17 Sep 2017

Church in the Shape of a Meal

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Church, Family, Forgiveness, Lord's Supper, Unity

The Bible talks a lot about eating. In fact some scholars claim Scripture speaks of food and eating more than it does faith. And it just may.

Have you ever stopped to ask why food and tables are so prominent in the Story of God with Creation?

Abram/Sarah cooked for angels. God ate with Moses & the elders on Mt. Sinai.

Unrecognized by many but almost all the sacrifices were simply divine barbecues.

The prophetic vision of the renewed creation is presented as magnificent feasts with luxurious food and expensive wine.

And what about Jesus!? Have you ever noticed how often Jesus is eating with people? Or how often Jesus told stories about giant buffets. And then Jesus feeds the masses, on a mountain side btw, till they are ready to take a nap. And the followers of Jesus had some of their first fights around the meal that Jesus wanted his disciples to celebrate all the time. And Paul got pretty upset with Peter because he would not eat with Gentiles.

Meals in the Ancient Near East are far more than having a burger at Five Guys. A meal indicated social equality. A shared meal indicated acceptance – that is fellowship. A meal binds the participants in a common way of life. In a very real sense a meal was a profound moment of grace, of saying that “you” and “I” are “ok.”

The Pharisees clearly understand the significance of meals. This is why they scoff at Jesus for eating with “sinners.” Listen to me very carefully, the meals of Jesus are virtual reality moments of the new heavens and new earth breaking into this fallen age They point to the reality of new creation grace.

Forgiveness in the bible is never simply a mental idea. It changes the world.

When Luke tells us that Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, ate and drank with the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the tax collectors, the adulterers, with Pharisees, the demon possessed he is saying something incredibly significant. The meal is the social expression of what redemption looks like.  Those who are saved, forgiven, redeemed are now one in the New Creation.

Forgiveness meant to heal. How is healing recognized – a meal. We are no longer at war – eat. Two families are now one – we eat together. Humans have been reconciled with God – we eat together. Humans have been reconciled to one another – how do I know? We eat together!!!

The meals of the Bible are the social reality of salvation. The meals of the Hebrew Bible, the meals of Jesus, and the Meal we eat every week is to be the proclamation that we are one, that we are united, that we are equal.  If we eat together in the presence of God then we are at shalom with one another.

The Pharisees knew this. Those who objected to unclean Gentiles eating at the table in Antioch knew this. Paul knew this in Corinth where the meal was destroyed by the shaming of the poor by the rich.

If our churches today were molded and shaped by God’s dinner table as Jesus was in his life then chances are the Pharisees will take notice. But the meal is not about deserving a place there. We are at the dinner table eating because the Creator God has sat us at his table and put a plate in front of us and said, eat with me.

Perhaps it is a commentary on our imprecise Bible reading when we do not seem to think the ubiquitous meals of Scripture and Jesus teach us what it means to be the church. I invite you to reflect prayerfully on Luke 7.36-50 in light of what we have said.

Church is best expressed in a meal … the physical, literal, social manifestation of forgiveness and welcome.


2 Responses to “Church in the Shape of a Meal”

  1. Dwight Says:

    The Lord’s Supper was a meal and not a point of worship, but a point where worshippers of Jesus united in the common bond of Jesus.
    The church kitchen and fellowship halls is seen by many a reflection of something added to the church, but in reality it is something that was taken away. If the churches met in homes as we know they did, then the kitchens were present and the hall or room as well.
    Although many argue that true fellowship is not eating, but worshipping, we see in 1 Cor.5:11 “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.” that fellowship was part of eating with another, thus to deny fellowship was to deny keeping company and eating with them.

  2. Dwight Says:

    Bobby, I came back to this to see if I could send you a study on the Lord’s Supper.
    The crux of the study has to do with the concept of ‘supper”. It is both blatant and apparent in the scriptures, but we glaze over it in terms of what a supper is and when supper was as a concept. We argue that the Lord’s Supper must be done on the First Day of the Week, even though it was not instituted on the First Day of the Week, nor time stamped by God like he did the Passover and other feast. The irony is that we make some concepts as worthy and other concepts as unworthy.

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