A Taste For Sushi And Scripture


I had sushi for the first time at the age of 34 at a little café overlooking Mount Fuji. I never would have ordered it myself, but my friend’s Japanese father-in-law ordered it and I didn’t want to be offensive. With that first bite, I went from loathing to loving sushi.

That was my second trip to Japan. My first experience of the culture was slightly less traditional. My dad was born in Japan and my family had the opportunity to visit the orphanage from which he was adopted. Along the way, we dove deep into culinary culture by experiencing fully the Japanese glory of Bubba Gump, Hard Rock Café and McDonalds which would offend gourmands and anthropologists alike. For various reasons, we stuck with what was familiar and comfortable.

It wasn’t until that second trip to Japan a couple of years later that my palate expanded with okonomiyaki, yakitori and, of course nigiri and sashimi. Since then, I cannot get enough good sushi.

A couple of weeks back, Kaci and I went on vacation and decided to patronize a local sushi bar. Within the first few bites, a particularly distasteful piece was removed from my mouth, balled up in a napkin and hidden on the seat next to me. I have far too weak a stomach to stomach bad fish.

Rightly Handling Sashimi and Truth

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” chronicles the story of Jiro Ono, the sushi master and owner of a Michelin three-star restaurant in Tokyo. Regarded by his peers as the greatest contemporary sushi craftsman, his life revolves around the elusive pursuit of the perfect piece of sushi. With $350 and a reservation a year in advance, you can grab one of the 10 seats at his restaurant and try it yourself!

So precise is Jiro’s passion that his apprentices must train for a full decade before actually getting to handle sushi. For him, the quality of the food is everything and everything else is peripheral to that one all-consuming end.

When it comes to dining, different people have different preferences. Some are about the ambiance of a restaurant and are satisfied by the sights, sounds and smells. Some care more about the quality of service. Others are just concerned with the food. Give them good food and that’s all that really matters.

When it comes to restaurants, there is no objective standard for choosing whether the ambiance, service or food is most important. There is nothing inherently wrong with a Hard Rock Café or Bubba Gump (despite your foodie friends’ pretensions).

But when it comes to churches, there absolutely is a central and primary mission and standard. The one consistent refrain of the Pastoral Epistles is to preach, teach and correct from the Scriptures. Pastors do other things, but the primary thing is to feed the sheep with the imperishable Word.

If Jiro Ono’s calling demands passionate and careful attention to the handling of fish and rice, how much more those who handle the very word of God?

By definition, all restaurants serve food. That is true of Bubba Gump, McDonalds and Sukiyabashi Jiro. But in each case, there is a difference in mission and menu.

Likewise, every evangelical church serves the word of God. But, there is a distinction between quoting Scripture and teaching it. There is a difference between a church which plops a passage before congregants like a dish at Luby’s and one which spends hours carefully crafting that which will be consumed.

When I was first saved, my spiritual palette could not distinguish jerky from wagyu. Both were edible after all. But, as I have matured, so has my taste for truth. As a result, I just want the Word and once drove four hours across state lines to hear a favorite preacher preach outdoors in the heat simply because he slowly and methodically (exegetically and expositionally) worked through the biblical text. Other preferences for the ambiance and experience have faded as I have craved the full counsel of God so that I might better see my King and His kingdom.

I will crave and save for good sushi and treasure each and every bite. I will sacrifice and go out of the way to not have to eat what is spoiled or stale.

Why would I do any less to feast upon the glory of God’s word?

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97)

Geoff Ashley