For one thing, I seem to be the only one qualified to pray over the food before we start. It doesn’t matter if I’m with someone who has just revealed he is suicidal, someone will interrupt, grab my arm and say, “Preacher, it’s time for the prayer!” As if a fire broke out in the fellowship hall.
Am I the only person who can do this? I can hear the grumbling: “What are we paying him for then?”
I always go last through the line because, contrary to most church claims, there’s not always enough food. Someone always notices when I haven’t gone through the line and will exclaim, “You better get something to eat!” with the same anxiety of someone begging me to get my swine flu vaccination.
Others take inventory on what I put on my plate--what it is, how much of it there is, what I didn’t get, and how much of it I didn’t finish.
And what would these people do for humor if they couldn’t tease the preacher on how much he ate? “Got enough there, preacher?” (Ha ha). “How many servings have you had?” (Ha ha).
I’ve spent the morning with this crowd. I’ve played with the children, laughed at lame religious jokes, hugged those who are crying, taught a Sunday school lesson, sung a song, arbitrated the latest conflict, smiled in the face of a tacky criticism, preached a sermon, shaken hands with everyone, and made sure the air/heat is working.
Do I have to eat with these people, too? Yes, but only until I leave.
I know it sounds ugly. Even petty. After all, Jesus ate with the people, but he was a better sport than I am—besides, he got to have wine with his meal.
I once told a friend about this and she suggested I go first in line and lick all the serving spoons--she guaranteed they'd quit pressuring me to be a part of the potluck festivities.