The tradition of people eating together being a sign of God’s reign or kingdom goes way back into Judaeo-Christian history. It is a picture painted by the prophets and celebrated in the psalms:
'On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.'
'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.'
Jesus was rooted in and lived this tradition. Just as he shared food with all sorts and conditions of people as a sign of the inclusivity of God’s kingdom, so too did the early church. The gatherings to eat together were earthly representations of the heavenly banquet imagery that had been reinforced by Jesus through his teaching as well as his actions. Following in the footsteps of Jesus, the table fellowship of the early Christians was warm and accepting. They refused to discriminate against the marginalised. All were welcome to partake of this basic human and yet deeply sacred activity.
The joy of eating together, the value of table fellowship for deepening relationships, the missional fruitfulness of shared meals and the opportunities for sharing faith, biblical study, prayer and worship around the meal table have all been rediscovered many times by both new and ancient forms of church. Holy Habits provides another opportunity to explore and live this godly practice.
At first glance, the Holy Habit of Eating Together seems like an easy one. Many of us enjoy eating together with family and friends and eating together is often a regular feature of church life. But this holy habit invites us to do more than simply consume food. It invites us to explore how we eat together and with whom.
Jesus was often criticised for who he chose to eat with. The feeding of the 5,000 in John’s gospel (John 6:1–14) starts with a boy and his little picnic of five loaves and two fishes and ends with a meal for 5,000 people. This story demonstrates the generous love of God and invite us to share what we have with gladness and generosity:
It’s easy to eat with friends and family, but what about those we don’t know? Do we need to explore eating together with them?
How can we share food with those who use our premises and the wider community?
How often do we eat with our neighbours or those in our street?
And what about the person for whom eating with others is difficult?
How can we be inclusive of those who are unable to eat freely for health reasons, those with diabetes, allergies or food intolerances, those with eating disorders?
Can we share those aspects of eating together which do not involve food?
As you consider the importance of eating together, could you be people who EAT with Equality, Affirmation and togetherness in true fellowship with all?