The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic Podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 61: Sandwich Theology
Hi friends. Today’s episode ventures into the realm of culinary, as I am kind of a foodie, but also, I think a spiritual study on something as ordinary as a sandwich is great practice to help us to find God in unexpected places. Well, this story begins many years ago at a weekend camping trip we took with six other families, nineteen little kids between us and, friend, it was chaos. As the families were setting up tents and campsites and the kids were getting the lay of the land, I went over to my cooler and brought out a snack I had packed for the Moms. A container of chilled sliced plums and peaches, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and freshly ground black pepper, plus a bunch of plastic forks. It was delightful, so refreshing and just the perfect thing to eat on a warm and somewhat chaotic afternoon. Well, one of the Moms asked me where I got the recipe and I replied that I had made it up just a couple of hours before, which she did not believe. We still laugh about this today. And it’s true: I had never made this snack before, but I knew it would be perfect because it was balanced: the peaches were sweet, the plums were sour, the feta was salty, the black pepper was bitter, and the olive oil added umami, which if you’re unfamiliar with that word refers to a kind of earthy, savory flavor that brings other flavors together.
When each part is represented and played well, the effect of the whole can be much more than the sum of its parts, and this is illustrated wonderfully in orchestral and other kinds of music but also deliciously so in two sandwiches which I would be very happy to describe for you here: the Aegean tuna which a local coffee shop which has since closed used to make and a sandwich called the Green Goddess which you can still get if you live anywhere near me and, friend, you totally should. I’ll link it for you in the show notes.
The Aegean tuna contained well, tuna, spinach, black olive, tomato, feta, cucumber, and black pepper on a soft, fresh roll. The Green Goddess has fresh mozzarella, avocado, house-made pesto, cucumber, spinach, and arugula on ciabatta bread. In each case, there are sweet, salty, bitter, bright, cold, warm, fresh, crunchy, soft, and fatty elements, all put together in perfect combination. The individual ingredients each do their part to provide flavor and texture, but also contrast. For example, that salty olive makes the sweet tomato taste that much sweeter.
Okay, so besides making us hungry, what does all of this sandwich talk have to do with the spiritual life? I believe the perfect sandwich is a helpful illustration about how many parts, especially parts that are different from one another, make something which is greater than the whole. And this can be applied to work, school or faith communities, a truly great dinner party conversation, and the components of a Christian life.
In 1Corinthians, chapter 12, it says:
“There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.
Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.”
God’s intentional plan of diversity is echoed in this description of the Body of Christ and also in Creation, all over Nature, and we see the value in our own lived experience, too. If you’ve ever been a part of any group or team, then you know that a variety of talents, personalities, and strengths makes the whole team better. As it says in Proverbs, we sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. In families and communities and workplaces, the same is true. And the last few years of pandemic should have clarified once and for all the essential truth about our connectivity – as a church or a society, we simply cannot make it without each other.
I offer this small reflection to you in a time in which many of us seem to be seeking homogenized culture and community. We exclusively pursue voices in faith, society, and media that serve to reinforce and mirror our own beliefs and worldview. And in this age of remote work, we can choose to never interact with people who are different from us in our beliefs but also our race, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomics, and this is causing us harm as individuals and as communities because it simply is not how we were designed to live. We’re a body made of members, and we rely on each other and on our differences to learn, grow and thrive together. So, I have no real answers for you here today, friends, but I guess, just an invitation to look at our spaces and groups and where we can, be intentional about variety and this extends beyond the people who make up our communities to the elements of the routines of our faith. In a life in Christ, it’s prayer, study and action that balance to provide a foundation upon which each of us can grow. But within each one of these pillars, there are more even opportunities for diversity; a wide range of cultures, practices, viewpoints, voices, and ways to serve that are life-giving for us all. It’s a big tent, ideally, helping the Body of Christ to grow and thrive and serve a world that really needs us.
You know, I saw a sandwich special on a menu board recently, and the ingredient list made me know immediately that it was a sandwich I would choose. Roast beef, aged cheddar, baby spinach, roasted red peppers, caramelized onion, spicy Dijon mustard. This was a sandwich which was thoughtfully built – that sweet onion was going to play off of the spicy mustard. The umami of the roast beef just made sense against the saltiness of the aged cheddar. The contrast and balance were carefully planned to make the whole thing better than any one ingredient by itself, and I didn’t even need to taste it to know how it would come together to make something better than the sum of its parts. As we look at faith communities and practices and just how we live out our one precious life, we can take a lesson from a very good sandwich and look for variety and balance. It’s a good way to taste and see the good, healthy and abundant life that God, in His great creativity, is calling us to today. Each of us playing our part, working together as a Body for the betterment of the human family and the glory of God – that sounds kind of delicious, don’t you think? Well, for sure it sounds like very, very Good News.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friends. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. A reminder that I’ll be a part of a roundtable coming up on February 22 about Claiming Your Faith in the Midst of a Broken Church. It looks like it will be a wonderful conversation, and I hope you’ll join us via zoom! You can find more information in the show notes about that, along with information about how you can support this podcast financially if you’d like to do that, and finally, lots of resources about how to engage with this topic more deeply for yourself, so do check all of that out. For now, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, help us to look around our lives today to find, listen and connect with people who are different from us. Help us to know that we are many unique parts and that our impact comes not from division but connection. Build up your Church with the variety of your Creation so that we can become the beauty of what you created us to be. In the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of His mother, Mary, we pray, amen.
Thanks for listening, friend, and I’ll see you next time.