Food pays an important part of our mission here at The Gateway.
Leadership team starting thinking through our core values – our ways in Christ, everyone said FOOD first!
Gospel of Luke 1/5 sentences is somehow related to a meal. Jesus either going to a meal, coming from a meal, having a meal with people!
Think of your own dining room or kitchen table. What dramas have played out there? chatting as a family, sharing news, telling stories, poking fun, imbibing values, welcoming guests, making friendships, love blossoming, laughter, crying even an argument or three!
We love our dining table, because we love what has happened there. One of our not yet Christian friends always comments whenever a photo involving it ends up on FB “The table” – because it’s there destinies have been prophecied, we have cried with people, shared the gospel and seen steps to changing lives.
One of the things that saddens me most about modern life is TV dinners! Meals are important, not just for fuel for life, but so much more. Few things are more expressive of companionship than sharing food together. In fact the Latin root of the word companionship is cum together, panis bread! Food connects, with family and turning strangers to friends. No wonder Acts 2 mentions the early church’s devotion to breaking of bread (as in communion) and breaking bread together as in fellowship!
How did Jesus use some of his meals?
In Luke 7 when he is eating at one of the Pharisees house, a woman who was a well know sinner came and brought a jar of ointment to wash his feet. They were disgusted that an unclean woman had done it. He then used it as a teaching moment about forgiveness and forgave the woman her sins there and then.
In Luke 10:38-42 He is eating with Mary, Martha. Martha gets cross because she is busy and Mary is not helping – Jesus uses it as a teaching moment about making good choices.
In Luke 24:30 after the resurrected Jesus had walked on the Emmaus road their eyes were opened as they broke some bread together.
There’s just three examples of meals with Jesus where evangelism, discipleship, revelation and rebuking all occurred in the context of sitting round a table eating.
Heb 13v1-2 “Let brotherly love continue, do not neglect to show hospitality to stranger, for thereby some have entertained angels”
The author of Hebrew is exhorting us to put into practice philadelphia and philoxenia
Brotherly love – love of the brothers is the word Philadelphia – city and a Tom Hanks film. Phila – love, delphia brothers. Love those within the church family.
The very next statement uses Philoxenia – philo love, xenia foreigners and strangers. Show love to those who aren’t part of the family.
I love the way he puts the two as a word play which we can easily miss. Let Philadelphia continue and don’t neglect Philoxenia – for many of us loving the brothers is the natural one. Maybe you don’t socialise with many not yet Christians.
Matthew’s story is a great example of this in practice. It’s the early days of Jesus’ ministry and Jesus has found Levi aka Matthew who is following him. The very next thing Levi does is to hold a party. Let’s pick up the story in Luke 5v27
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
In Matthew’s own account we are told that the tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and his disciples. So what he has done is to mix his new believing friends with his not yet believing friends and trusted God to do His thing – opening up conversations, discussions and revealing men and women of peace.
The point is here is that whenever you are having friends round for a bite to eat or coffee or whatever, don’t just invite one lot of friends – mix them up! The fishermen disciples would have instinctively known that fishing is a team thing with nets not sad old men hiding from their wives with a rod and line!
Matthew had grasped it in the very first days of being a Christ follower.
The issue for many Christians is that the longer you have been following Jesus the less not yet believer friends you have. Get a life, do something fun and make some friends! The parkrun is one example for a couple of us at the moment – we are having fun (well to be honest the fun is after the exhausting run) and beginning to get to know people!
It’s worth noting motives here – I don’t have an ulterior motive for friendship with not yet believers, but I do have an ultimate motive as who I am in Christ bubbles over!
Hospitality vs Entertaining
One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them,“Which of you, having a son[a] or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.
The Parable of the Wedding Feast7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honour, saying to them,8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honour, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person’, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Parable of the Great Banquet12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast,invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
So Jesus is having another awkward meal with some Pharisees who are watching him, wanting him to make a mistake!
Jesus deliberately break the Pharisaically understanding of the OT law – while keeping it! Because he is the only one who ever did keep the whole law and then died under it, to free us from it. The Pharisee were into resting on the Sabbath from work and considered healing someone work. So Jesus heals the guy and then asks that provocative question to shame them, because He knows that they would not consider rescuing their own son or an ox from a well not work.
He then notices that the whole banquet is an honour competition. Folks from majority world cultures here will probably grasp this quicker than westerners. Honour is the primary motivator in an honour/shame culture – that’s why people will do honour killings – even killing family members who have brought shame on the family.
The guests are jostling for the most honoured position – to be on the top table. It’s achieved honour – it’s honour from your own status. Problem is if the host doesn’t agree with where you have placed yourself, you will loose honour and be shamed! Jesus says look humble yourself and the host will ascribe honour and bring your further towards the top table. Jesus did that humbling himself to become a man, dying a shameful cursed death and then the Father raised him up, ascended him to the highest place! The gospel in majority world language is essentially stop trying to gain honour with God by earning it, because you will keep bringing shame on yourself instead by what you have done wrong, humble yourself to trust Jesus and he will honour you with relationship and call you his son!
Back to the meal. He tells another story – don’t invite honoured guests, honour those who need their shame taken away and honour restored!
So how does this apply to how we have meals with people?
In simple terms it’s the difference between Hospitality and entertainment
Jesus talks about entertaining guests – luncheon or dinner, inviting honoured guests, so that you get invited back.
In our culture entertaining is when you get the nice china out, make an extra special effort with the menu and so on – setting yourself a high bar. And wanting an invite back!
Hospitality is welcoming people (particularly the stranger and the foreigner or as Jesus says the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind) into your home – can be a simple meal, come as you are, make yourself at home. With no expectation of an invite back to another swanky dinner party!
There’s nothing wrong with entertaining – love it! But if you only have others round when you are entertaining, you won’t do it as often and you wont be being missional.
The thing is we can’t do entertaining very often unless you are loaded. Entertaining/ having a dinner party is a fantastic middle class past-time.
Whereas Hospitality can be just an extra baked potato in the oven, stretching the meat a bit further.
It’s loving people!
Jesus finished the section with the promise of reward at the resurrection for doing it – that well done good and faithful servant!
There’s some pretty obvious objections to making some of your meals missional by inviting some friends over.
i) Not a good cook – it’s not about the food. I probably don’t help by being such a foodie! But baked potatoes and beans and a game of scrabble is fab!
ii) Too hard to have lots of people – maybe your home’s not very big, or your not an extrovert (I thought I was an extrovert until I met Mike!). It doesn’t have to be big. We bought a house deliberately sized so we could have lots of parties and cooking for large numbers doesn’t phase – but to be honest we get everyone else to bring most of the food usually, or if I’m cooking it’s pizza!
iii) Not got the room or a table! Sit on the sofas, plates on laps.
Let’s keep having missional meals like Jesus – expect to be used by God to prophecy, to share, to cry, to bless, to encourage and when the Mission is done, we will get to have the great banquet! When Jesus comes back there will be the wedding feast of the Lamb that one of the guys at that party reckons will be pretty cool “Blesses is the man who eat at the feast in the kingdom of God!”
Here’s the takeway, boom, boom!
1) Make it missional, make some of your meals each week missional – Mix Christian and non Christian friends together and trust the Holy Spirit
2) Practice hospitality – welcome strangers
Extra potatoes on a Sunday – visitors, singles, small families
Not about Cordon Bleu – about being together
Can’t do what Andy & Janet do – most of our food events are bring and share!
3) Look forward to the great banquet
4) RSVP to the invite today if you haven’t already!