Many of the epochal events in scripture take place around the dinner table. The Lord confirms to the aged Abraham and Sarah that they will become the parents of a miracle child at a banquet in the desert oasis of Mamre. The Hebrew slaves in Egypt gathered at a solemn evening meal, each around their own family table, before the power of God literally hurled them out of Egypt towards freedom (Exodus 12). On the night of his betrayal, Jesus illustrates for his uncomprehending disciples the saving mystery of his approaching death at a Passover meal (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22). After the horrible trauma of his crucifixion, the risen Jesus reveals himself to two of his grieving followers at an evening meal in the village of Emmaus (Luke 24).
In our culture of fragmented families and fast food, we have lost contact with the magic of the dinner table, where our spirits are nourished by togetherness and conversation even as our physical bodies are nourished by the food on the table. But Jesus and his contemporaries honored the dinner table. Jesus accepted invitations from skeptical scribes and Pharisees and was not shy about inviting himself to dinner, as in the case of the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19).
Similarly, table fellowship has been central to the life of First Baptist Church, whether it has been Wednesday nights at the table prepared by Chef Mary and her crew, the drop-in tables offered to our downtown neighbors on Mondays and Thursdays, or our annual all-church picnics and Sunday School class dinners.
Given the biblical tradition, it is not surprising that Jesus describes the Kingdom of God through the imagery of the dinner table. “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many”, he says (Luke 14:16). The invitees were all too busy to come. One had new real estate investments he needed to monitor, another a new vehicle he needed to try out, and yet another was going on a honeymoon – a good excuse if there ever was one. Yet the Master of the Feast was angry, and rescinding the invitations to those who presumed themselves entitled to favored status, he said to his servant, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled and the lame” (Luke 14:21). Oh, that we may never be so busy and self-important that we pass up God’s banquet invitation, for the sake of goods and titles and achievements that pass away!
The Wednesday after Labor Day, we will resume our weekly Wednesday evening dinners. Around the tables we’ll enjoy that fellowship which anticipates the perfect koinonia of God’s everlasting Kingdom, and after dinner we’ll continue the evening with Bible study and, later, the first autumn practice of the Temple Choir. Catch a bit of heavenly cuisine and conversation, and make it a habit. You will be blessed!
—Dr. David L. Wheeler