When we started Ecclesia, Courtney and I had no clue what we were doing. But what we did have was a house, a dinner table, and most importantly, a desire to connect people with the story and way of Jesus. So we would host dinners, inviting people into our home, and telling them about the kind of people, as a church we felt that God was forming us into. So, from the very beginning the table and meals have shaped us.
Jesus saw the table as the centerpiece of his ministry. At the table he not only taught about the Kingdom of God, he embodied the Kingdom of God. Onlookers were scandalized by the kinds of people, “tax collectors and sinners, etc.” that Jesus chose to share meals with. In sitting down to eat with folks such as these Jesus was walking the world as the pardon of God, not just accepting but welcoming all those the world had rejected. He told stories about the kingdom of God but it wasn’t just the content of his teaching that was instructive, it was the whole art of conversation itself. Think about it. Jesus, God in the flesh, sits down to share meals with people. Imagine the person you admire most called you up and said, “Hey can we have dinner this evening?”
From Easter on, we’ve been letting the resurrection story shape our communal imaginations. Jesus doesn’t adjust his methods of embodying the kingdom of God following his being raised from the dead. Rather, Jesus, glorified, having conquered death continues on with the exact same practice in sharing the full extent of the good news of the Kingdom with his disciples, he sits down to meals with them.
As we prepare for a new season of ministry and a new phase of our life together, we want to orient our lives even more around Jesus’ life. Tish Warren writes, “Of all the things he could've chosen to be done "in remembrance" of him, Jesus chose a meal. He could have asked his followers to do something impressive or mystical--climb a mountain, fast for forty days, or have a trippy sweat lodge ceremony--but instead he picks the most ordinary of acts, eating, through which to be present to his people. He says that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. He chooses the unremarkable and plain, average and abundant, bread and wine.”
The earliest church, as we are seeing in our study in the book of Acts was known by their love for one another and their life together. “They broke bread in their homes with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2v46b). They had learned from their master and they carried on his example. Our call is the same.
So, this summer we are engaging in the very simple act of pursuing meals as an embodiment of the kingdom of God. I want to invite you to plan to share a meal with another person or collection of people from the church. I want to challenge you to perhaps break out of your bubble just a bit, look for someone you don’t know as well, you may have to go introduce yourself to someone on a Sunday morning. But make a plan to, at least once this summer eat with a fellow Ecclesian. I want to encourage you to have an intentional conversation at the table. Here are a few sample questions:
-How did you come to follow Jesus?
-How would you describe your “calling?” What do you feel like is your part in the bigger story that God is telling?
-What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Friends? Family? Church? Work?
-When do you feel most loved?
Second, I want to invite you to consider one neighbor, coworker, friend, classmate, etc. who doesn’t follow the way of Jesus and to make a plan to invite them over. As you identify this person, I want you to pray for them, with no agenda or expectation, simply pray a prayer of blessing over them, ask God how you can be a faithful presence of God’s kingdom in their lives. The goal here is not to force some sort of “spiritual conversation” the goal is to embrace the unforced rhythms of grace. Again, here are some ways to be a good conversationalist, touch on matters of significance, without being weird:
-What’s an interesting show/movie you’ve watched recently? What did you find most interesting?
-What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
-Where do you feel a sense of conviction or calling in your work?
-When do you feel most loved?
Our hope is to foster a collective, missional life, a life with an acute awareness of Jesus’ love and pursuit of every person. In order to demonstrate his love to all people, God put us in the places we live, in relationships with the people that we see regularly to shine as a beacon of hope and fullness. We are the light of the world, this is our beautiful call and responsibility. Let us step into it.