Resonate Edition 29 - Page 13

The meal could be an elaborate dinner party or it could be breakfast or even just coffee and a donut. Just sit across a table from three people this week and… talk. The table is the great equaliser in relationships. When we eat together, we discover the inherent humanity of all people. We share stories. And hopes. And fears. And disappointments. People open up to each other. And we can open up to them to share the same things, including our faith in Jesus. As Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford write: “Sharing meals together on a regular basis is one of the most sacred practices we can engage in as believers. Missional hospitality is a tremendous opportunity to extend the Kingdom of God. We can literally eat our way into the Kingdom of God! If every Christian household regularly invited a stranger or a poor person into their home for a meal once a week, we would literally change the world by eating!” ii I agree. Of course, inviting well- mannered Christian folks into your home is easy. But what about inviting unbelievers or the poor to our table? What’s more, what if they reciprocate our hospitality and invite us to their home? Would our presence at their table imply that we affirm all their values? Ben Meyer addresses this in the example of Jesus himself. After explaining that in Jesus’ time a person wouldn’t eat with someone of different social standing, and certainly never with someone of a different religion (i.e. Jews eating at the table of Gentiles), he tells us that Jesus turned this on its head: “… the act of Jesus was to reverse this structure: communion first, conversion second. His table fellowship with sinners implied no acquiescence in their sins, for the gratuity of the reign of God cancelled none of its demands. But in a world in which sinners stood ineluctably condemned, Jesus’ openness to them was irresistible. Contact triggered repentance; conversion flowered from communion. In the tense little world of ancient Palestine, where religious meanings were the warp and woof of the social order, this was a potent phenomenon.” iii Conversion flowered from communion. What a beautiful expression. We see it in Jesus’ attendance at a meal at the home of the tax collector Zacchaeus. iv His communion with the sinful tax collector led to repentance and conversion. Likewise, we should be as prepared to eat with sinners as a habitual missional practice. Initially, all I’m asking is that you invite three people to share your table, at least one of whom isn’t a churchgoer. But what you’ll find happening is that people will reciprocate your hospitality. You’ll start getting return invitations. And when that happens you’ve got serious missional traction. Don’t judge the lifestyles or eating (or drinking) habits of your host. See the opportunity as a goldmine for missional relationship building. Let communion precede conversion. i 1 Cor. 11:17-34 ii  lan Hirsch & Lance Ford, Right Here, Right Now A (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010) p. 203 iii  en F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus, (London: SCM, B 1979) p. 161. iv Luke 19:1-10 Global Interaction team members share what the ‘Eat’ missional habit looks like for them: Rob in Cambodia Kevin in Central Asia Petina in Thailand Since we arrived, we have looked for opportunities to build relationships with local Khmer people. Enjoying a morning coffee has been a routine for many years, so I was pleased to find a coffee cart in our street that served a very nice coffee with locally roasted beans. While my wife Deb doesn’t like coffee, she is a midwife and has enjoyed following the progress of the coffee cart lady’s pregnancy. Being welcomed into the lives of the coffee cart family gives us a sense that God is involved in these interactions. I have befriended a local married couple with a baby daughter. On occasion I have invited them to my apartment and cooked for them. It has been so easy to talk over a meal together. They have often invited me to go on outings in their car. One day my new ‘mate’ (as he calls me) informed me that his aunt had been admitted to hospital and was unlikely to recover from a serious illness. I told him I would pray for healing in the name of Jesus. Days later he excitedly told me that the doctors were amazed at her recovery and she had been discharged from hospital! This incident has galvanised our friendship and our catch-ups are more frequent. While sitting and eating together at our favourite café, complete with sleeping infant in tow, he asks questions about being a follower of Jesus and his wife has also expressed interest in knowing more! I have an intentional habit of visiting my local café at least once a week. It’s a rustic open space with no walls, a tin roof, wooden benches and a constantly changing menu – whatever the owner chooses to sell that week. Fried banana chips, Thai green tea, whole coconuts, bananas or meatballs on sticks (not like the frozen Ikea variety). It’s in a central point to town, it transforms into part of the market precinct each Monday and is a popular place for people to meet. I sit and eat with the Thai villagers, hearing about everything that is going on in the community and I often meet new people there. These meals together are an important way to be part of my community and enter into the lives of those I am serving among – a key part of a mission-centred life! resonate · issue 29 · page 13