A Meal With JesusPaperback Discovering grace, community and mission around the table Tim Chester
Drawing from six narratives in Luke's Gospel, the author shows how meals can be opportunities for serving others.(more...)
Meals have always been important across societies and cultures - a time for friends and families to come together. An important part of relationships, meals are vital to our social health. Or as author Tim Chester puts it, 'Food connects.'
Tim argues that meals are also deeply theological - an important part of Christian fellowship and mission. He observes that Luke's Gospel is full of stories of Jesus at meals. And these meals represent something bigger. In six chapters Tim shows how they enact grace, community, hope, mission, salvation and promise.
Moving from New Testament times to today, the author applies biblical truth to challenge our contemporary understandings of hospitality. He urges sacrificial giving and loving around the table, helping readers consider how meals can be about serving others and sharing the grace of Christ.
Extent: 160 pages
Publication Date: 21/10/2011
Published by: IVP
Introduction: The Son of Man Came Eating and Drinking
1. Meals as Enacted Grace: Luke 5
2. Meals as Enacted Community: Luke 7
3. Meals as Enacted Hope: Luke 9
4. Meals as Enacted Mission: Luke 14
5. Meals as Enacted Salvation: Luke 22
6. Meals as Enacted Promise: Luke 24
(From the) Introduction
The Son of Man Came Eating and Drinking
I fell in love with my wife while she was making me cheese on toast. I’d only known her for a few weeks. It had been ‘love’ at first sight for me, except of course that my initial ‘love’ was mere attraction. No, it was the cheese on toast that won my heart. It wasn’t that she could make cheese on toast – I was looking for a little more than that in a wife. But that simple act of service, done without thought to herself (plus her beautiful hands), captured my heart. My response at the time wasn’t so reflective. I just knew she was the one for me.
I’ve now spent more than half my lifetime with the girl who once made me cheese on toast. Half a lifetime of shared meals. I still regard every meal she cooks as a gift. I think I’ve expressed my appreciation every time. It’s not hard work. It’s more an involuntary exclamation of delight than a disciplined duty. But it’s not just the food. Each meal is an embodiment of her love for me. And for our two daughters. And our many guests. Her love, of course, involves more than her cooking. But her cooking gives tangible – and edible – form to her love.
Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance. ‘Few acts are more expressive of companionship than the shared meal . . . Someone with whom we share food is likely to be our friend, or well on the way to becoming one.’ 1 The word ‘companion’ comes from the Latin cum (‘together’) and panis (‘bread’).
We all have favourite images of good hospitality. I think of my friends Andy and Josie and their farmhouse kitchen: vegetables fresh with garden mud, hot buns with a shiny glaze, warmth from the old stove, and the gentle flow of conversation, from which talk of God is never absent for long. ‘Our life at the table, no matter how mundane, is sacramental – a means through which we encounter the mystery of God.’
Think about your dining room or kitchen table. What dramas have been played out around this simple piece of furniture? Day by day you’ve chatted with your family, sharing news, telling stories and poking fun. Values have been imbibed. Guests have been welcomed. People have found a home. Love has blossomed. Perhaps you reached across the table to take the hand of your beloved for the first time. Perhaps you remember important decisions made round the table. Perhaps you were reconciled with another over a meal. Perhaps your family still bonds by laughing at the time you forgot to add sugar to your cake.
In my favourite food writer’s autobiography, Nigel Slater describes how as a boy he once said his mother’s kisses were like marshmallows. When Slater was nine, his mother died, and his father started leaving marshmallows beside his bed each night.
Food connects. It connects us with family. It turns strangers into friends. And it connects us with people around the world.
Consider what you had for breakfast this morning. Tea. Coffee. Sugar. Cereal. Grapefruit. Much of it was produced in another part of the country or world. Food enables us to be blessed by people around the world and to bless them in return.
But hospitality can also have its dark side. I once attended a meeting at the World Bank offices in London. Offered coffee (one of the few things I don’t like), I asked if there was tea. ‘We don’t serve tea in the morning,’ I was told in a tone dripping with condescension. I had been well and truly put in my place. People like me were not welcome.
But this is a trivial example compared to the race and class prejudices expressed through hospitality or its absence. Nothing bespoke the way the world stood before the Civil Rights movement more than the ‘No blacks’ signs on restaurant doors. Or the ‘No blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ signs outside lodgings in the UK.
Hospitality was just as important in the ancient world. New Testament scholar John Koenig says, ‘When guests or hosts violate their obligations to each other, the whole world shakes and retribution follows.’
The global connections of trade also have their dark side, as the powerful use their power to exploit the weak. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was sugar and slavery. Today exploitation can be found amid migrant labourers, subsistence farmers undercut by the dumping of subsidized exports, and workers in food-processing plants in economic development zones exempt from labour laws.
A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.
(Proverbs 13:23 NIV)
The food we purchase enables us to bless others – or curse them.
Our relationship to food is ambiguous. Television chefs have become celebrities, and cookbooks regularly appear on bestseller lists. Yet we cook less than ever before. Americans spend the equivalent of over £30 billion on dieting each year – that’s £30 billion to solve the problem of food gone wrong. At any given moment 25% of American men and 45% of women are dieting. Only 9% of college-aged women have never tried to control their weight through dieting. American Christians spend more on dieting than on world missions. We spend more curing our overconsumption than we do feeding the physically and spiritually hungry of the world. We express who we want to be through food. And when things go wrong, food becomes a place of refuge. The broken-hearted console themselves on the sofa with a tub of ice cream. You are what you eat, people say. Food is so much more than fuel.
How would you complete the following sentence: ‘The Son of Man came . . . ’? The Son of Man came . . . preaching the Word . . . to establish the kingdom of God . . . to die on the cross.
Perhaps the question is more revealing if we make it, ‘We should go . . . ’? We should go . . . campaign for political change . . . preach on street corners . . . make the most of new media . . . adapt to the culture we want to reach.
There are three ways in which the New Testament completes the sentence, ‘The Son of Man came . . . ’ ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45); ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10); ‘The Son of Man has come eating and drinking . . . ’ (Luke 7:34).
The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. The third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking. …
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