I have been reading A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester. I have been so blessed by this book. I haven't finished it yet, but so far I highly recommend it. It has challenged me in many ways - but today I have been thinking about one tiny little point that Mr. Chester has made. I want to focus on just a few lines:
"Now television shows and cookbooks sell the idea of hospitality back to us as they encourage us to remake hospitality in the image of restaurant cuisine. Sharing a family meal has been replaced by the fancy dinner party... Hospitality has become performance art, and we've lost the creation of intimacy around a meal."
That was a convicting statement. There is an ever present temptation to shift the focus of the meal from community to performance - and it is a temptation we, as the church, should resist. Tons of time and energy (and blog space) has been dedicated to presenting an impressive meal or table setting. When in reality we as believers are called to be hospitable - and often times that means serving something simple, warm, filling and inviting. It is actually freeing to intentionally serve something simple and inviting! How sad would it be if I slaved to impress my neighbor with my gourmet table only to make them feel inferior or intimidated by the meal that I am serving. I want to communicate that yes, I have worked hard to provide a good meal for you, but I am more interested in you and your needs and your company than in being impressive.
Jesus ate many, many meals and the guests were always more important than the meal. My friend Melissa told me recently about someone who invited her family over for dinner and it was soup and bread. The simplest of meals - but it was one of the most refreshing, relaxing, and entirely blessing-filled meals that she and her husband experienced in a long time. It was because the hosts cared more about them than the food - and she felt that and gloried in it.
One of the most beautiful things you can do to connect with friends and neighbors is invite them to a meal that you are serving your family - and that is different from inviting them to a meal prepared especially for them. It is including them in your daily life, including them in your home. How much easier it is to invite people to a meal that you are already preparing than to have to wait until you have the time, energy, and budget to provide them with a impressive display of your skills and food knowledge! Go ahead - invite them. Your friends and neighbors need to be seated at your table - and they don't care what you feed them, they just want to hear what makes you different! Share a meal and share Jesus.