I went to the Charlotte Farmer's Market this past Saturday for the first time since we moved in our house...1/4 mile away. Sad, but true. Our lives have just been too crazy, we told ourselves as we realized on Saturday. But have they been? As we loaded up on fresh from the farm veggies, fruits and meats, guaranteeing a lot of home cooked meals was the only way we're going to eat this week - and I started stressed about how busy I am and the time it will take to prep, cook and eat. Wouldn't it just be easier (and tastier) to eat Chick-Fil-A every day? So, what's the point of a meal? 

The building blocks of the kingdom of God are families, and the building blocks of families are relationships. What if the building blocks of relationships are meals? 

Here are 3 thoughts on why that may be so:

1. What is a Meal?

On the practical side of things, meals make our bodies function. We can't do life without food, which seems a good enough reason to value them, but we still find ways to funnel down our nutrition with a quick vitamin-enriched smoothie, or a drive-thru window so that we don't have to sacrifice the time for a meal. But then meals also provide the pleasurable experience of tasting - which is functionally pointless. Why would God give us 10,000 taste buds? Maybe he wants to just make something we have to do daily not so mundane (rather than like porridge in a prison), but I'd say he was trying to get us lured into something more important; connecting us to the deeper meaning of the meal. The reality is: meals also make us stop working and slow down; to listen, and to talk.

I believe Jesus came to restore the earth to its original intent - to bring freedom, love, peace, and hope. In short: what we are made for is authentic, intimate, loving relationships; we lost all that, and Christ came to bring it back. And he gave that mission to us...a daunting task to say the least. Often we may feel frantic with this mission, and find ourselves striving to increase our kingdom productivity: more programs; more buildings; more ministries. But is that what Jesus did? He had a much weightier task at hand, and it seems the big business of Jesus was built around meals. So why should we adopt a different, more corporate strategy? I think God has set some solid precedent that the meal is one of his major  go-tos for doing his work with humanity, so let's take a look at the history of God and meals:

2. God Really Loves Meals

  • In the beginning God made a garden............enough said?
  • God gave it to Adam to cultivate it, then demanded that he spend his life literally enjoying the fruit of his labor: which would mean eating.
  • In Israel's culture, sharing a meal was sacred time and space: if you ate with someone, you were making a declaration that you would be at peace with them.
  • God gives a ton of dietary rules for some sanitary reasons, but primarily to set them apart from other cultures. Meals were so important, and so much intimacy and value was placed on them, that God knew if he could keep His people from eating with other cultures, he could keep them set apart for his purposes (continually we see the nation turn away from God as they commune with other nations and end up following after their gods).
  • All sorts of festivals commemorating all sorts of stuff in the Old Testament were established by God, which mostly consisted of...eating together.
  • Jesus was always eating with folks. Some examples:
    • His followers
      • Martha and Mary: Jesus tells Martha to stop stressing out about the details, to chill out and spend time with him over the meal like her sister Mary (Luke 10:38-42)
    • His enemies
      • He sat down with the Pharisees to get questioned and work through them always getting tripped up about who he really was (Luke 7:36, 14:1).
    • Lots of sinners (Matthew 9:10, Mark 2:15) 
      • Jesus was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton he spent so much time eating and drinking with broken people (Matthew 11:19). 
      • Jesus tells Zacchaeus the thug to to make a meal for them to have later, where Zacchaeus' life would be changed forever (Luke 19:1-10) 

3. God Does Really Important Things Through Meals:

These three are pretty much the most important meals in the bible, and they are heavily related:

  • Passover
    • When God is about to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt, he tells them to eat a meal. They sacrifice a lamb, put its blood over doors, and the spirit of death "passes over" their household as it went to take out the firstborn sons of Egypt. God tells them to prepare this certain meal, which they eat then; and every year they eat this meal and sacrifice the Passover lamb to celebrate and remind themselves of the faithfulness of the Lord to deliver them.
  • The Last Supper
    • This blew my mind when I found out, but the Last Supper was Passover. Read about it:
    • Then came the day of the Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover." - Luke 22:7-13

    • Jesus is about to be sacrificed as the ultimate Passover lamb (v.7), to deliver all people from the slavery of sin, and what does he do with his followers? Has a meal. This seems odd. If I am on a mission to save the world, and I am about to die, I would probably go to the biggest arena and invite the most people to share my message one last time. But Jesus has a meal with just his few followers. This should tell us something about the value Jesus has for meals. Of course we know it wasn't just any meal; it was a meal that signifies the deliverance from sin that his sacrifice would bring. He told them the bread was his body and the wine was his blood; that we any followers in future generations should get together, share some bread and wine at the table, and do it in remembrance of him. He is about to change the world, and he needs a vehicle, a natural occurring experience that the supernatural can intersect with, and what does he use? A meal.

  • The Marriage supper of the lamb
    • At the end of this long story, all of creation who were delivered from sin by the sacrifice of Christ, the Passover Lamb, come together and have a big celebration together. How is it celebrated? A meal called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9). In short:

od really loves meals. His beginning redemption of Israel, global redemption through Jesus, and the celebration of all that redemption in the end are all commemorated with a meal. 

4. Meals Connect us to our Purpose: Cultivating Community

I can't write this part any better than it has already been written, so for this point I am going to recommend that you go check out what Barry Jones, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary has to say about how meals connect us to our purpose of cultivating community in his recent article in DTS magazine:

 "The Dinner Table as a Place of Connection, Brokenness, and Blessing."

Here is my favorite excerpt, that summarizes it:

"I’m convinced that our dinner tables have the potential to be the most “missional” places in all of our lives. Perhaps before we invite people to Jesus or invite them to church, we should invite them to dinner. If table fellowship is a spiritual discipline that is vital for shaping and sustaining our life with God for the world, we need to make a point to share our tables with people who are in our lives but far from God. This was one of the most distinctive aspects of Jesus’s ministry."

Bread and Wine

Lastly, here is an amazing song from my favorite artist, Josh Garrels, about community and meals: 

Bread & Wine
By Josh Garrels

I was wrong, everybody needs someone, to hold on
Take my hand, I’ve been a lonesome man, took a while to understand

There's some things we can’t live without, 
A man’s so prone to doubt, 
Faithful are the wounds from friends. 
So give it just a little time, 
Share some bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine, 
My friend

Walls fall down, where there’s a peaceful sound, lonely souls hang around
Don’t be shy, there’s nothing left to hide, come on let’s talk a while

Of the places we left behind, 
No longer yours and mine
But we could build a good thing here too
So give it just a little time, 
Share bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine

If I fall, I fall alone, but two can help to bear the load
A threefold chord is hard to break
All I have I give to you if you will share your sorrows too, 
Then joy will be the crown upon our heads
My friend