By Lisa A. Smith

“Who knew that the hardest part of being an adult was figuring out what to cook for dinner every single night of your life until you die?” asks a popular social media meme. As a parent, I feel this deep in my bones, especially after I’ve chopped, sauteed, marinated and baked various foods, only to hear my kid say, “I hate chicken. Can I just have toast?”

Dining with children can involve hazards, at home or away. At my house, we’re cooking around multiple food allergies and preferences. As for going out to eat, we generally avoid it, because we have a toddler—one we’re constantly trying to distract with crayons, toy cars or granola bars from the depths of my purse. Last year, while on vacation out of state, we visited a pastor friend. “Which of our amazing restaurants have you tried?” he asked. “None,” I said. It wasn’t worth the trouble.

And then there are car snacks. If you know kids, you know car snacks. I drive my kids to and from school each day. After school, I bring them fruit, and sometimes popcorn, fish crackers and–don’t judge–chips. The snacks return to haunt me when I clean the car or move a car seat. It’s a smorgasbord of ground-in crumbs.

It makes me wonder: What does it mean to eat faithfully, responsibly and in ways that align with following Christ? Is this even possible while living in a world with constantly available junk food, eating on the run, and the chaos of feeding small people?

A Lutheran theological response to this is looking to the sacraments. One, Holy Communion, is all about food. When we gather around the communion table, we slow down. We hear a message of God’s love and grace. We extend our hands to receive the bread. We eat together with siblings in Christ.

I love standing around the altar with my children and spouse, feeling the holiness of the moment together. I love it even more when my children help at communion. Recently, my oldest son served the wine and juice tray for the first time. Hearing him say, “The blood of Christ shed for you,” as he moved solemnly around the circle, nearly brought me to tears. Communion is a sacred meal. It’s a way to eat faithfully, responsibly, and as Christ intends. But it only lasts a few minutes. The rest of my life is outside that circle around the altar. What then?

The Gospel of Luke tells us, at least 10 times, that Jesus is eating a meal. As many times or more, we hear Jesus tell parables involving food. The way I see it, Luke is basically the food lover’s gospel. One food story, found in Luke 24, comes after Jesus’ resurrection. Two disciples report to the others that they have seen the resurrected Lord. (They knew it was him when they saw him bless and break bread.) While they are still discussing this, Jesus comes and stands among them. The disciples are terrified, believing this is dead man walking.

But Jesus shows the shaking, scared disciples his scarred hands and feet. For all their joy in seeing Jesus, they are still in a state of disbelief. This doesn’t seem real. Jesus knows they need something more. He asks if there’s anything to eat. They give him a piece of broiled fish. This, finally, is enough. The disciples and Jesus, reunited, share this joyful meal together.

Faithful eating doesn’t just happen in church, Faithful eating happens all over the world God loves. It happens when we’re terrified, disbelieving or sad. It happens when we gather and take time to really see each other.

Faithful eating might look like sharing a holiday meal with loved ones on both sides of the political divide. Or it might mean asking for (or offering) help to get meals on the table, so that everyone can eat and rest. It might mean growing your own food or hunting or gathering it from the earth’s bounty. It might mean buying ethically grown food or shares of community-supported agriculture. Or it might mean making a traditional family or cultural food and sharing it with others. There are so many ways to eat faithfully and responsibly.

Where I live, blueberries ripen in mid-August. For the past few years, I’ve had a tradition of taking my kids to pick berries. I wasn’t looking forward to it, since I have a toddler who dawdles and puts everything in his mouth, and we’d be hiking halfway up a mountain.

This year, I didn’t particularly want to go. My two older children also complained. We hate hiking, they said. Why are we doing this? We could just buy berries at the store! Did I mention that it had also been raining?

We went anyway, small buckets in hand. Climbing on the tundra, toward the ridgeline, we stepped around hillocks of grass and brush. “Look, Mom! I found them,” my seven-year-old said with a squeal of delight. Wordlessly, my 10-year-old squatted near the bush and began to pick. My toddler surprised me by picking a few berries without squishing them. We lasted longer than I thought.

Back at home, as is also our tradition, we mixed the berries with sugar and cornstarch. We made a pie crust from scratch, rolled out by my seven-year-old (his specialty). After the pie came out of the oven, we ate it together. Somehow it felt like a holy meal, a sacred communion.

Not every family meal or snack (see car snacks above) feels sacred. But maybe, if I slow down and pay attention as I did with the berries, on the mountain, a few more of our family meals just might feel holy.

Let’s eat!

Lisa A. Smith is an ELCA pastor who loves exploring the wilderness near her Northwest U.S. home. She blogs at

This article appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Gather. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.