That special time of year has come once again ... it's the weekend of the 90th Annual Norwegian Lutefisk and Swedish Meatball Dinner at First Lutheran Church! Some of the first white settlers to this area came from the frigid and fishy shores of Scandinavia, and they brought their religion, food preferences, and work ethic with them - and not much else! This annual dinner commemorates those Nordic ancestors who made this prairie their home, where they worshipped, worked, and tried to recreate the tastes of their homeland.
I'm always amazed at how much work goes into this dinner. Every potato that's part of the lefse has to be scrubbed, boiled, mashed, shaped, rolled, cooked, cooled, folded, and stuffed. Every ounce of lutefisk has to be...well, I'm not too sure what goes into the lutefisk, I just know that the contraption they use to boil the fish displays a mastery of engineering far beyond me! And it's even more amazing to think of how much work has gone into this tradition to sustain it for 90 years.
Our lutefisk dinner might be part of a 90-year-old Scandinavian Lutheran tradition, but it's also part of a much older Christian tradition: feast days. Starting at least in the Middle Ages in Europe, there were certain days throughout the year when worked stopped and celebrations started. These days were linked to the church calendar, usually based on the day a saint died or something memorable in the life of Christ or the early church. The church calendar is also known as the liturgical calendar, or the calendar that governs our liturgy.
Liturgy often means "the work of the people," and we use it today to mean the "work" that the congregation does during a worship service. Standing, sitting, chanting, singing, praying, listening, offering - that sort of thing.
But liturgy, the work of the people, can also be thought of as the people making public the saving work of God. After all, it is God's work, God's saving work, that we celebrate in worship. And God's saving work shouldn't just be celebrated or made public during worship. Perhaps we can expand our thinking of the liturgy to things like sending donuts and fruit to all the staff at the high school, or volunteering at the soup kitchen, or sharing a meal with your old teacher who now lives in the Care Center. Whatever we do that makes public God's saving work.
And so there really is something holy about lutefisk, however stinky you find the fish. The work that the people do together to create and sustain this feast makes public not just a love of Norwegian or Swedish heritage. It also, in its own unique way, makes public the love of a God who came to us, who took on human flesh and the traditions of a particular time and place and culture, including food culture.
Does your church community have some sort of "feast day" when volunteers work hard together to feed others and feast together? Is there some particular food that is always part of your liturgical feast day? In any feast rooted in such love we should remember Christ's love for us, whether it's Set Free steak or a Van Orsdel barbecue or a St. Jude fish dinner. These feasts are part of our work of making God's love public. So, "Take and eat; this is lutefisk. It's kind of strange. But it is made with great love and good work."
Pastor Megan Hoewisch
First Lutheran Church