There is a new fascination with food in the globalised world of today, almost a new religion, where food is worshipped for what it is and nothing more. We eat and “have it to the full”.
However, we would do well not to neglect the traditional aspects of food, which bring depth and beauty to the human experience, making it less selfish, self-aggrandising, where meals are set in the classical context of giving, community, family and relationships. The Bible offers some of these helpful perspectives.
Hosting a guest at one’s dinner table can serve as an expression of welcome and acceptance. To eat with someone is to embrace him. Jesus often ate with the rejects and outcasts of society, an association that drew the criticism of the self-righteous religious elite of his day. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes, sharing with them and engaging them in conversation. How often do we find ourselves connecting with others, even strangers, over a shared meal? Do you know that chatting with a visitor after a Service over a cup of coffee can be something our Lord will do?
Meals and feasting also carry the idea of resting from labour. The Bible takes this further in its portrayal of a heavenly banquet as ‘salvation rest’ from work, and the ravages of sin and suffering in this world. When we feast and eat, we naturally experience an inner sense of rest. One of the most well-known passages in the Bible must be Psalm 23. The psalm begins with the image of a guiding Shepherd but ends with us being served by a Chef – “You prepare a table before me….” Psalm 23:5). Each meal can be a picture of that rest,
even if it just provides a brief respite in the midst of the stress of everyday life. Take time to enjoy food. If you are eating with someone, enjoy the conversation and company while being fully present and engaged.
Associated with the idea of rest is also the theme of homecoming. This is one reason the Bible refers to meals when it describes homecoming events such as the Parable of the Banquet (Luke 14:15-24). With each meal, whether in our homes, especially the precious Chinese New Year reunion dinner, or in church at the Holy Communion, we anticipate the great gathering in heaven with Christ. Christians are simply grateful that they are forgiven and accepted by the Father, and they remember this over a spiritual meal.
The idea of welcome, rest and home is also powerfully portrayed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31). The youngest son squanders away his inheritance. He returns in shame, hoping for his father’s forgiveness yet feeling unworthy to be called his son. His father does much more than forgive. He throws a lavish feast which includes a fattened calf to celebrate the restoration of a son who had gone astray. He exclaims: “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” To gather around the table again reflects the reinstatement of the son’s position in the family. In feasting, the family celebrates the ties that bind. Yes, a family that eats together stays together.
It is not difficult to imagine the importance of a meal before an Alpha Course or after a Worship Service. It is as deeply spiritual as a Prayer Meeting!
Jesus said, ‘’I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). My prayer for you is that food and feasting is not just about a tasty dish, an Omakase or Degustation meal. It may delight the palate but adds little else to life. That you experience food in the context of rich relationships with your friends, family and your Creator. That to me is to have life to the full.