The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing. Psalm 145:15-16
Food serves manifold purposes, doesn’t it? As a health enthusiast I often ponder the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the food we eat. As common sense would have it, this is what I’ve come up with: Real food nourishes, sustains, it delights us and brings people, most especially our families, together.
Awhile back, host Kristi Leckband wrote a beautiful post found here. In a nutshell, she recounts how her family dynamics around the dinner table were more sullen and silent at times of sorrow over dashed adoption efforts. And now, the dinner conversation jags lively and joyful as they delight in their new daughter adopted from China.
From this post I began to think about the dinner table. It’s compelling how gathering around it with family in either joy and sorrow is so necessary. It strengthens us in that unit. While the food is often the impetus for the gathering, the dinner table can be the weigh station where rest, conversational refreshment and, perhaps, just silent presence is needed.
This certainly has spiritual implications within our church families, too. What about that first Maundy Thursday? Jesus and his disciples are gathered in the upper room. This was one of many occasions in which they’d dined together. While the bible doesn’t say, I’m not so sure laughter, unless it was nervous or out of ignorance, set the tone that particular night. No. That night was focused on just being in each other’s presence and with their Master. In fact, Jesus is doing most of the talking and doing. In spite of the feelings and thoughts around the room about the impending event, food is the one of the reasons they gather. But Jesus is nourishing his disciples on a new spiritual plane; uniting them to Him through bread and wine, reminding them they are forgiven through what He is about to do on the cross.
This must have been a terrifying “church family night.” But they were reminded of who they were in relation to Christ and each other. They gathered around that table to receive food, physical and spiritual, to nourish, sustain and bring them together.
Think back to your childhoods. Hopefully yours are filled with comforting and joyous memories. Did our families turn us away from the table if we had a heavy or anxious heart? Did they require us to have a contrived zeal to be there? No. Simply being born or adopted into our families granted us a seat. Sure, we might have had to munch on pureed veggies, small and soft foods until our bellies could digest the more solid stuff on the table. We also (for the most part) learned manners there, too. This private order of service is all part of what it means to grow into our families.
So too, our Lord’s Table does not turn away heavy hearts or require pietistic zeal. Simply being God’s child grants us a seat. Yes, there may be a time in which the Word and baptism are the primary sustenances until a proper examination of communion is confessed. But this is all part of the gifts of learning what it means to grow in God’s church. Jesus knew the right time to teach and administer this holy meal to his disciples, just as we with our pastors are examined in order that we may come to the Lord’s table to receive Christ’s body and blood at the right time, too.
Food conjures up so many thoughts in our minds …the things we crave, what makes us feel good and how we share it with others. How interesting that God uses food and is the food for the strengthening of our faith. This faith craves and confesses Christ crucified for our sins. It desires to be united to Him and to share it with others. And with the substances we see before us: a pastor, the Word, bread and wine, Jesus is the Host, Servant and Meal of this fine dining reality. Blessed Maundy Thursday as we remember our Lord’s death until He comes.