A Theology of Food – As Easy As Pie

I have been thinking a lot about food lately.

Okay let me rephrase that.

I have been thinking about gathering together to share a meal.

Meals are common throughout the Bible, from the sacrificial meals as part of Israelite worship to the Lord’s Supper held by believers in the New Testament. A quick search from a Dictionary of Bible Themes found:

4476 references to meals
4404 references to food
4410 references to banquets
7355 references to feasts and festivals
7933 references to the Lords supper

Ultima Cena Juan de JuanesThe list goes on.

It’s not surprising really as food is an integral part of Jewish life, well, of all life. Jewish tradition recognizes a meal as a time for intimacy, for fellowship, and significant conversation. Kindness is the basic mood of the Jewish meal. People are nourished, and in this intimate setting people talk with each other about what matters. Sharing a meal together is a sign of fellowship, of friendship, of family.

That’s why the Pharisees were so shocked to find Jesus sitting down in fellowship with the ‘sinners’ of the day.

“And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:15-17

Jesus equated the meal’s symbolic acceptance as an act of healing and a call to repentance.

In Jesus, God came into the world. The bread and water of life didn’t leave us with a signature or a statue to remember him by, but bread to represent His body and wine as His blood spilt for us. A celebration meal that remembers death is defeated and Jesus is with us.

He meant us to share his life between us like a meal, so he gave us an edible, nourishing, shareable sacrament.

So forget microwave meals in front of Eastenders, eating is a social task. Starting with a personal invite, sharing your home, sharing your food, sharing your space and serving, you are creating a shared experience for people to relax and open up.

Meals are a great tool both for community and mission:

Meals are for Community

If we routinely share meals with others then we create weekly opportunities to heart-share. How are your table manners? Some pointers:

Listen and create discussion
Include everyone
Laugh and smile
Allow time to be invited out for dinner at least once per week
Stay around the table after you have finished
Use the gathering as an opportunity to pray together
Take your mobile phone
Complain about the food
Go out for a fag halfway through
Always sit in the same place at the table

Meals are for Mission

The meal table can be common ground, a safe place of hospitality and connection.

When Jesus sent out twelve, then seventy two of his disciples (Matthew 10, Luke 9, Luke 10) he told them to eat whatever meal was given them, then to heal the sick, raise the dead and proclaim the kingdom. Start your mission with a meal too. The invitation goes out to all and everyone sits at the same level. Let the guests see the way the gospel impacts your relationships as Christians, not just how you sing and spend a Sunday morning.

Francis Schaeffer from the L’Abri community in Switzerland says:

“Don’t start with a big programme. Don’t suddenly think you can add to your church budget and begin. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Do what I am going to suggest. Begin by opening your home for community… You don’t need a big programme. You don’t have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin.”

Lastly, remember God’s promise: that one day we will feast forever in His presence.

Let us eat. Amen.


Some questions:

In what ways could you start eating for Jesus?
What ways can you be more intentional in your mealtimes?
Do you have any stories of friendships built over curry and chips, or whatever?

Leave a comment below.

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