Saturday, January 30, 2010

Matt. 15 -- a man at table

My wife, as a dietitian, frequently encounters the power of food. Ethnic foods define cultures. Chinese cooking, for example, is one evidence of God's great love for those folks. Koreans love their kimchee. Ukrainian cooking is defined by great effort put into simple ingredients. I miss the halupcha my late mother cooked -- ground beef and rice and spices wrapped in cabbage leaves and cooked in tomato sauce.

An old Jewish saying goes "Food is love made edible." This reverence for good food has made the Jewish delicatessen, or deli, a cliche for innovative cold cuts.[1]

Yet the power of food has a more ominous side. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can be fatal. Diet can be a matter of religious significance -- the "sacred cow" of the Hindus comes to mind. So, too, do the Muslim and Jewish prohibitions on eating pork. The "sepoy riots" that destabilized India in the mid-1800s were provoked by rumors concerning the grease that waterproofed the gunpowder cartridges. The Hindu sepoys (native soldiers) heard that the cartridges they had to bite open were greased with tallow -- cow fat. The Muslims heard that pig fat was the grease of choice.

A book of the "in-between testament," the Apocrypha, celebrates the heroism of a Jewish mother who chose death by torture for herself and her four sons, rather than nibble a bit of the pork sizzling on the grill.

Given this background, the cavalier attitude Jesus had towards dietary matters truly shocked his audience:
Mat 15:10 İsa, halkı yanına çağırıp onlara, "Dinleyin ve şunu belleyin" dedi.
Mat 15:11 "Ağızdan giren şey insanı kirletmez. İnsanı kirleten ağızdan çıkandır."
Mat 15:12 Bu sırada öğrencileri O'na gelip, "Biliyor musun?" dediler, "Ferisiler bu sözü duyunca gücendiler."
Mat 15:13 İsa şu karşılığı verdi: "Göksel Babam'ın dikmediği her fidan kökünden sökülecektir.
Mat 15:14 Bırakın onları; onlar körlerin kör kılavuzlarıdır. Eğer kör köre kılavuzluk ederse, ikisi de çukura düşer."
Mat 15:15 Petrus, "Bu benzetmeyi bize açıkla" dedi.
Mat 15:16 "Siz de mi hâlâ anlamıyorsunuz?" diye sordu İsa.
Mat 15:17 "Ağza giren her şeyin mideye indiğini, oradan da helaya atıldığını bilmiyor musunuz?
Mat 15:18 Ne var ki ağızdan çıkan, yürekten kaynaklanır. İnsanı kirleten de budur.
Mat 15:19 Çünkü kötü düşünceler, cinayet, zina, fuhuş, hırsızlık, yalan yere tanıklık ve iftira hep yürekten kaynaklanır.
Mat 15:20 İnsanı kirleten bunlardır. Yıkanmamış ellerle yemek yemek insanı kirletmez."
Let's look at one verse: Petrus, "Bu benzetmeyi bize açıkla" dedi.
  • Petrus -- Peter
  • Bu -- this
  • benzetmeyi -- parable
  • bize -- to us
  • açıkla -- open up / make plain
  • dedi -- he said.
So keeping kosher is not the heart of holy living? Is this some kind of new parable, Jesus? Surely, you didn't really mean what you just said!

Ah, but he did. And it was the man who asked this question, Peter, who later had a vision of a sheet filled with non-kosher animals offered to him from heaven. (See Acts 9) In our non-kosher day, the Kingdom of God is now offered to the whole world. People from all nations can be holy in God's sight.[2]

An Italian neighborhood in Pennsylvania devoured vast quantities of fatty, greasy, tasty, food -- and had very low incidences of heart disease. You see, they chowed down around the family table, taking time to debrief one another on the events of the day, and share their dreams for tomorrow. In the final analysis, your health depends less on what you eat that it does on what's eating you!

[1] Cold cuts are sandwich meats and cheeses sliced thin.

[2] A large percentage of winos, perhaps even most, in America are the product of fundamentalist homes. They grew up steeping in the notion that alcohol is some kind of evil magic voodoo juice, that miraculously takes over human discretion, and can be blamed for human wrongdoing. Once you relinquish responsibility, especially to an inanimate substance, you take the brakes off your own behavior.

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