Over the holidays, I attended a family gathering that included a potluck dinner. It made me realize anew how much I enjoy potlucks. First of all, I like the name: potluck. The very sound of it makes me smile. Say it aloud a few times: potluck, potluck, potluck. Isn’t it fun to say? The compound word has three “explosive” consonants: p, t, and k. The two short vowel sounds might even qualify as slant rhyme. They don’t quite rhyme (ah as in father; u as in cup), but they almost do. (The great American poet Emily Dickinson often employed slant rhyme in her poetry. Too much perfect rhyme makes a poem “too sweet.”)
Where does the name, potluck, come from? It is implied in a 16th Century English work of Thomas Nashe, when he wrote: “food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest, the luck of the pot.” Others say the name is related to the North American indigenous communal meal known as a potlatch—a word meaning “to give away.” Some names for potluck have religious connotations: faith supper, fellowship meal, Jacob’s Join. Another fun name is fuddle (which also means “intoxication.”)
One reason I like potlucks is because everyone contributes to the meal—often with their specialty dish. For example, Uncle George carries in a big pot of chili, cousin Marilou brings her famous sauerkraut balls, Aunt Kathy totes her delicious (and healthy) veggie pizza, Grandma carries her to-die-for apple strudel, cousin Donna brings all kinds of homemade chocolate treats, and the list goes on and on and on. The quality and diversity of the food is what makes the meal so good.
But at the heart of every pot luck dinner are these indispensable factors. First, the sharing of the food preparation. In other words, no one is stuck with all the work. Secondly, there’s the coming together of family and friends–usually at someone’s home, a party room, a park, or wherever. And thirdly, there are always tasty surprises on the menu. The food doesn’t have to fit a specific theme or ethnic tradition—such as American, Italian, Bohemian, Mexican, Chinese. No, your tacos can sit next to those sauerkraut balls on your plate, and it’s perfectly acceptable. Or you can eat your Italian sausage with Bohemian dumplings if you want. And always you can have more than one kind of dessert. So take a piece of that apple strudel plus a lemon bar smothered in chocolate mousse if you choose—and no one will stop you!
All this talk of a potluck dinner not only makes me hungry, it also makes me wonder: Is a potluck meal a good image for the Kingdom of God? In some ways, I say “yes.” The Kingdom of God comes when we not only accept our diversity, we celebrate it. To the Kingdom we bring our “specialty dishes,” honed through the trial and error of our earthly choices. At our Heavenly meal, we will sample the amazing variety of one another’s gifts, cherish those gifts we know and love so well, while risking to enjoy a new dish we have never experienced before. And we will do all of this gathered together, telling stories, with lots of laughter and lots of love for our Heavenly Host and for everyone else too. Yes, for everyone!
Do you like potluck dinners? Why or why not?
Do you have a favorite dish you like to bring to a potluck?
Is there any dish you hope will be served at a potluck?
Are there any dishes you were first introduced to at a potluck?
Do you think a potluck is a good image of the Kingdom of God?
PS: Let us remember in prayer Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (April 16, 1927-December 31, 2022):
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he and all the faithful departed
rest in peace. Amen.
Our song today is (appropriately) a Eucharistic song, Dan Schutte’s “Table of Plenty.” Just the title conjures up the image of a potluck meal with tasty food spread on a long, long table. The song exudes the joy of the gathering, where saints and sinners are welcome, and God will provide for all that we need…
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