September 10, 2014 / Ruthie Johnson

Unity in the Kingdom: On Faith and Food

I grew up in a community where eating together was a value. Any gathering meant food was around, and there was always room at the table for one more. We didn’t live around my extended family, so often we would have whoever else was in town over for holidays, birthdays, Sunday afternoons or whatever other occasion we could come up with.

My first few years in the Midwest, I found myself disappointed when I left on Sundays with no invitation or expectation to have lunch with someone else. It was an adjustment, when I went to people’s homes and they didn’t offer me food. It was even more of a shock when they came to my house and were surprised when I wanted to feed them (even if it was 3 in the afternoon). I had to learn not to be offended by it. This dramatic shift has caused me to recognize a deep significance in sharing meals with others. Meal sharing is a spiritual act of unifying—sharing our life and existence with one another.

Food as Covenant and Redemption

Food, by existence, is invitational. Throughout the history of God and his people, their relationship with Him and their relationship to one another are shaped by food and shared meals. We see unity proclaimed through meeting the needs of our daily existence, sustaining ourselves through food (physically) but also emotionally and spiritually through fellowship. Sharing a meal says: ‘I want to know you’, ‘I want to share life, community and fellowship with you’. The act of sustaining oneself physically in community reinforced the significance of a spiritual sustenance received through covenants. Covenant feasts were a time of celebration of common unity. God used covenant acts to say, “These are my people.” Feasts were a time of unity to mark and celebrate what the Lord had done.

Eating is central to how we entered the narrative of salvation exposing our need for redemption. The first act of disobedience occurred around food: the eating from the tree in the garden. Because of this need for redemption, covenant meals point to something bigger. Shared meals also pointed to what we still needed God to do.

Our invitation to the greatest feast of Heaven comes at a cost. Our rebellion has caused separation, a spiritual starving that we cannot satiate. The answer to this is the giving of a life. This is why Christ refers to his body as bread and blood as wine. Christ presents himself in an image that simultaneously reflects the old covenant of sacrifice and gives us a new pattern of practice, a meal, to remember Him.

Food as Unity
Meal sharing becomes a prophetic practice, an incarnation of the Kingdom-to-come. Under the new covenant, we see the dinner table pointing to the common unity of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the old covenant, feasts are given to celebrate the unity of God and his people, the Jews. As we move through scripture, the new covenant table is set for more. Our final depiction of the Kingdom coming, there is a party to be had! At the Great Banquet of Christ the unity of the Church is no longer just the about the Jews, but every nation tribe and tongue. The Kingdom table welcomes the marginalized, the poor and the broken. The message is clear: there is always room at the table.

In these next couple months, I want to talk about what I call “Food Theology” and how we see the unity of the Kingdom echoed within scripture by meal sharing. I want to open it up by examine this practice in our modern-day church. The unity of the Kingdom is shown when we fellowship with those who are different from us. It’s important to note that Jesus uses something routine and daily practice as a prophetic act that demonstrates the inclusiveness of the Kingdom coming. I believe Jesus chose this act because our ‘theology’ is seen more about how we live out our lives and less so what we write or read.

Who is welcome at our table? Who do we feast with to celebrate what the Lord has done and what he promises to do?