A kindergarten teacher gave her class a “show and tell” assignment. Each student was instructed to bring an object that represented their faith to share with the class. One student got up in front of the class and said, “My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is a Star of David.” A second student rose and said, “My name is Mary. I’m a Catholic and this is a Rosary.” A third student got in up front of the class and said, “My name is Tommy. I’m Methodist and this is a casserole.”
Did you ever wonder why eating plays such an important role in the gathering we call church? I’ve heard people complain about that practice, but there are good reasons for it. First of all, we have to eat to live. It’s natural, necessary, and (if we do it right) healthy. If we’re going to spend time together, eating will eventually become a necessary and desirable thing.
Regardless of our reasoning, there’s one motivation that stands out for Christians to sup together. We don’t often think about it, but it should be the underlying intention behind every moment we sit at table together. That reason is Biblical theology.
Check out the Gospels sometime. Count the number of times they record Jesus eating with people. Some of the best lessons come out of these times.
When Jesus went to people’s homes and reclined at table with them, he was identifying with them. He was demonstrating that he was one of them. It’s not much different today.
“I will come in and eat with that person.”
Usually, when we ask someone to dinner (or accept a dinner invitation), it’s because we either identify with those folks or want to identify with them. They mean something to us. They are important to us in some way. If that’s not the case, we don’t make (or accept) those invitations.
It’s no accident that Jesus once said, “I will come in and eat with that person.” That statement is part of a passage in Revelation where Jesus gives a famous invitation. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Jesus depicts himself as standing in front of our house (or life) knocking on our door. He is not merely rapping, however. He must be speaking (or yelling), because he wants us to hear his voice through the walls of our house.
Eating is an intimate act.
The intent is not merely to get our attention. It’s to get us to open the door and let him in. But it doesn’t stop there. He doesn’t simply want to sit in our parlor. He wants to sit down at our kitchen table and eat with us.
Eating becomes an intimate act—one we don’t share with just anyone. Jesus wants to be an intimate part of our lives and for us to share that intimacy with others. I say, “It’s time to eat!”
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]