When it comes to traditions inside of a church there is no shortage. From weekly meetings, missions conferences, choirs on holidays, to church potlucks every church has rhythms of life that become normal. A while ago I was pastoring at an established church and decided to start having people over my house for meals and a time to just hang out and talk about life. Since then I have had hundreds of meals like this and have discovered some great truths about eating meals together.
1. Sharing a meal can make relationships more 'normal'.
Many people who have grown up and around church have experienced surface level relationships that just see each other weekly or bi-weekly in a formal environment. Yet, if relationships are to be more fully enjoyed they need to move from formal relationships to normal relationships.
2. Sharing meals can encourage open lives vs. closed lives.
When relationships start to move into the 'normal' zone we start not being able to hide our true selves. This can be both life giving and terrifying. Most church cultures seem to encourage a pious attitude from it congregants. This causes many people to play the part of a happy put together person because anything less would be taken as unspiritual. The reality of the church is that it should exist more like a hospital (where people come with problems) than a museum (where people go to look at polished objects). Meals can encourage these open lives and so encourage people to live lives that help each other, rather than keep their distance.
3. Jesus loved to eat meals with people.
Many people think of Jesus as the miracle working teacher and yet forget that much of his ministry happened around food. Think about a few situations.
Jesus' first miracle was at a wedding feast.
Jesus asked if Zacheous (little man in a tree) would have him over for a meal.
Jesus fed 5,000 people a meal.
Jesus had a meal with his opponents and a women broke a perfume jar over his feet.
Jesus had a meal with his disciples the night he was betrayed. This meal is often referred to as the last supper and is to be symbolically celebrated to remember Jesus' death and sacrifice for sin.
Lastly we are encouraged through scripture that those who have believed in Jesus and been forgiven for their sins will join God in what is commonly referred to as the marriage supper of the lamb. This amazing meal will be served to Christians by God himself when he ushers us into eternity.
Meals are important to God because people are important to God. We'll have a lot of meals to eat before we die so lets share some of them together.