Eat: I will eat with three people this week -- at least one of whom is not a member of our church.
The second missional habit I want you to consider embracing is that of eating with others. I’d like you to eat with three people each week. One person from the church community and one person in your mission field (where you live, work & play). The third is a wild card, it can literally be anyone. Sit at a community table and strike up a conversation!
The invitation to share a table is a extremely important in most cultures. I’m calling you to embrace the habit of eating with three people each week. You don't need to re-invent the wheel here, don't make it complicated. Keep it simple. You already eat three times a day, that’s 21 meals a week. I’m simply asking that you bring another person to your table for three of those. Or if you want to cut corners, you could bring three people to your table for one of them.
The point is, eating has always been an important habit for Christ followers since the beginning of the movement. Not only do we value eating sacramentally, like the communion and the Lord's Supper, but eating missionally as a way to express love to those God's puts in our lives.
A few weeks ago I shared about how Julian sent out a creed against Christians because he was tired of being out-served by the early church. He actually decreed that all of Caesar's men where to "practice every virtue" of the early church, because he said so. We know how that worked out. It didn't!
One of the things that really upset Julian, as he put it, one of the Christians' methods for "perverting" the empire, was their so called Love-Feasts or Service of Tables.
It seems that the early Christians must have focused so much of their lifestyle and ministry around the table that outside observers like Julian were confused as to the exact nature of any given meal.
How Not To Do It
Let's look at and see Paul's response to the Corinthian church and how they conducted their meals together.
17-19 Regarding this next item, I’m not at all pleased. I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best! First, I get this report on your divisiveness, competing with and criticizing each other. I’m reluctant to believe it, but there it is. The best that can be said for it is that the testing process will bring truth into the open and confirm it.20-22 And then I find that you bring your divisions to worship—you come together, and instead of eating the Lord’s Supper, you bring in a lot of food from the outside and make pigs of yourselves. Some are left out, and go home hungry. Others have to be carried out, too drunk to walk. I can’t believe it! Don’t you have your own homes to eat and drink in? Why would you stoop to desecrating God’s church? Why would you actually shame God’s poor? I never would have believed you would stoop to this. And I’m not going to stand by and say nothing.
Of course, we know the Corinthians were practicing a communal meal as part of their weekly habit, because Paul rebukes them for conducting it so poorly in Corinthians. He is outraged that their so-called love feast doesn’t express love at all, with certain people being left out and others appearing to eat in cliques rather than as a whole body of believers.
How We Should Do It
If we continue in I Corinthians 11, we see that Paul then goes on to offer them a form of words they should use when eating the Eucharist, which indicates that the Corinthian love feast included the Lord’s Supper at its heart.
Let's take a looksie at .
23-26 Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said,This is my body, broken for you.
Do this to remember me.After supper, he did the same thing with the cup:This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you.
Each time you drink this cup, remember me.What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt.27-28 Anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Master irreverently is like part of the crowd that jeered and spit on him at his death. Is that the kind of “remembrance” you want to be part of? Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe.29-32 If you give no thought (or worse, don’t care) about the broken body of the Master when you eat and drink, you’re running the risk of serious consequences. That’s why so many of you even now are listless and sick, and others have gone to an early grave. If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on. Better to be confronted by the Master now than to face a fiery confrontation later.33-34 So, my friends, when you come together to the Lord’s Table, be reverent and courteous with one another. If you’re so hungry that you can’t wait to be served, go home and get a sandwich. But by no means risk turning this Meal into an eating and drinking binge or a family squabble. It is a spiritual meal—a love feast.The other things you asked about, I’ll respond to in person when I make my next visit.
Just sit across a table from three people this week, and... talk.
The table is the great equalizer in relationships. When we eat together, we discover the inherent humanity of all people. We share stories and hopes and fears and disappointments. People open up to each other and we can open up to them to share the same things, including our faith in Jesus.
I love what Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford say in their book, Right Here Right Now:
“Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the Kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!”
The Great Example - A Sinner at the Table
Conversion flowered from communion. What a beautiful expression. We see it in Jesus’ attendance at a meal at the home of the tax collector Zacchaeus in .
1-4 Then Jesus entered and walked through Jericho. There was a man there, his name Zacchaeus, the head tax man and quite rich. He wanted desperately to see Jesus, but the crowd was in his way—he was a short man and couldn’t see over the crowd. So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus when he came by.5-7 When Jesus got to the tree, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your home.” Zacchaeus scrambled out of the tree, hardly believing his good luck, delighted to take Jesus home with him. Everyone who saw the incident was indignant and grumped, “What business does he have getting cozy with this crook?”8 Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor—and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.”9-10 Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! For the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost.”
His communion with the sinful tax collector led to repentance and conversion. Likewise, we should be as prepared to eat with sinners as a habitual missional practice.
Initially, all I’m asking is that you invite three people to share your table, at least one of whom isn’t a churchgoer. But what you’ll find happening is that people will reciprocate your hospitality.
You’ll start getting return invitations. And when that happens you’ve got serious missional traction.
Don’t judge the lifestyles or eating (or drinking) habits of your host. See the opportunity as a goldmine for missional relationship building. Let communion precede conversion.