The Hunger for Home, Croasmun & Volf
By Donald McKenzie
September 16, 2022
The Hunger for Home: Food & Meals in the Gospel of Luke, by Matthew Croasmun and Miroslav Volf, is the food book I have long been waiting for.
I came across the book because it was advertised as a new book to watch for on The Englewood Review of Books. This site, run by Cristopher C. Smith has been a favourite of mine for several years. I’ve also enjoyed some of Smith’s own works as well as the books he features on the site.
I do admit to a little doubt when ordering the book. I’ve read both Karris’s and Chester’s books, dealing with the same material. While both books are making good points about Jesus at meals, I feel something is missing. I figured The Hunger for Home, might leave me feeling much the same. However, I figured with Volf as a co-author, it would be worth taking the plunge. I’m glad I did.
The Hunger for Home: Review
One thing that caught my attention is the definition of home, given on page 2 of the book:
Home is what grounds the entire trajectory from Eden to the New Jerusalem: the world as home in having become the home of God (We elaborate on this trajectory in For the Life of the World: Theology That Makes a Difference, 68-71).
Home then, is not the place where dad, mom, and their 1.2 children live(although the authors never cheapen that). Rather, home is where we find that God is always present, welcoming us to the feast.
Another thing that maybe sit up and take notice is on page 62. This is in the middle of a longer section on Jesus at meals. Here they say:
Jesus hardly says a word about the food or the wine. There’s not a single comment that could count as a culinary insight. His comments are about foot-washing, greeting kisses at the door, seating charts, invitation lists, and who gets invited.
For the decade or so that I have been writing about food, and immersed in the food world, very few writers want to talk about what it means to eat together. Particularly eating together in our differences.
The most important aspect of the book is the way that The Hunger for Home is rooted in Jesus’s proclamation of the year of Jubilee in his visit to his hometown synagogue, found in Luke chapter 4.
On page 4 of The Hunger for Home, the authors point out that Jubilee comes out of and is tied up with the idea of release. This release is something that pops up again and again in Jesus’s actions in look. In healing and forgiveness of debts, for example.
Jubilee then, is not something simply to be discussed or declared, but enacted. As readers the idea of how to enact Jubilee follows us throughout the rest of The Hunger for Home. Related to this is the way in which the book places Jesus’s activities in Luke in context of the arc of Scripture, as the above first quote states.
peter and the web of tax collection
Along the way, Croasmun and Volf encourage a rethinking of the some current theological trends. For example, it has become common to think of Simon Peter as a small businessman, giving up a successful career to follow Jesus. I’ve certainly been guilty of doing this.
However, the authors point out that Simon Peter’s life would be tied up in the Imperial Roman taxation scheme. Having to purchase fishing rights. Having to meet certain quotas just to pay his tax bills. Simon Peter, the fisherman, is as much a part of the Roman patronage system as is Levi the Tax Collector. Just like Levi, Simon needs Jesus’s liberating word of release.
As The Hunger for Home makes clear, this release is available to all. Yet, there are many who, like the religious leaders of Jesus’s and our day, are unwilling to extend that release to others. We are too often so worried about being gatekeepers, that we end up locking ourselves out of the feast.
This point should be particularly salutary for congregations and parishes. Too often we are willing to give food to the poor, the outsiders, but don’t won’t to sit and eat with them. Yet, from Jesus’s point of view the outcasts are the guests of honour in the kingdom.
As I mentioned above, The Hunger for Home will give us the opportunity to rethink many things we have thought about Jesus at meals as portrayed in Luke’s Gospel. Each of the six chapters will give pause for thought on how we interpret Luke. If that was all the book did, it would be a worthwhile addition to our libraries.
On top of that though, The Hunger for Home should encourage us to rethink the entire way in which we approach our life around food. How we can practice Jubilee in our daily lives.
The Hunger for Home is designed so it can be used by a book group. As with most such books there is a set of questions at the end. On the whole, I don’t like questions for study, as they tend to force you to go back into the chapter and repeat the author’s words.
Fortunately, this is not the case in The Hunger for Home. Instead, the question here are designed to let us reflect on the written material and then apply it to our everyday life. Not only in the way we think about gathering around food, but also in finding ways to live out this thinking in real meals shared with real people.
I feel, writing this that I haven’t tapped into all this book has to offer. However, I guess I can leave that to the reader to find out for themselves.
Speaking of this book as a book study. If you are interested in being involved in a book study around The Hunger for Home, leave a comment on the blog, and I will see what can be done to organize one. If there are enough Winnipeg people, we can maybe arrange an in-person one. Otherwise we can organize a live-stream one.