Yesterday we hosted an AGM and lunch at church for The Baptist Union Retreat Group. The meal we provided for our guests was a corporate effort and I contributed by providing a few home-made lasagnes. I’m not sure what came over me when I made that rather rash offer, but once made I had to come up with the goods!
As I sat through the morning AGM increasing self-doubt wafted over me as I could smell the lasagne cooking in the church kitchen. What if it was a disaster? What if I, single handedly, managed the bring down the whole Baptist Union Retreat Group with food poisoning!
So, my relief was almost palpable when I saw the guests not only tuck into the lasagne at lunchtime but also seemingly survive the afternoon.
Cooking for others might be something of a great responsibility but it can also be a great joy.
One of our relatives, when hosting friends for a meal, apologised to the guests that the pudding on that occasion wasn’t up to his wife’s usual standard. He wondered why she kicked him under the table as he said this. After they left she told him of her embarrassment at what he’d said because it was, in fact, the guests who had brought the pudding that night! I wonder if they ever came back!
Judith Jones, the American editor best known for ‘discovering’ the Diaries of Anne Frank and promoting the food writer Julia Childs, spoke of cooking using ‘religious' language when she wrote: Cooking demands attention, patience, and above all, a respect for the gifts of the earth. It is a form of worship, a way of giving thanks.
So, I suspect that yesterday I was rather like Martha (rather than Mary) in the Bible story. As we were discussing the agenda my mind was actually in the kitchen with my lasagnes!
It seems both natural
and good that sharing meals plays a part in our corporate life. Our Jewish friends probably lead the way with
many of their rituals actually based around the family table rather than the
one in the synagogue.
Even the modern discipleship programme ALPHA made sharing a meal together an integral part of its ethos.
I’ve enjoyed countless times around the table with friends at church. None more so than an exchange visit to Australia and preaching in a rather remote village chapel on the banks of the Murray River outside Adelaide. After the service we went over to the church hall for lunch at which just about every lady in the congregation produced a home-made shepherds pie. I’ve never seen such an array of the same dish, yet each one just a little different from the rest.
The very word companion means to share bread with another. At AFC we might do that at LunchBreak, Tea at Three, Lunch Club, Men’s Breakfast or our occasional Church Lunches. I think even sharing a biscuit at After Service Coffee also counts!
Perhaps we might even twist a well known proverb and say that A church that eats together stays together.
Of course, the most important ‘meal’ Christians ever share is Communion. Breaking bread and drinking wine in remembrance is the meal that nourishes our souls and draws us to God.