Can eating with someone be a political or spiritual act?
I’ve tried to give up eating at fast food restaurants, for instance, because I’m not sure it really lines up with what I believe about our world. Eating at a fast food restaurant isn’t necessarily bad, but you make trade offs. You gain convenience and a low price for a system that can pay people very low wages and cheapen the price of food. Plus, fast food restaurants are intended for quick transactions – they are not always good locations for community and conversation.
Eating at a locally owned business isn’t necessarily good either. How do they treat their workers? What kind of values do they espouse? I’m not suggesting you interview your restaurant, like the sketch above from season one of Portlandia, but even something like eating ends up saying something about who we are and what we value. Our actions help shape the community we live in.
Jesus knew how eating was more than just an isolated bit of consumption. He used eating to make big points about who God was interested in. Sitting down and dining with tax collectors, people with skin diseases, and outcasts was a way for him to share his values. Jesus had come for the sick, not the healthy.
Jesus’ actions also permeated the movement that would follow after him. Early Christians and on throughout the centuries continue to celebrate agape feasts, the Lord’s supper, and community meals. Sure, everyone has to eat, but those meals took on different significance as they became ways to point to a new kind of community, where young and old, poor and rich, woman and man, outcasts and accepted sat as equals and tasted God’s abundant love.
My dream is that our politicians and our community leaders would sit down to meals like that more often. My hope is that churches, like the Table, might rediscover this mealtime as a way to build bridges and relationship with folks who seem different from one another. My desire is that we all see how we eat, when we eat, and what we eat as part of our spirituality, as part of who we are.
Heads up – tonight at East Dallas Christian Church, we celebrate Maundy Thursday, remembering Jesus’ last supper with his disciples through song, word, and food. Come join us. 6:30 PM in the Great Hall.