“Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals.” Tim Chester, A Meal With Jesus
“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes.” Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
Theology of Food
Food is significant. It is through food that Adam and Eve rebel. It is with food that God grows dependence in the Israelites in the desert. Finally, Jesus holds up bread and wine during his last meal with his disciples and says it is his body and blood. Food and drink become metaphors and tastes of the gospel.
Bread has an association with life that surpasses biblical imagery, but in Christ it is the sufficient sacrifice. Wine too has significance outside Christianity as a sign of blessing, goodness, and often associated with blood. However in Christ, wine becomes the image of blessing, goodness, justification, and cleansing that comes through Jesus’ suffering on our behalf. Jesus chooses a meal for us to remember the gospel. If the gospel forms community, we ought to share this gospel feast as often as we get together. In fact, every time we get together it is because of the his body and blood given for us. Sharing a meal is acting out metaphorically what we are doing in gathering at all. Jesus called us to remember him and his sacrifice for us through a meal. When we eat together, we commune around this truth.
Our Relationship with Eating
Humans have a unique connection with food. We depend on it to survive. We also turn to it for comfort and safety in overindulgence. Food, for some of us, becomes a medium for expressing our creativity, becoming art. Fundamentally, food reminds us of our need for something outside of ourselves. We have to take, receive, and eat to continue moving through this world. Meals are a daily reminder of our common need for God and his faithfulness to provide both physically and spiritually.
In community, we regularly eat meals together instead of isolation. At the table, we share our stories, we listen to one another, and we experience grace. The New Testament describes this act as “breaking bread” and invokes a giving and receiving of relationship in the most simple and unspoken of ways. The weekly communal meal is a spiritual discipline.
The communal meal begins through arrival or gathering. This is the moment when everyone’s individual responsibilities, schedules, and to-do lists collide into an expression of community. The worries, struggles, fears, and happy news of each member comes rushing through the door. Your lives are hurried until this point. Your lives are physically separate until this moment. A weekly meal is more than a logistic to work out but a spiritual discipline of being united. You are physically united by the table you gather around, the complete meal everyone shares in, and under the prayer recognizing God’s grace as you eat.
Through the meal, we engage one another as family in Christ and we engage Christ. The weekly meal is a fantastic space to grow in your love for one another. Let the conversations around the dinner table be focused and important. Embrace this moment with honesty. As a leader, spark the conversation to be about more than the movies people watch and the latest sports scores.
Welcome Others to the Gospel Feast
“Come, sinners, to the gospel feast;
let every soul be Jesus’ guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
for God hath bid all humankind.”
– Charles Wesley
This classic hymn, born out of the great awakening, calls us to remember the invitation of the gospel. It is an anthem for the church to remember who we’re called to be: a community that welcomes every soul as Jesus’ guest into the most meaningful table. Our invitation to those in our city is not simply to dinner parties but into the family of God, into union with Christ. As we welcome the poor and powerless into our community meals and as we share the crucial nature of the elements of communion, we realize we are the sinners coming. We are the ones in need of his body and his blood. A community that secludes itself and its dinner table from the outside world will not only struggle to reach their neighbors, but will fail to see their need for the Table.
Make Meals Meaningful
- Ask each other how the week is going and expect long honest answers.
- Ask everyone a common question that will lead to deeper understanding of each other: What is your favorite summer memory from childhood? Or how do you prepare for the Christmas holidays.
- Ask about how each person is processing the sermon from Sunday, or about the service that was done as a group the week before, circle back to past hardships people have shared.
- Simple things too like what are you thankful for today. What was the hardest part of your day today?
- You could also have a person or couple in the “spotlight” where they are able to share in more depth their story, current spot in life, and what they are going through with the community having the chance to pray for them.
- How does your community share meals?
- How can you eat with glad and generous hearts?
- How can the gospel become more clear as you share a meal with folks?
- How often should you get together to share a meal during the week? How does your community remember Jesus in these meals?
- Most people eat 21 meals a week, how could each person in your community share at least one of them with others?
How can you and your community remember Christ as you eat?
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