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Who wouldn't want a meal with Jesus? It's sumptuous, and full of God's good intentions; our challenge is to share it.
on 7 March 2013
On a friend's recommendation I picked up this book. It has never occurred to me that meals have such a central place in our relationship with God and, later, in Jesus's ministry, until I read this book. When we come to think about it through our earthly relationship with our children, we should not have been surprised really. Don't we all work hard and spend a lot of time to provide and cook food for our children!!
For me, I grew up thinking that food served only a functional purpose, and loathing hunger which dictated a physical need for food. I used to think that time spent on preparing and eating food was time that could be better spent on other things. Only until recently have I acquired a keen interest in learning how to cook properly, after some 18 years of marriage, and my effort rewarded by discovering the magic that thoughtful home-made food brings to the family.
It was at this juncture in my family life that I picked up this book. My overarching thought after reading this book is that how hopeless we are as a fallen race; we cannot get anything right away from God, including our relationship with food! We could be functional about food (like me) and miss out on the joy of food. God has made the world more delicious than it needs to be, the author points out. On the other hand, we could derive so much pleasure from food that we have a lifestyle of worshipping food, the gift rather than the Giver. We could also take refuge in food, indulge in food or use food to exercise our control, leading to eating disorders. The list goes on... Like many things in life, God's good intentions in His creation have been eroded, twisted and lost in our social and cultural environment. We must go back to the Scripture to catch a glimpse of the true meaning of a lot of things that we do as human - relationships, home life, marriage, sex, and, now I realise, food also.
Meals serve the food but are not only about food. This book takes us through Scripture and tells us how to do meals in God's intended way: meals as enacted grace, meals as enacted community, meals as enacted hope, meals as enacted mission, meals as enacted salvation, and meals as enacted promise (the titles of the chapters). God is thoughtful in His creation. Nothing that we do is an accident or an afterthought. After more than two decades of walking with God, I have come to the conclusion that everything that we do has a place in teaching us something about God, His relationship with us, and the Gospel. God reveals these secrets to us by our story as laid down in Scripture; our life is His classroom; He teaches us by role play. Sadly meals as a channel of God's goodness has been lost because we do not spend time (food is not meant to be fast!!), we do not receive it with gratitude and we do not share our meals.
To imitate Jesus in how we do meals definitely challenges me. The concept of opening my home to my neighbourhood, and not just a few selected neighbours, is met with resistance in my mind. But the Gospel goes even further than that - it opens to the strangers, the marginalised, the underprivileged and the outcasts. This simply shows how much we fall short of God's grace to us, and His generosity in serving us. God's standard is high, and as with all other things in life, we strive towards the goal, while acutely aware of the fact that we can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5).