Have you ever realised that Jesus liked his food.
He enjoyed a good meal.
He liked a good meal so much that he was accused of being a glutton
and a drunkard.
In one of the gospels, Luke, we have eight dinner scenes.
The first is the banquet Jesus shares at Levi’s house.
The second is the dinner he has at Simon the Pharisee’s house,
during which a woman interrupts to wash is feet.
The third is a meal in the wilderness with over five thousand.
The fourth is another meal with a Pharisee
where Jesus doesn’t wash his hands.
And the fifth is yet another dinner with another Pharisee,
a prominent one we’re told
where Jesus heals a man with dropsy.
The sixth is when Jesus has tea with Zacchaeus.
The seventh meal, the climatic meal, is the one Jesus shares with his disciples in
an upper room that we call the last supper.
And then there is one more sit down meal.
Its at Emmaus
when two disciples ask him, not knowing who he was, to stay for dinner.
So much of Jesus’ life, his ministry,
happens round a table, eating with people.
Each of these meals are lessons in about living in the kingdom.
And the stories he tells, also feature food
like when the prodigal son returns the father’s response is ‘let’s feast!’;
or when a man throws a great banquet he ends up inviting those in the street.
I want to ask then what difference does Jesus make to how we eat,
what are the connections between food and faith.
Eating is such an everyday thing,
we don’t think about it much.
We might think I wonder what to eat today,
but beyond that we probably don’t go much further.
We have lost the connection between eating and God.
If you go back to Genesis 1,
we get more detail about the vegetation – about food than almost
Genesis makes the link between God and food clear. [i]
We are told that there is food enough for all.
Worship for Israel was connected to the harvest.
The deep connection between eating and agriculture and God
was one that was everything
in a way that it is not for us.
The mystery of food was about the providence of God
and this led people to prayer and praise.
We’ve lost the mystery about the food we eat,
to the extent that often we have no idea what we’re eating.
The difference Jesus makes to eating
is to reconnect eating with worship and prayer.
In the gospel Jesus models that eating and discipleship go hand in hand.
Eating can be a spiritual exercise:
As the Psalmist sings: ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’
Eating matters so much that the best thing that Jesus can give his disciples
is a meal, a meal that is to be shared over and over again,
so that it might shape every meal
and that we might be surrounded by the mystery of
the One who gives – who gives in creation
and who gives himself for the new creation.
If you want to follow me,
If you want to understand who I am
and what my life means
come and sit round my table and eat.
We learn what discipleship means by eating round a table
where bread is broken and wine is poured.
Here at this table we learn how to eat
at every other table.
The Eucharist or Communion
is the Christian meal par excellence
Its an invitation to eat at God’s table
as God’s friends,
in anticipation of the great feast we will one day all share.
And if this eating causes us to look forward,
Its also leads us to see every meal as eucharistic.
Eucharist means thanksgiving.
Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it
And if every meal is a eucharistic
we are saying every meal is one in which are thankful.
Every time we eat we are brought into a relationship
with farmers and cooks and the land and with God,
the Great Giver, the Lord of the Harvest. [ii]
Every time we eat there is an opportunity to celebrate and honour these
The act of saying grace is a recognition that what we eat
comes from the one who creates and gives.
We live by the grace of God.
We beseech the blessing of God in his provision of daily bread.
The act of saying grace can also remind us of those who
have grown and prepared the food that finds its way to our kitchens
and onto our plates.
We beseech the blessing of God on the farmers and milkers, the grocers and
butchers, the bakers and chefs.
The acting of saying grace also acknowledges those we are eating with:
We eat as family, as friends, as church,
We eat amongst strangers and neighbours
and in Communion we eat as poor and rich,
old and young, black and white, Leavers and Remainers.
And in this meal, in the act of grace,
we say it is good you are here,
you are welcome as I am welcome.
If you’re not in the habit of saying grace, start today.
And so if the first way Christ makes a difference to our eating
is the act of saying of grace, of speaking a blessing
to renew our relationship to God, and land, and the production line from field to plate.
The second way Christ makes a difference to our eating
is in the act of sharing bread.
Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them
To share bread at this table
is to say everyone has a place at this table.
To share bread at this table
calls us to see the person next to you as wanted by God. [iii]
God wants their company as well as yours.
Eating at this table changes the way we see each other.
One challenge here then is to ensure that no one eats alone
all the time,
that we ensure we all share a table with others at some point during the week.
For eating with others is not often a silent affair,
it's the point where story telling happens,
at the Lord’s supper we tell the story of Christ,
and so we begin to see at other tables how our stories are woven into his.
Eating with others is where bonds are made,
within a family or a community, where new threads of fellowship are found.
I dream of a church that has learned the habit of invitation and hospitality,
where we regularly ensure there is enough food for one more person
to join the table,
not just on a Sunday morning.
I wonder what might grow in this church
if we each made the commitment to share one meal a week
with one person or more who don’t already live in our home.
That’s one way eating is an act of discipleship.
This kind of eating happens when we remember Jesus in communion,
when we open ourselves ‘to draw near enough to Christ that
our thinking and feelings are transformed.’ [iv]
To sit at the Lord’s Table is to allow the gospel to work in you,
to discover a new pattern to eating,
to encounter the good news of sharing food.
But sharing bread goes further than this,
because it reminds us that eating with Jesus is a justice issue.
That the bread we share at this table
calls us to share bread with those without enough.
When I was hungry you gave me something to eat
Eating as disciples is about not only the people who are present at your table,
but those hidden.
At every Communion there is bread left over,
just as at the feeding of the 5,000.
It is a reminder that gospel challenges the myth of scarcity
that there isn’t enough,
and say with Christ we are given everything we need and more.
God gifts are abundant,
God’s creation is blessed,
and so we are called to share that abundance with all.
So to eat at this table,
is to challenge how we eat at our table at home.
I wonder what would it mean for us to eat justly at home?
A first step might be to not be ignorant of what we eat,
but to pay attention to where our food comes from.
This might cause us to adapt where possible our choices in the food we buy.
Other steps might be to consider eating less meat, [v]
or giving to our Foodbank,
or growing our own food,
or learning how to cook new meals.
It might mean as a church we host a meal with an open table.
To eat justly is then an act of imagination,
to pray that God’s Spirit might lead us to new habits
of blessing and generosity
that reflect God’s kingdom.
In all of this we seek to see that every meal we eat is a potential holy meal,
a meal graced by God’s provision
and the presence of Jesus.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks,
broke it and began to give it to them.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
So go, go and eat,
eat with thankfulness,
eat with new people round your table,
eat with justice and mercy,
eat in anticipation of the great banquet
at which we will one day be God’s honoured guests and friends.
[i] I owe this point to Ellen Davis, ‘Being a Creature Means You Eat’ in Preaching the Luminous Word (2016).
[ii] This section was helped by Norman Wirzba in Making Peace with the Land (2012).
[iii] This thought is from Rowan Williams, Being Christian (2014).
[iv] Norman Wirzba, Making Peace with the Land.
[v] On this see the articles by John Barclay, Tim Gorringe and David Grumett in the Expository Times (2010, 2011).