Burnt peanut butter cookies. Butter drenched English muffins. Cinnamon sugar toast. Each of these has a distinct aroma, and each one evokes a very specific memory from my childhood. The cookies: me at five, pressing a sugared fork on dough, baking with my mother. English muffins: me at four and six, having mid-morning snack in my grandmother’s warm kitchen. Cinnamon toast: having breakfast with my sister and brother before walking to my first grade classroom.
I’m not the only one who has such aromatic memories. When I made peanut butter cookies in the church kitchen one morning, slightly burning the bottoms, several people stopped by, drawn by the scent in the air and their own memories – a taste of childhood long since left behind and a recollection of someone who loved them, long since passed on.
There’s a grace that’s hard to explain in the gift of food and the loving hospitality of another. I feel it every time cinnamon hits a buttered toast and every time I take a loaf of bread out of the oven. It’s life-sustaining, being food and all, but it’s also soul-sustaining, being so wrapped up in the loving care given to me and the loving care I offer others along with the plates and glasses.
Is that why Jesus invited himself over for dinner at the houses of those who most needed someone to accept their love and hospitality? Is it why he sat at table with his beloved disciples before his crucifixion? Was breakfast by the sea more than fresh fish with friends?Could it be that Jesus wants me to catch the scent of holiness whenever I offer and accept food?
Perhaps the kingdom of heaven is the kitchen – it would explain why everyone always gathers there, regardless of the home or host.
Dear Lord, be present to me this day in the breaking of bread, the warmth of the oven, and the scent of soup simmering. Amen.