Christianity 201

March 25, 2020

In the Absence of Communal Meals

Part of being the family of God is eating together. The Western mindset doesn’t emphasize this enough, but Eastern faith traditions have this much more entrenched.

Nevertheless, we have our moments, whether it’s the annual church banquet, a monthly pot-luck (sorry, that’s pot-blessed for some of you) dinner or just having a few friends over for dinner, the local church does enjoy opportunities to ‘break bread’ together.

So we grieve the loss of that during these weeks.

We are a people who are (or ought to be) naturally given to hospitality. But we also need to know how to receive hospitality. I’ve known people who loved to serve, and loved to give, but had serious difficulty when it came to accepting the hospitality of others.

We also are a people who prioritize giving food to the hungry in Christ’s name, whether it’s through a food bank, a soup kitchen, or coming alongside organizations which do this well, such as The Salvation Army. In Matthew 10:42 (NIV), Jesus said,

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

A related verse, when I looked that one up is Proverbs 19:17 (ESV)

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.

Almost exactly five years ago this day (3/26/15) Jancie Garrison offered us a scripture medley of related verses:

Rom 12:13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Rom 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Heb 13:1-2 Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

1 Peter 4:9-11 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.  

but it’s interesting to go back and read her introduction to that article:

For much of my life I believe I misunderstood the word hospitality. I understood it to mean inviting someone into my home and perhaps sharing a meal and spending an enjoyable time with them. The them however, was always someone I already knew. I didn’t grasp that it was to be a stranger.

That is further compounded by the present situation, with the world on lockdown. We lack a proper context in which to connect with ‘the stranger,’ much less share a meal together. (Though there are things we can do such as giving out takeout food or grocery store gift cards.) So we’re in this doubly difficult time where we neither connect over a meal with our fellow-Christ-followers, or those who have not yet crossed the threshold of faith.

But these opportunities will present themselves when the current crisis has passed, and it’s important that we start strategic planning toward them now.

Jesus didn’t hesitate to share a meal with people of all types.

Matthew 9:10 (NLT) tells us,

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.

Would we accept such an invitation? Or even plan an event with a similar mix of people? Such an evangelism strategy today is called ‘a Matthew party.’ The organization known today as Cru employs this method on university campuses; this article tells more. Or see especially this article, which tells how your small group can do this 3-4 times a year…

…Food figures into many gospel stories: The Last Supper; The Feeding of the 5,000; Matthew’s Party; or The Dinner with Mary and Martha. Breaking bread with someone, no matter what the context, has a certain significance that it’s so easy to overlook.

When we’re all mobile again; what type of food-related event can you envision within your sphere of influence; in your small corner of the world?