Human beings are the only animals that eat communally. We decorate our tables, call our families, present the meal with ornamental color, and use specific utensils for various elements of the meal. It looks more like a ceremony than a biological necessity and, in fact, it is. Meals are complex social events that function as tools for building community rather than simple nourishment for the individual. Put simply, meals accomplish specific things in the context of a community. (Mark Moore)
I get what Moore is saying. I grew up in a family of foodies and our table was all about community. There was always family, employees and friends around our table. When we ran out of space at the table people sat on countertops or stood in the door way. And the food counted. We grew our own food. Raised our own cattle, chickens and pigs. We canned in the summer & ate well in the winter. My mom made everything from scratch. It was normal to return from a day of sledding to find hot cross buns (from scratch) and hot chocolate with marshmallows on the table waiting. (Pic to left is my mom instilling table tradition into her grandson, Kyden)
I followed much of my mom’s example. (No, I didn’t raise my own animals.) Cooking like her almost killed me. But I wanted my children to have the experience I had around the table. So I cooked. A lot. And just like my upbringing we had everyone in to join us. The door was open. No need to ring the doorbell.
That’s why I’m surprised at myself for being shocked to find my college age boys living out our table tradition. I guess what’s throwing me is they are in college. When I was in college I didn’t know any guys who loved to cook, who had groups of people over for table time. Drinking beer & playing beer pong maybe but not foodies pulling up to the table.
Ever week my boys call asking for a recipe or cooking instructions or just to share what they cooked up for “family dinner” on Sunday night. Just this week I heard from both Hunter and Hampton. Here’s all we talked about.
Hunter -“Mom, I’m in the grocery store. Grandpa’s cucumber recipe, it was red onions, cukes and what else?”
Mom-“You need vinegar. No not red, apple vinegar.” A few minutes later, “Mom, you know that chopper you got Hampton for Christmas? Can you get me one of those. They’re awesome.”
Hampton- “Mom, can I make cheese and jalapeno bread in the machine?”1 hour later -“Mom it’s sinking in the middle. What do I do?”
Next day- “How did the bread turn out?” “Really good but I’m gonna try to perfect it.”
Couple days later- “Mom, where do you find dry milk in the grocery store? I’m gonna try to make pizza dough.”
Then later that evening I received the picture below via text later. Not bad huh?
Meals have always been complex social events. They give us inside information about each other. What food we like, who we invite, what the setting is about, type of conversation. It’s all telling. It was so in Jesus’ world too. Moore, explains in the social world of Jesus’ day meals had four basic functions:
• To support kinship – to create solidarity.
• To enforce boundaries – hierarchy, status, and gender – especially through seating arrangements.
• To perpetuate social values.
• To gain honor through hosting banquets or through clever discourse as a guest.
“Jesus’ open table fellowship was a strategy used to challenge social and religious exclusivism wherever it was accepted as normal or officially sanctioned” (Koenig, 20). Because he ate with all class of “sinners” he offended the sensibilities of the religious elite. He refused to perpetuate religious traditions about washing, fasting, and Sabbath regulations. This was more than a faux pas. This was an assault on a religious system that prioritized rules above people. And when invited by prominent teachers, Jesus often offended both the host and the guests by pointing out their misguided priorities. Moreover, he often honored some sinner who happened on the scene. He turned the tables of social rank upside down at these banquets. (Mark Moore)
Jesus subversively used meals as a tool for social reconstruction. What would it look like if we did too? The table. It’s more than nourishment, it builds community.
If you want to learn more about Jesus at the table join us for bible study in a winery.