I'm like, oh man, you know, maybe we've given you half a percent of what, you know,Jesus is presumably offering in that moment. But even with, like- we can probably imagine it was probably like the best Bible study ever, right? Like, I mean, it probably is, right? It's like the most amazing, like, scripture teaching...
Evan Rosa: I just hadthis vision of Jesus as Bible study leader and it's-
Matt Croasmun: Well I mean he's just like walking along the way, like just opening the scriptures, just like, you know, anyway, you know, no big deal - just Jesus describing the whole thing.
Evan Rosa: He pulls out his Bible, he flips to Luke.
Matt Croasmun: There were no codices yet, I think. But yeah, so yeah, Jesus is just like, this is the answer key, right? But what's so striking is that like even that scripture study, even that opening of the scriptures does not open the eyes of these disciples.
Evan Rosa: Yeah, that's interesting.
Matt Croasmun: They're kinda like, cool, like, awesome. And they say their hearts were burning, right?And they're like, Oh, that's... And they reflect upon that later. But, right?Like, it's all later, later, later, later. And I think, again, the Eucharist is one of these things that sort of is making sense later, right? But what's the moment where suddenly their eyes are open? It's when Jesus sits down with them, when they get to where they're going, they prevail upon him- here it is, Jesus is being hosted again in a home. "Come, eat with us." And he blesses and gives thanks over the bread and he breaks it and they're like-and their eyes are open. Oh, oh, like, this is our Lord, this is our Messiah, this is Jesus. He is the- and they go back, and this is their testimony to the disciples. Luke sort of summarizes it: they describe to the disciples how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Evan Rosa: And that's a crazy amazing moment of recognition
Matt Croasmun: Yeah, it is. And again, for me, so humbling as a Bible scholar that like the biblical exegesis - even when delivered by the incarnate son of God - that didn't do it.It was the meal, it was this moment of that visceral connection between their bodily hunger and just the visceral reality of food and the community thatJesus is sort of recognized, right? Like he gives thanks. This is not just any meal. All meals could be like this, but this is a meal, and all meals ought to be meals in which we recognize the creator from whom all good things flow, all good gifts, and we recognize this meal as a site of nourishing mutual encounter between people, places, and their creator and God. And that's the moment of recognition. And I take it, that's how we're then invited to think about Eucharist,to think about communion, to think about the Lord's Supper, and even the LastSupper that Jesus celebrates with his disciples, that Passover Seder that he celebrates. That is a moment in which Jesus is being made known in the breaking of bread. But for us, it's really important, this is a book And I should say, like, I think we've learned a lot from our friend Norman Wirzba, who we've interviewed on this podcast. You know, he was- you know, hey, this is a book about food and Christianity, and it's not a book mostly about communion or about Eucharist. I think- like we have written one of those, right? This is a book about food and about meals. It is not mostly about Eucharist, right? It's trying actually, in many ways- this is a move that I think many have productively made thinking about Eucharist, thinking about communion, is to say, "we've gotten some- we are missing something about Eucharist, we're missing something about communion if it keeps all that is special about it sort of just to itself. If we think that all Eucharist teaches us about is aboutEucharist, about something that we do together at church, we've missed it. We need to understand Eucharist as a meal. Maybe in some sense the Christian meal, though, I don't know; I think the Christian meal is probably the Eschatological feast, but Eucharist prefigures that feast. But what it does even more than that is it invites us to allow every meal that we eat to be- to prefigure thatEschatological feast in just the same sort of way. And so I think like Luke has been doing that with the- and you get this in many of the gospels, right?Because you get these patterns of giving thanks and breaking the bread at the feeding of the 5,000, at the Last Supper, at the- on the road to Emmaus. All of these, I think, are inviting us to think that whatever we want to say about theEucharist, whatever we want to say about communion - and we should say plenty, that is a central right of the church - but what we're saying there, we ought to make sure that whatever insight we have there sort spills over into all of our eating, all of our living. To understand that what has happened here is God is taking up in Jesus the whole of the creation in this sort of fulfilled way, fulfilling all that God has been doing from the very beginning with the creation, which has always aimed at that eschatological feast. But now here in the God-manChrist, these things have come together, Word and world. These are woven together, and they're woven together, among other ways, and quite centrally in these meals, in this food that we eat together that brings us home, to be at home with one another and with God.
Evan Rosa: I wonder if we could close by just having you read a short passage from the end of the book.How do you end the last chapter that we've been talking about, "Made Known in the Breaking of the Bread."
Matt Croasmun: When we long for home - and how we do long for true home - we are also, and first of all, longing for God. That is not to say that our longing for home is an illusion or an error. Our true longing is not for God instead of for home. When we long for home, we long for God in that we long for a home whereGod is not an add-on, but rather constitutive of home and definitive of all the other relations that really are essential there.
We long for a home where God is constitutive of our relationships with one another, where we recognize that God is always already at work in the midst of our sin, our repentance, our forgiving one another, and our reconciliation, our hosting one another across dividing lines of class, ability, and ethnicity. We long for a home where God is constitutive of our relationships with the geographies around us, where we name God as creator and consummator of the places we live, the land from which we draw our sustenance, the wilds that draw us to wonder. We long for a home where God is constitutive of our mutual belonging within our social and ecological worlds. This is what is at stake in the meals of Luke's gospel.
Each meal is a sacrament of this union of God and the world.Each meal points to God's drawing the world to final consummation as the home of God, to which scripture testifies. The quintessential picture of this at-homeness is the feast of the kingdom. It is home enacted. Each meal we eat together, rich and poor, sinners all, at home with one another in the world God created and is drawing to consummation. Each meal can become a sacrament of that home coming to be in our midst. Therefore, let us keep the feast.
Evan Rosa: Matt, thanks so much for joining me on the show and talking about the book. Thank you for this book.
Matt Croasmun: Thanks, Evan. It's a great conversation.
Evan Rosa: For TheLife of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale Divinity School. This episode featured Biblical scholar Matt Croasmun. Special thanks to David Aycock and Baylor University Press. I'm Evan Rosa, andI edit and produce the show. For more information, visit us online atfaith.yale.edu.
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