The idea that’s been rolling around my head and heart the last few days is that Jesus told the story of his death and sacrifice as he was out to eat with His best friends. Does anyone else think this is amazing? And did anyone else miss this connection with how much we eat out with others and that Jesus instigated a new covenant/a new way to remember while he was out to eat? So if those two things to get you going, let me tell you why I’m getting excited about this….
I’ve been reading this book called The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George Hunter III which is an amazing account of how St Patrick evangelized Ireland after having been a slave there earlier in his life. Within Patrick’s life time, Ireland went from being the least christian nation in the roman world to the most christian nation. How did he do it?
Well there are many reasons but one of the main focuses is how they practiced hospitality, especially in the area of meals. St Patrick’s would feed anyone that stopped by their community. If the community was fasting and a traveler/visitor stopped by, they would break the fast so they could eat together. They even had a way to tell the story of Jesus through the courses they would serve during the meal. Food is a highway to the heart and Patrick knew it and used it to help people experience the love of God.
Then we have Jesus. On the night he was to be betrayed and arrested, they rent a room and have the passover meal. They go out to eat on a holiday. The passover meal was something they did every year… like having turkey on Thanksgiving. Jesus takes this meal that was a traditional jewish holiday meal and then twists the story around. He takes the bread and says this represents his body. He takes the wine and says this is his blood. i’ve heard it so much in my life that i think that’s normal but it’s not. It’s weird. but he used the format of the meal to tell his disciples (once again) what he came to earth to do. And then he said keep doing this meal together to remember me and what I said to you.
We now live in a culture where large churches have figured out ways to take the communion meal and make in logistically possible for thousands of people. my favorite is the juice and crouton in the same packet. Besides that ridiculousness, over the ages the command of jesus to eat and drink have become part of our religious activities. And whether right or wrong communion has become more of a religious act than a meal. I’m not saying we should change what we do in services with communion. Not at all. But for me, the challenge is to start considering meals with others a chance to remember the life Jesus called into. A life into community, fellowship, and the experience of goodness.
My feeling is that I live in a world where food is at a consistent moderate level. It’s processed, manufactured, eaten quickly and in mass quantities. Don’t get me wrong… I know there are many places in the world where people are eating very basic things. I’m fully aware of it. I’m more commenting on the context of living in America and how we interact with food on a consistent level. My wife and I are admitted foodies and we are always on the look out for really good food. But what we’ve come to realize is that food outside of a great communal experience lacks something. And communal dining missing the aspects of really good, prepared food is also incomplete.
A really good diner is transformative and we may miss out on it more than we would like to admit. It’s like going to see movies all the time. There is a lot of crap out there. But then when you see an excellent movie, you’re response is “yes! that’s what watching a movie should be like!” Eating can be that way too. A lot of good experiences but then when you sit down, take your time, eat well cooked food with others, you’re like, “i forgot how great this is.” This is pretty much the whole premise of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation show on the travel channel.
So as we consider Christ and his journey to the cross and resurrection, let’s not forget about the importance of his meal with his friends. So in your considerings of what you can do this week, contemplate a meal with friends and make it more than just eating at your favorite Mexican place. Think about it as a sacred experience with other people. Make sure you are eating good, i mean really good food, and make sure you are taking some time together
Here are some suggestions for how you can make things a little more intentional.
*Invite people into a blessing.
Group prayer with people of different beliefs can be awkward. It’s awkward for you to ask people to bow their head, close their eyes, hold hands…. if they don’t practice that. So why make them do it? Instead, find a blessing and read it over the food, table, and the people. It’s still prayer and everyone wants to receive a blessing over them. There are plenty on-line so look around… or maybe invest in book of prayers.
Ask questions about peoples lives. if you want to know about what they believe in, ask them about their lives. People develop their beliefs from what they experience in the world, so ask them about the world they experience.
“When was the last time you saw something really good in the world.”
“if you could change something horrible you heard of recently, what would it be?”
Some great friends of mine do a “high and lows” around the table together. everyone says their high of the day and their low of the day. it’s always awesome and it gives an insight into peoples lives.
*always have music playing
make a playlist of music you like that you think tells important narratives. ask if they know it. talk about what it means and why you love it.
(side note: make sure it’s not lame music. i mean that with all the compassion i have.)
*have a token/gift that people can walk away with
send people home with a gift: a dessert, decoration, card, burned cd, etc. It lets them know you love them and it’s helpful in remembering your time together.
As we’ve said all this, I want to make sure we understand that this isn’t some new way to convert people over to “our” side. Eating good food with people helps us understand that God loves us and is inviting us into a community with Him. We are the people who are supposed to make this happen. And when we do, we are remembering the work of Jesus… and we are communing with Him.
So go. Eat well. Love one another. Experience God’s goodness.