After about 6 weeks of Saturday morning donut eating with the kids in the neighborhood, and one check coming in the mail from an old MOPS friend, we bought 2, 8ft long picnic tables and enough pea gravel to cover the muddy spot under our 100 year old oak tree and moved our Saturday morning donuts to Sunday night and began serving a full dinner in the front yard.
Our handful of kids immediately grew to more than 40 people on any given Sunday night. The kids starting coming early and staying late. We put up a basketball goal and bought sidewalk chalk and jump ropes and took turns hurling the kids into the air on the tire swing. We circled up and introduced ourselves and named our week’s highs and lows. We learned a story from the life of Jesus. Some brought parents.
Our routine Sunday night dinner became a cause for celebration. It became a party that needed no RSVP. It became the place where kids who hated one another at school came and forgot what they were so angry about. Nobody wants to miss the only party they’re ever invited to because someone on the school bus picked on their shoes. Let’s face it, it’s hard to hate the person who makes space for you in the circle and it’s even hard to keep holding a grudge when you’re stuffing your face with cupcakes and processed cheese dip.
Over a few months, we became a patched up family of people who shared the same street, the same school, the same table, and the same church with no walls.
Those meals around the table became the place where grace came alive to our neighbors. When we sat to eat with one another, walls came down. We looked one another in the eye and chatted about life and school and Jesus because in the natural rhythm of eating and drinking the things of our hearts began to spill out.
Sharing the table with those closest to us turned our front yard into a place of belonging for all of us.
When I look back on almost every memorable moment of my life, I remember 2 things: The people I was with and the food that we ate. Within each of us, is a deep seeded desire to be seen, to be known, to belong. Shared meals around the table connect us to one another. We gather to be filled. We gather to celebrate life. We gather to deepen friendships. We gather to remind one another of who we are. We gather to break the bread and pass the wine and remember Jesus.
I’ve spent the bulk of this past year fleshing out this idea that the most sacred object in my home might just be my dinner table. I’ve poured over the book of Luke and studied the life of Jesus spent round the table and this is what I know:
Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost and Jesus did this by sharing the table with sinners.
Jesus ate and drank so often that his enemies accused him of being a drunk and a glutton- a friend of sinners. In the eyes of the Pharisees, Jesus was a wild party animal who ate to excess, drank to excess, and lounged around with the lowest of the low. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave. When Jesus showed up to the meal, he brought the party. He reclined himself at the table and stayed well into the evening, long after any upstanding person would have gone home.
Jesus delighted in sharing a meal with those whom he came to save.
In the life and ministry of Jesus, meals were a sign of his friendship with sinners. The table was where He poured Himself out in relationship. It was where He built community by being with. It was where he embodied the grace that He would die to give us.
He broke bread and drank wine and ushered in the coming kingdom at the table of sinners.
With every bite he ate, Jesus widened the chasm between the law and grace.
Meals with sinners was how Jesus lived out His mission and Jesus’ mission was to seek and save the lost.
And this is our model for how we are to do the same.
When we begin to see our neighborhoods as those places that God has strategically placed us, we begin to look at all our resources -our homes, our yards, the food in our pantries- and we start asking God how we can use the things He has given us for something bigger than ourselves.
But when we actually open our homes and begin to feed people, we embody the living Christ in a tangible way.
It’s how we live out the great Commandment. It’s how we live on mission. It’s how we bring the kingdom close, right where we live.
And y’all, it’s the best fun ever.
Who can you gather around your table this Christmas?