by: Samuel Smith
cover image by @brenton_clarke
In the first post of this series we briefly looked at how each of us are wired with a natural desire for a people, a place and a purpose. We saw how these desires have been broken and now, through belief in Jesus, they are being restored by a good God. Over the next two posts we are going to examine the inward and outward implications that flow out of God’s restoration.
Big question: How can we begin to join God in the renewal of all things? For example, since Jesus is in the business of restoring relationships, how can we begin to join him in creating spaces for true community? As you are contemplating tangible ways to create space, allow me to share my go-to answer. There are many spaces for us to begin joining God in the renewal of all things, but If I HAD to pick one place for true community to be formed it would be the table.
The table is a place for intimacy. That may sound strange, but it’s true. In every culture throughout the world it is at the table where friendships are formed, families are strengthened, deals are made, trust is built, and outsiders are welcomed. There’s something about gathering around food and drink to laugh, listen, share stories, make memories that truly brings people together. Author Leonard Sweet once said, “The table is where community is found and identity is formed.” Sweet is saying that our very identity (our desire for purpose) and our desire for a people (for community, to be known) is found at a place called the table. It sounds so simple doesn’t it?
One might think that something as big as finding purpose or creating community would be much more complex than eating a meal with others. But that’s not the case. Meaningful community can begin the moment you invite someone over for dinner. For it is at the table where strangers become family, enemies become friends, and everyone walks away feeling more human, more alive, more accepted, and more loved. For us who follow Jesus, this should sound familiar — this posture of inviting someone to the table to create true community is what our God is all about.
Throughout the story of God we see a theme emerge around food, drink and the table. The Story of God starts in a Garden where God dwells with humanity in perfect harmony where he gave them all good things to eat (Genesis 2:8-9). The story ends in a Garden City where God once again dwells with humanity and where those who are thirsty are welcomed and satisfied (Revelation 21:6, 22:17). Between those two scriptures there are countless analogies, metaphors and stories built around this concept, but no one embraces the meaning of the Table more than Jesus. The gospel of Luke says that Jesus came eating and drinking (Luke 7:34), and did he ever! His first miracle was turning water to wine at a wedding party. He ate countless meals with sinners and religious folks alike. Take the time to read through the four gospels and you’ll be taken back by how often food, drink, and meals provide the context for some of the most significant moments in human history. None of these moments is more sacred than the meal Jesus gave us to remember him — it is called communion, and when we partake of it we remember his promise that one day we will eat and drink with him once again in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:14-23).
If you only remember one thing, remember this — Meals are meaningful. Jesus invites us — the lost, the lonely, and the least — to his table. True community happens when we remember this beautiful truth, and respond by hosting dinner parties with a purpose.
So…who needs to be offered a seat at your table? Invite them in — and remember the God that did the same for you.
Sam Smith (@samindecapolis) grew up on the East Coast, is a husband to Astaire, father of five, pastor/network leader for 10 years in downtown Chicago, co-founder of Folklore, Pastor of Missional Communities at Reach Church, a resident of Seattle, WA, and the West Coast Director for the Table Network.