Food, Table, and Hospitality

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…” (Luke 24:30-31a).

As I ponder the themes of Luke’s Gospel during this year of Luke, I am struck by an interesting observation: every chapter of Luke’s Gospel mentions food! This evangelist pays particular attention to depicting Jesus eating with people wherever he goes. It should be no surprise, as eating together is such a central part of our Christian identity, not just at the Lord’s table during worship, but in all of our fellowship together (potluck anyone?). And the Church, along with the writer of Luke’s Gospel make it clear that eating together is one of the primary ways we experience the presence of the risen Christ.

This should also be no surprise because food is so central to our common humanity, and to all communities that we form. Eating together defines families, spiritual communities, friendships, and even colleagues (my monthly Mercer Cluster meeting takes place over breakfast!) As long as modern humans have walked the face of the earth, we have banned together over a meal that is shared. There is something profound in the revelation that it is in this coming together to share a meal as the place where Christ is present with and for us.

And yet I wonder how we present the meal that is shared during worship in a way that is different than all other meals we share. Does this meal feel common? Is it ordinary? Is it that profound yet understated truth that humans need to eat, and doing so brings us together? I wonder. Often, the sacramental nature of this particular meal has to do with the way its elements are presented: often plated in silver and gold, with elements that are to be handled carefully and revered properly.

Don’t get me wrong, the meal that is celebrated during worship is of course special (Christ is present!) and should be revered accordingly. But I worry that the rituals we incorporate complicate the important theological point of Christ’s presence in the ordinary. In this case, in a simple meal that we share. Ritual is great (think of what rituals you regularly incorporate in your own feasting and celebrations), but it’s not a magic trick. It’s not the special words that are said, or certain hand gestures that are performed that make Christ present. It is because when two or more are gathered, Christ is present there.

I have suggested before a metaphor that I like: that the table where Christians gather for Eucharist is God’s “kitchen table.” That is, it’s a place where God’s family gathers regularly to share honestly about what’s going on in our lives, to support one another in loving community, and yes, to eat together. And the love that we (hopefully) know from feasting together at family tables throughout the seasons of our lives, I think, is no different than the love that is present at the Lord’s table. It’s a simple yet profound gift, broken and shed for you.

Peace be with you,
Pastor Ian

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