Monday, November 20, 2006

Food and Friendship

Thanksgiving is coming! It's my favorite holiday of the year. Every year we have a gaggle of people come to our home for Thanksgiving dinner and then even more show up for dessert. There are few things that I enjoy more in life than having a house filled with friends and good food. There is something indescribable that happens when we sit around the table and share food. There is an ancient middle eastern tradition that when a person is invited to another's home for dinner the first thing that is served is sweets. (I must be middle eastern at heart because I always want dessert before dinner:-) The subtext to this action is that if we share in sweet food then we will share in sweet conversation. I like this idea. In the bible so much seems to happen around food. It almost begins and ends with it. YHWH's command to Adam and Eve was that they could eat of anything in the garden except the one tree. It was improper eating that lead to the fall. In God's ability to redeem all things he takes that which lead to the fall and redeemed it as that around which the inauguration of heaven revolves around: the marriage feast of the lamb.
In Jesus' time table fellowship had been corrupted, it was a place of dividing people by class. Whether it be the clean/unclean divide: the elite v. sinners or the various classes in Israel's society or the Jew/Gentile divide table fellowship became a place of division. Jesus' approach was not to do away with it or even speak against, but rather he redeemed it through how he practiced it. He ate with everyone, the high and the lowly. In doing such a simple thing he challenged a core aspect of Israel's society. In this simple act he embodied the Kingdom. For it was Jesus who said that the first shall be the last and that the one who wants to be the leader must be the servant of all.
The unfortunate truth today is that Thanksgiving can be a time where the weakness of families come to the fore. Families that are divided throughout the year due to unresolved conflicts come together on Thanksgiving and then the fireworks start to fly. Instead of being a time of unifying families, Thanksgiving can be a time of reaffirming the divisions that lay within.
As we look forward to Thursday and the rest of the holiday season (yes, I am aware that even Walmart is again calling it the Christmas season) let us see how it is that we can redeem the act of these gatherings around food by the way that we practice them.

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