How Meals Embody and Enact Our Mission

Note: During the month of August, I will be going back to previous SUMS Remix issues relating to hospitality in the home that have not been published here on the Wednesday Weekly Reader. Why? In these crazy times, we could all use a refresher in how to be a better neighbor. I’m also posting these to support an Auxano initiative during the month of August, Building Bridges to our Neighbors.


The heart of God’s purpose for humankind is relationships – first, with God Himself; then, with one another. Arguably, there is no better place to build relationships than at the table with good food and great conversation.

Len Sweet, in his book From Tablet to Table states it eloquently:

Remember God’s first command in the Bible? Eat.

Remember God’s last command in the Bible? Drink.

And everything in between is a table – a life-course meal on which is served the very bread of life and cup of salvation.

It’s time to bring back the table to our homes, to our churches, and to our neighborhoods and the world.

The table is a recurring biblical theme, one that our fast-paced, drive-through, Instant Pot culture finds unfamiliar.

What would happen if we brought back the table as a sacred object of furniture in every home, church, and community?

Are we truly hungry to accept Jesus’ invitation –  “Come and follow” – and to go wherever He leads, even if it means next door?

Especially if it means following Him next door!

What would it take for the table to return to the center of our family lives – and by extension, to those God has placed in our circle and situations?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – A Meal with Jesus: Discussing Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table by Tim Chester

The meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook.

Tim Chester brings to light God’s purposes in the seemingly ordinary act of sharing a meal―how this everyday experience is really an opportunity for grace, community, and mission. Chester challenges contemporary understandings of hospitality as he urges us to evaluate why and who we invite to our table. Learn how you can foster grace and bless others through the rich fare being served in A Meal with Jesus.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION 

Food matters. Meals matter. Meals are full of significance.

Food connects. It connects us with family. It turns strangers into friends. And it connects us with people around the world.

Our relationship with food is ambiguous. Television chefs have become celebrities and cookbooks regularly appear on bestseller lists. Yet we cook less than ever before. Americans spend over $50 billion on dieting each year – $50 billion to solve the problem of food gone wrong.

American Christians spend more on dieting than on world missions. We spend more on overconsumption than we do feeding the physically and spiritually hunger of the world.

We express who we want to be through food. Guess what? Jesus did too.

How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking.

This is how Luke describes Jesus’ mission strategy: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” (Luke 7:34)

Jesus’ mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table with some grilled fish, a loaf of bread, and a pitcher of wine.

Luke’s Gospel is full of stories of Jesus eating with people:

Meals as Enacted Grace: In Luke 5, Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners at the home of Levi.

Meals as Enacted Community: In Luke 7, Jesus is anointed at the home of Simon the Pharisee during a meal.

Meals as Enacted Hope: In Luke 9, Jesus feeds the five thousand.

Meals as Enacted Mission: In Luke 14, Jesus is at a meal when he urges people to invite the poor to their meals rather than their friends.

Meals as Enacted Salvation: In Luke 22, we have the account of the Last Supper.

Meals as Enacted Promise: In Luke 24, the risen Christ has a meal with two disciples in Emmaus, and then later eats fish with the disciples in Jerusalem.

So the meals of Jesus represent something bigger. They represent a new world, a new kingdom, a new outlook. But they give that new reality substance.

They represent friendship, community, and welcome.

Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus: Discussing Grace, Community, and Mission Around the Table

A NEXT STEP

Devote an extended period of time over several weeks to the Bible passages listed above. In your journal or digital notes, create separate pages for each of the passages.

As you spend time reading and praying through them, write down what God is revealing to you, not only in personal growth but also in practical application.

Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, and providing. Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that – we like to get things done.

However, meals force you to be people-oriented instead of task-oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way to build relationships, but it is number one on the list.

Grace, mission, and community are never enacted best through programs, but rather through the equality and acceptance experienced at the common table.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 103-3, released October 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

August Special: When you purchase a SUMS Remix annual subscription during the month of August, you will also receive a PDF containing all seven issues of SUMS Remix that have a “hospitality in the home” theme. The PDF will be emailed to you after purchase.

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

How to Practice the Three Actions of the Good Samaritan in Your Neighborhood

Note: During the month of August, I will be going back to previous SUMS Remix issues relating to hospitality in the home that have not been published here on the Wednesday Weekly Reader. Why? In these crazy times, we could all use a refresher in how to be a better neighbor. I’m also posting these to support an Auxano initiative during the month of August, Building Bridges to our Neighbors.


 

Author Reggie McNeal invites us to get off our ass (biblically speaking) with a focus on the Parable of the Good Samaritan:

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)

We’re living in a bizarre polarity of unprecedented connectedness and unparalleled isolation.

Many of us are – and have been – living, working and schooling from home, joining countless others in our cul-de-sacs or subdivision streets.

The Great Commission may carry you to the ends of the world, but it starts on your street. God has given us a perfect environment for demonstrating the gospel and advancing His mission, if only we would open our eyes to it. It’s that place you probably consider your personal and private fortress – your home. Hospitality is one of the simplest – and most exciting – ways to engage in God’s mission.

If we are ever going to join all our lives to God’s mission to change the world, we need to reclaim all of our ordinary pieces as a part of that gospel mission. We have to reject the notion that something has to be big or unusual to be significant. We will have to view the ordinariness of our lives as significant, and allow God to use our homes as a seed to be planted and grown, not something to be discarded or devalued.

We need to practice neighboring.

Just who is our neighbor? And, how can we serve our neighbors?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Next Door as it is in Heaven by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco

There was a time when neighbors knew each other’s names, when small children and the old and infirm alike had more than their families looking out for them. There was a time when our neighborhoods were our closest communities.

No more. Neighborhoods have become the place where nobody knows your name. Into this neighborhood crisis the words of Jesus still ring true: Second only to the command to love God is the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

In Next Door as It Is in Heaven, Lance Ford and Brad Brisco offer first principles and best practices to make our neighborhoods into places where compassion and care are once again part of the culture, where good news is once again more than words, and where the love of God can be once again rooted and established.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Practice the Three Actions of the Good Samaritan in Your Neighborhood

After the attention-getting quote by Reggie McNeal noted above, he continues:

I don’t know what business you are in (education, the social sector, for-profit enterprise, health care, etc.), but ultimately you want to be in the people business. Helping people is the best part of life! If you don’t discover this truth and act on it, not only will your “neighbors’’ needs go unmet, but you will never be whole.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a call to action, not just a great story.

If anyone should “neighbor” differently, it should be us. So let’s do it. Let us love our neighborhoods as ourselves.

As followers of Jesus, we can’t afford to miss the point in the parable usually named “The Good Samaritan.” We believe we would better understand Jesus’ point if, we called it “the parable of the good neighbor.” The Samaritan – the one who proved to be a real neighbor – demonstrates several important traits we can learn from.

Nearing – All three of the players in Jesus’ story “saw” the man who was in distress. All three of the guys were busy. They were on a journey. They had things to do, people to see. But there was a difference in the three. Two people saw and went on. One person saw and went to.

It’s so much easier to just “pass over to the other side.” What we thought we saw or heard may not be the case. It could just be our imagination. That conversation I overheard between one of my kids and her playmate from down the street may have sounded like her family is struggling with finances, but I may have misunderstood. Then again, little Carly does seem to eagerly accept every offer for a chance or to stay for dinner.

I will never know the answer unless, like the Good Samaritan, I go to the person.

Caring – The real neighbor in Jesus’ story begins to attend to the wounds he discovers. Not only does he offer his own immediate resources, he seeks the assistance of others nearby. The Samaritan needed to continue his journey. But he didn’t just leave the man behind. He asked the innkeeper to take care of the fallen man.

Think about that. Our aim must be higher than just to be a good neighbor ourselves. The goal is to create a neighborhood of good neighbors whereby our collective gifts, talents, resources, and caring heart of many neighbors join forces when needs arise.

Sharing – Finally, look back and see what this neighboring example set in motion. Before we get the parable of the real neighbor, we get the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Heart. Soul. Strength. Mind.

Jesus is talking about our passion and being. What do you care deeply about? What do you love to do? What are you skilled at and knowledgeable about? Jesus says, “Love God with all of that!” And then he says, “Make it tangible by loving your neighbor as yourself.”

Lance Ford and Brad Brisco, Next Door as it is in Heaven

A NEXT STEP

For our friends, it’s easy for us to share what we have and know. But Jesus takes it to an entirely different level. He defines real neighbors as those who are willing to do so with strangers – and not just strangers because they’ve never met.

Authors Lance Ford and Brad Brisco provide some ideas for reflection and preparation in practicing the three actions of the Good Samaritan as noted above. Set aside some quiet time this week and follow the suggestions below.

  1. Immerse. Slowly read the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 from at least five different Bible versions in order to hear differences in translations.
  2. Recognize your resources. Reflect on your own heart, soul, strength, and mind. Make a list of what you know and what you possess. What are you passionate about? Begin making a list that will help you to serve others and provide an example for your neighbors as they consider their own resources.
  3. Consider others. Think about your neighbors. Who might be interested in joining you in making your neighborhood the best it has ever been?
  4. Pray. Begin praying for your neighborhood each day, that it becomes a place that experiences the peace and blessings of the Lord and the revelation of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 88-1, released March 2018


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

August Special: When you purchase a SUMS Remix annual subscription during the month of August, you will also receive a PDF containing all seven issues of SUMS Remix that have a “hospitality in the home” theme. The PDF will be emailed to you after purchase.

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<