Eating Together

 8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. (1 Peter 4:9-9, The Living Bible)

Family and friends sitting at a dining table

A Guest Post by Rev. Greg Oberg

I first got to know Greg when we served together on a “Walk to Emmaus” around 2006 in the Houston Bay Area Emmaus community. We were serving in the same district. Greg was the associate pastor at Bay Harbor United Methodist Church in League City, Texas. I was serving at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in nearby Santa Fe, Texas. Greg moved on to Brazoria UMC in Brazoria, Texas. Around the same time (I don’t remember who moved first) I went to Freeport Texas. If my memory is right Greg was in Brazoria for four years and moved on to serve as campus minister at my alma mater, Sam Houston State University at Huntsville, Texas where he has done a great job for eight years. In my opinion, campus ministry is the most important ministry around.

One of the many things we have all sacrificed is the ability eat together with others beyond our immediate families. I really miss eating together with others. One of the many projects that I have been doing to stay busy is to sort through 17,000  pictures we have collected for the past 8 years of our campus ministry. I have been purging lots of redundancy, like instead of having 10 Halloween Group pictures, we’re just going to keep the best one and call it good. 

Something I have seen a lot of is us eating together well over the years. We have eaten well as a Wesley Foundation: Welcome Week food, Finals Food, Christmas ham, Super Bowl party burgers and hotdogs, Thanksgiving pot luck, going to Olive Garden for our End of Year Event, Board Game Nights at the parsonage, eating Chicken Express trays for Halloween party, and all the Wednesday night meals donated by churches and Sunday Schools. We have done a lot of eating together and that is beautiful. And we will have more of that starting August 19. One powerful element of our ministry has been eating together. 

Did you know that before Coronavirus hit, this was becoming tougher in our culture and our churches? Research has been showing us that families spend less time eating together than in previous decades. How well is your family eating together these days? Maybe better, maybe not. I have to admit, my family still doesn’t eat together every night and that’s OK, as long as there are nights in which we do. I have noticed that before Coronavirus hit, it was becoming more and more rare for people to invite others for dinner in their own homes. I have noticed a significant difference in churches that eat together and those that don’t. Do you know that most of our Methodist churches never actually eat together? Think about that. Several I have known do potlucks well. One church we connect with, Onalaska UMC, during the academic year they will eat together every week. Others will do it once a month. Others will do it on the 5th Sunday. And many never eat together at all. That’s another reason small churches love it when we do our baked potato fundraisers with them, we are helping them to eat together and feel closer together, and they didn’t have to make the meal that time. Everybody wins!

There’s something Biblical about eating together, and how that brings people together in intimate ways, no matter what the culture is, what the language is, what century they live in. There’s a lot of Bible verses about this. Eating together is all over the Old Testament and the New Testament. Here are just a handful of examples: 

Isaiah 25:6   6 In Jerusalem, the LORD Almighty will spread a wonderful feast for everyone around the world. It will be a delicious feast of good food, with clear, well-aged wine and choice beef. 

Luke 5:29-31  29 Soon Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests were there.  30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”  31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor– sick people do. 

Luke 22:19-20  19 Then he took a loaf of bread; and when he had thanked God for it, he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you– an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you. 

Romans 12:13   13 When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging, for the night.

1 Peter 4:8-9   8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.  9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. 

Acts 2:46   46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity– 

I look forward to eating together with our students again. When we come roaring back in August, you can bet that food will play a key role at the very beginning, and continue playing a key role throughout our many more months and years of ministry.

I believe Jesus loves being present with us at our meals. After all, the Last Supper had more than Welch’s Grape Juice and Hawaiian sweet bread. It was a full meal. Yet, he used that moment to create an even greater kind of intimate moment, Holy Communion. That is something else I miss and look forward to experiencing again someday. 

May God bless your times with your families. I pray that your meals that you share with them would be beautiful, intimate moments, where Jesus is present at your kitchen table, you feel the love and warmth of each other, and that feeds your soul well as your tummies are also being fed well too. 

I pray that God would continue to do the same for our Wesley and our churches when we gather again to share our meals with great joy and generosity in different months of 2020. 

God is still God, God is still good, and we this epidemic lifestyle will be behind us in due time. Onward and upward my friends! 

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