Sunday, August 7, 2011

Your Meal Doesn't Have to Be Perfect - Invite Them Anyway!

I love to cook. But it isn't really the act of cooking that motivates me. It is the connecting with people that motivates me. I love having people sitting around my table talking and relaxing and sharing about life. I have found that if you don't feed your guests they aren't as comfortable doing all of those things. So - I learned to cook. I also learned because my mom is the same way. She is a great cook, but she is more than that - she is hospitable. Both of my parents are. They are welcoming and put people at ease around their table. You can talk freely and comfortably while you are there. The food was always amazing - but simple.

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 Sharing a family meal has been replaced by the fancy dinner party...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.


Julia said...

Since having the twins, I have learned this in spades. I LOVE to cook, and having worked at a restaurant on The Hill during grad school, I became quite the foodie. I'm pretty sure that's why Brad married me :)

When we had people over, I would often fix these elaborate meals--with courses. I'd spend hours preparing it, but the sad part was, I was spending so much time running around the kitchen, working on the food's presentation (it all eats the same, right?) that I didn't stop to sit and fellowship. Great meal, and it looked pretty, but I was missing the whole point of hospitality.

Now, with the girls, I just don't have time to run to Whole Foods to find that exotic cheese a recipe calls for. Nor do we have the money to spend on such delicious frivolity. We entertained some friends recently, and we had calzones. I had dough and fillings, but everyone had to prepare their own. You know something---it was good food, and we had a great time of fellowship! Better than all those silly, fancy feasts I'd slaved over before.

Also, (sorry I'm writing a book here) there's a blog called The Reluctant Entertainer I love Sandy, she actually wrote a book by the same title. She once mentioned that most of the time people invite family, people from church, and friends over for dinner. She encourages her readers to reach out to neighbors. How sad that often, we don't know our neighbors at all! We fellowship with people we know well, yet we don't even know the people she share a sideyard with!

You're right, we need to be Jesus to them when we entertain; with a simple unintimidating meal, and good conversation.

Sarah Guild said...

Love these thoughts!

Kristy said...

you are teaching me good things to know :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts...I enjoy them!