This past week’s sermon was on the power of eating together. It was appropriate considering the occasion…Super Bowl Sunday.
Outside of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s just about the most calorie-consuming holiday that we have. And this makes sense. It’s a day when people come together for the festivities. Many are passionate about the teams involved. Many just like to watch a good game. Others love the ads. And some are just looking for any excuse to socialize and have a good time. All this means that we consume a lot of food. There’s nachos and chips and soda and beer and pizza and sweets. All said, it’s estimated that the Average American eats about 2,400 calories during the game and 4,000 to 5,000 just on Sunday. (See this link for more details). (As halftime approached, I jokingly suggested that folks pace themselves if they were going to achieve that 2,400 calorie count).
This Super Bowl just one example of the power of food and socializing to bring people together.
And it’s not just Super Bowl Sunday. It’s all the time. There was even power in a meal back in Jesus’ day. He was aware of it. Check out Matthew 9:10-13, right after the call of Matthew:
Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”
Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”
There were certain rules about who one should be eating with and who one should not be eating with. Think of the stereotypical High School lunch room—but with adults. There were certain people that the religious folk shouldn’t be with. And Jesus was eating with them.
There’s a power in eating together. Perhaps that’s why food and eating plays a prominent role in parables of the Kingdom of God in the Bible and why, perhaps the signature event of Jesus’ ministry, the Last Supper, was meal-related.
Sharing a food together breaks down barriers. People share life and get to know each other over meals. If you really want people to linger and open up, make sure there’s food involved. It seems we’re wired for the fellowship.
It goes for me as well and was made clear all over again this past week. Here’s what happened…
There are some guys I see at the coffee shop regularly. And even though I’m very much a people person and love sharing life with folks, most of the time I go in with an agenda. I have something to read. I have work to do. I really don’t go in wanting to make friends. But one day last week I was sitting there with my latte and a book and I was listening to a wonderful conversation. I was interested. I was learning. It was good. And as I got up to leave, one of the gentlemen asked, “Why don’t you join us?” And I wanted to. But I really had to go…I had to take a kid to school. I couldn’t stay. The next day when I walked in, I moved on over and was welcomed in and had a great conversation for about an hour. This wasn’t ME eating with someone. This was someone who offered to eat with me. And the next time I walked in while they “solved all the world’s problems” around the table they pulled a chair out for me to sit. It was wonderful to be included, to share life, and to share in some coffee together. These are some interesting guys…good guys to know…guys you could learn about life from.
So what do we do with this?
We have communities where we may be surrounded with persons we recognize but don’t really know, work with but haven’t really shared life with, live next to but have never gotten beyond a yelled greeting and a wave across the street. Meals, food, coffee, eating together is a way we can break through these barriers and form deeper relationships. This is not some grand evangelism strategy so we know just when to “spring the Gospel” on them. It’s a matter of sharing life with those around us, hearing ways we can bless them and care for them, and, perhaps, providing some more spaces around the table in God’s kingdom.
Who can you eat with this week?
I know some folks I can eat with (or drink with) at the coffee shop. They’re a good bunch of guys and I’m glad they have a spot for me when I don’t have another agenda. It’s nice to be included this way.