Comfort foods. We all have them. We have something that we like to eat that makes us feel good inside. When you’re having a terrible day or you feel under the weather, having your favorite meal or drink can be a bit of a pick-me-up.
My comfort food is shrimp fried rice. I think I love it because it harkens back to simpler days when I was young. I remember eating shrimp fried rice as a kid and the best place to go get that dish was a Chinese restaurant in my hometown of Flint, Michgan called Kenjo’s. It was just at the edge of downtown and I remember we would go there at times to have lunch after church.
These days when I have a bad day, I will still order shrimp fried rice. At the age of 50, life is not as carefree as it was when I was 10. Getting a good dish of Shrimp Fried Rice especially when life seems to be going sideways, makes me feel good.
Comfort food makes us feel good. Comfort food is….comfortable.
Sometimes in life we need comfort when we feel beaten up by life. Or when we are grieving the loss of a loved one. Comfort is even found in the Bible. Comfort, comfort my people, God says to the people of Israel in Isaiah. That message is a balm to the Israelites who at the time of the writing are in exile, far away from their homeland.
But for Christians, comfort can be something that keeps us from taking part in God’s work in the world.
It’s so easy to want church to be comfortable. We want to meet our friends and listen to the choir or even sit in our favorite pew. As humans, we love the familiar. We don’t want to have to face our fears. We don’t want to fail. It’s much easier for us to stay in our comfort zones where things are familiar and things are safe. But is that what God wants for us? Did Jesus stay in a comfort zone?
In the tenth chapter of the book of Acts, Peter is called to go and preach the gospel to a Roman soldier, a gentile named Corneilus. At first, he isn’t crazy about this. He believed the revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord of all was a message that was for Jews and not for Gentiles like Corneilus. God had to show him in a dream that yes, going into all the world preaching the good news and making disciples to was something God wanted shared with everybody. None of this was in Peter’s plans. But he listened to God and decided to go and visit Cornielus. Peter had to get out of his comfort zone and it’s a good thing he did. His message to Cornielius touched the Roman and his household and the Spirit moved among them. Peter realizes that the gospel belonged to these Gentiles as much as it ever did to him.
Peter got out of his comfort zone. What about us? A friend shared a quote attributed to Pope Francis that I’d like to share:
“The Holy Spirit annoys us. The Spirit moves us, makes us walk, pushes the church to move forward. [But] we want the Holy Spirit to calm down. We want to tame the Holy Spirit, and that just won’t do. The Holy Spirit gives us consolation and the strength to move forward and the moving forward part is what can be such a bother. People think it’s better to be comfortable, but that is not what the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit brings.”
The Holy Spirit comes to our lives and communities of faith in wind and fire and as comfort food. And that terrifies us. We don’t want the Holy Spirit sending us to do unfamiliar things. In some ways we want to be like Bilbo Baggins, the famous hobbit in JRR Tokien’s novels who was content to live a simple and comfortable life. But then life comes crashing in literally and he is pressed into service because the world was in danger and his help was needed.
Our own world is in danger. We have a pandemic that is flaring up again putting millions in danger. We are dealing with the long history of police going after people of color. Race relations are at a low ebb. What is God calling us to do? And are we willing to follow even when we don’t want to and wish the Holy Spirit would shut up every one in a while?
Comfort is great when it comes to food. When it comes to churches? Not so much.