Words By Andrea Nwabuike
When I was in undergrad, I lived in a cozy house with five young women, all of whom loved Jesus and food. Though we started out as strangers, these two loves held us together. We created our own unique culture and community around the kitchen island. Sundays after church often involved trips to the grocery store, perusing the shelves for budget-friendly snacks. Friday night student fellowship was often followed by a quick stop at Wendy’s. Bad weather meant funnel cake and holidays were marked by an eclectic buffet of homemade delicacies.
Some might judge our food adventures as an exercise in gluttony, but our mealtimes were about more than eating. Sitting down to a meal forced us to step out of the busyness of student life and be present with each other. We would debrief the challenges and highlights of our day. We discussed our goals, hopes, fears, and disappointments. We prayed for each other. At the table we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and transparent. These meals gave us glimpses into the fullness and beauty of Christian fellowship.
Food is a unique cultural tool. It has the power to communicate a collective sense of identity that can be shared and experienced. Recipes passed down from one generation to another are their own genealogies. Flavours trigger memories as mealtimes become opportunities for storytelling. It is no wonder that food plays an integral role in the family of God.
Like my housemates, the people of Israel were bound, in part, by food. God commanded the people of Israel to remember his mercy and faithfulness in delivering them from the land of Egypt by observing a Passover meal (Exodus 12). Putting aside work and all other distractions, the Israelites would sit together, encouraging and edifying each other in the re-telling of their story. The elements of the meal were the tools for their reflection, drawing the Israelites to remember their dependence on God.
In the hours before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus sat down with his disciples to partake in this sacred meal, but this time he gave new meaning to the elements of the meal. Jesus instituted the bread and wine as reminders of his own flesh and blood, freely given for the deliverance of his people from the bondage of sin. Just as God had commanded the Israelites, Jesus instructed his followers to partake of the meal regularly and in remembrance of him.
Unlike any other invitation to fellowship, the communion table enables us to interact tangibly with the body and blood of Christ. The complete work of Christ becomes real as we partake of the elements of the meal. We remember the faithfulness of God in delivering us from our sin and look forward to the promise of glory laid before us. When we partake in the bread and wine, we remind ourselves of the God who has called us and identify ourselves as joint heirs with Christ. The meal serves as a vehicle for the family of God to commune with Him and each other.
Although the communion table holds a sacred role in the family of God, any meal shared among brothers and sisters in Christ is an opportunity for us to receive the gift of Christian fellowship. Like the communion table, sharing a meal connects us by giving us a common experience. It enables us to serve one another and to be served. Regardless of what may be on our table, it is a moment to come together in gratitude and worship.