My mother in law loved to feed people. On a Sunday, after the family had eaten lunch you would go in to her kitchen to help with the washing up and there, lined up on the work surface would be various meals left over, plated up. ‘That one’s for Edna down the road and that one’s for old Mr Burns,’ she would say if you looked enquiringly at the row of plates. Everyone was fed; neighbours, relatives, people serving the community. Each week she would be up at the crack of dawn making bacon butties for the Bin Men. Pat had a finely tuned sense of hospitality. She knew that something important happened when people shared a meal.
Meals bring people together…From confidences shared over a simple cup of tea to elaborate dinners celebrating the important landmarks of our lives …. Christening parties, birthdays, weddings, funeral wakes; meals form community, they are at the heart of our hospitality, they are sacramental encounters …. In sharing the basic necessities of life we realise afresh our common humanity. So, it’s no surprise that we find meals playing an important part in Jesus’s ministry whether that be providing a breakfast picnic on the beach for his friends, organising an impromptu feeding of a surprisingly large group of people on a mountain side, or accepting an invitation to take tea with the local dignitary and the local ne’er do well. Jesus lived out his message of radical welcome and hospitality. He gave time to people, all sorts of people, and in the conversation that flowed back and forth across the table, Jesus made friendships, deepened and strengthened community. So what messages might we learn from the example he sets us?
We learn the importance of making time for each other. Relationships are built and strengthened as we give our attention to one another. We learn that we all have needs, needs for the basics like food but also for friendship, for connection with others, or belonging to something bigger. We also realise that at the heart of relationship is reciprocity, we each have something to give and to receive; we are bound together by these chords of human kindness.
This Lent we are going to be meeting each week to reflect on the stories of those who were at table with Jesus. Do consider coming along so together we can continue to establish friendships and strengthen our community. May we learn together how we can continue to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, being hospitable to those around us, standing alongside those who are in need, breaking down barriers of difference. So, do come and find a place at the table.