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Jesus & the Black-Eyed Pea

Happy New Year from CenterPeace!

We’re looking forward to sharing more stories, new insights, and addressing questions from readers in 2018. If you have a question you’d like for us to address, send an email to We haven’t forgotten that we still need to finish our language series, so we’ll do that, too! But for today, here’s a word from the chair of the CenterPeace Board of Directors, Gil Vollmering.

This time of year many are making resolutions, setting goals, and thinking of renewal and restarting as the new year begins. In the middle of winter (and currently in my little part of Texas, January 1 is extremely cold at 26 and wind chill of UGH), southern tradition calls for a meal of black eyed peas and corn bread. If you are on this side of the tracks, you can add a ham bone or cut leftover ham from Christmas maybe.

But as I remember the tradition of black eyed peas and New Year’s, its source is the Civil War South in the winter of 1865 or 1866 when the southern economy was utterly destroyed and no food was to be had. The Union Army had destroyed large swarths of farm land, taken the consumable foods and livestock and left nothing for the locals. But as the story goes, they overlooked the little black-eyed pea. It was, you see, a dirty, ugly, tasteless bean that was used for pig slop and cow food. No one wanted it and no one liked it. Even the Union Army.

Little did they know.

But in times of extreme poverty and need, it was a storehouse of nutrition and sustenance. As the tradition continues, boiled black-eyed peas feed a starving population in the middle of winter. And so, here we are: eating the peas on this New Year’s Day, watching football on the television, taking down Christmas decorations and pondering the weeks and months to come in this very new year, hopeful and full of promise.

When the table is set, friends are invited, and a simple meal of black-eyed peas and cornbread is served, I see Jesus there. See, it’s not the banquet table, fancy and set to the nines. It’s not the food even. (And I love food in all its forms and textures.)

It’s the people around the table.

people around a table eating

That’s really the banquet, the color, the fancy, the smell, the taste. I get experience in holy fellowship with other people and their lives, hear their stories, share their expectations and concerns. Jesus’ new creation makes that possible. The table of fellowship is a manifestation of his love to us and to me.

Wow. Here I thought it was the fancy food and elaborate decoration.

No. It’s you. It’s me.

We are the sweet aroma of Jesus and when we open ourselves to other people, we each experience a small part of what is to come and what has been promised.

Little did I know so much was packed into such a small pea!

May you experience 2018 to its fullest in the love of Jesus Christ and his followers. May your table be open to the unexpected, the ugly, the outcast, the cheated, the hurt, and yes, even the democrat or the republican. May you see Jesus in a simple pea and grow in his sustenance and nutrition in the midst of your winter.

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