March 8, 2018

Missional Mealtime

As we continue our Good Book Club journey through Luke’s Gospel this Lent, I’m struck by the recurring theme in the upcoming passages from chapters 14 and 15.

Luke 14 begins with Jesus eating at the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees, and then he goes into a story about a great wedding feast, and Jesus closes out the chapter by talking about food seasoning. Luke 15 opens with Jesus being accused - by the Pharisees - of welcoming sinners and eating with them. Jesus then goes on to tell a couple of stories, including one about a father who throws a great feast when his wandering son returns home.

I get the sense that Jesus liked to eat.

And perhaps nowhere did Jesus better model the Kingdom of God than in the meals he shared with quite a motley crew, everyone from religious leaders to sinners. It seems that Jesus was pretty welcoming and inclusive when it came to his dinner plans.

Meals are a powerful expression of welcome and friendship in every culture. But I think the meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook. This is why Jesus’ meals are so significant – they embody God’s grace and enact God’s mission.

Often we do things for those in need, which is good. However, it puts us in a position of superiority – we are able; they are unable. We have; they need.

But what happens when we eat together? When we share food as friends? When we sit at the same level around the same table?

Then we can share our stories. Then we can get to know each other. Then we can talk about our shared need of God’s love and healing and grace.

When I was in seminary, I had a very bad day and walked down to McDonalds to get some food. And I saw a man sitting on the grass outside who appeared to be experiencing homelessness. He left his grocery cart outside and walked inside the restaurant.

After a little while, I approached him and asked if I could buy him some food.

His response shocked me. “I’ve got cookies, and fries, and everybody always wants to give me food. But I want you to tell me what’s wrong with me man, because everybody wants to give me food, but no one wants to sit down and talk to me!”

Everyone wanted to give him what they thought he needed, but no one wanted to take the time to get to know him.

My first intention was to buy a hungry guy some food, but I completely misread the situation. What I was supposed to do was much simpler. So I shared a table with him, ate some fast food, and got to know him.

I think that might be why Jesus spent so much time eating with so many different types of people. To get to know them.

Sure, Jesus fed people who were hungry and healed people that were sick, but in these chapters of Luke we get the sense that Jesus just wanted to sit down for a meal and get to know people.

Who is someone in your community that you can invite for a meal?

Want to read a good book about missional meals? Tim Chester’s A Meal With Jesus is a good place to start.

This blog is part of a series for the Good Book Club. Learn more about the Good Book Club here.