I am and will always be thankful for the fact that mealtime in our household is a family affair. My parents never failed to see to it that we drop whatever it is that we’re doing in order to sit and eat dinner together –sharing a common meal, sharing our lives in the company of those whom we love.
It only just occurred to me that this common scene at our house is a theological-goldmine-of-sorts as this portrays a very vivid picture of God, salvation and the fullness of life that God intends in Christ, that only dawned to me after reflecting on it for a couple of days after listening to a lecture on the spirituality of sleeping, eating and drinking.
In order to better appreciate this theological construct we must first come to a realization that life in itself is already a gift.
Writing about the apparent meaninglessness of life in today’s commodified society Craig Gay proposes that: “indeed, the single most subversive and ultimately redemptive idea that we can set loose within the capitalist world today is the simple recognition that life is a gift.” For me this implies that life in all its facets and its utilization are to be conjured up on the things really matter in life –and that is life in the context of community –that can be found in the web of human relationships.
Having said that human life is a gift, we are also reminded that this gift of life is a gift that is bound by its own limitations. Because our experience of going through life shows us that our bodies: the complex physical form of cells, tissues, organs and systems that enables us to live our lives has its limitations.
We all sleep. We all eat. We all drink. It is part of God’s design: sleeping, eating and drinking are indications of our limitations as beings made by God, thus they are salient reminders that harkens us back to the truth that we are not God –for it is only God who does not need rest nor go hungry.
Eating, sleeping and drinking, corresponds to our innate human needs: sustenance, rest and refreshment. Eating derives sustenance thus addressing our hunger; sleeping brings rest thus bringing physical replenishment and drinking refreshes us taking away our thirst.
Looking at these limitations through the eyes of faith we are in a way given a glimpse or better yet a portrait of God’s salvation. Since salvation in the Scriptures is unlike the portrait that we have too often been given at Sunday School, where the image of an angelic choir and cherubs carrying harps, singing songs of praise in some celestial plane highlights the view of this seemingly elusive afterlife in an otherworldly realm serves as our common picture of salvation or better yet of Heaven.
Rather, the Bible pictures salvation more as a meal, it is a banquet between Christ and His bride –the Church. Nothing puts this picture of a meal into clearer terms than that of the Last Supper where the Disciples are there with God incarnate fellowshipping, eating and drinking with Christ enjoying a common meal.
It has been said that the church is people who gather around Jesus. The sight of the Disciples around Jesus in the Last Supper is a clear picture of what the church is. And true enough God is there in the community gathered around Jesus for the church is made up of believers of Jesus upon whom Jesus sent the God the Holy Spirit to indwell with the very presence of Himself.
This picture of the Last Supper as a visual image of the Church has taught me to appreciate my parents in their desire for all of us to always eat together in the same table during mealtime, because it is in the family meal that people unknowingly proclaim Christ’s Body as a family that bonds and shares their life in the same manner that Christ invites those who follow Him to share their lives with Him in a loving relationship with God as their Father.
For us Christians this means that we are not just a community we are a community that gathers around Christ because we have a special relationship with Christ because John 1:12 says that we who believe in Christ are God’s children or a member of God’s household, through Christ. Therefore the image of Jesus in the Last Supper is somehow even more real in the Christian household during dinner time for it is an image of a divine reality where people of the same household in Christ are gathered to commune and partake of a common meal.
The Gospel is an invitation for everyone to become a part of God’s family and this is one family that wants you to come in. Christ promises that: Behold! He stands at the door and knock. If anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with him, and he with Him. (Revelation 3:20). Here we are confronted with an invitation from Christ to enter into our lives. Put into the framework of our physical limitations we are encountered by Christ who seeks to join us in our limitations so that we may dine with Him, hence our limitations can be viewed as gifts upon which God summons us into fellowship with Him who will ultimately put all things into completion!
Thus the Gospel is an invitation to God’s rest –to God’s table where His family dines and enjoys His company. It is a celebration of life. It is a celebration of this gift of life as it is transposed to a new context –the context of God.
Meals break barriers of alienation brought about by the sin in our lives and our ardent tendency to schism whether it is about race, gender, class etc. Christ at the table instead summons us all into a household –into a community that gathers with and for God. Andrei Rublev’s great icon of the Trinity, shows the Father, Son and Spirit seated around three sides of a table. The fourth side awaits a guest –will that guest be you?