Eating Together-A shared grace

Church Practices  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:46
0 ratings

Eating together is an important feature of almost all cultures. But what makes it so important to share food with others? Is it the same for Christians, or does it have even more significance? Join us as we look at why eating together is so important, and how we can do it better.

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →


We’re now well into our series on the practices that we engage in together as Christians. We’ve looked at meeting together and singing together, and explored a bit about why and how we do that, and how it builds us all up. And today we’re looking at Eating Together.
For a more typical church, this practice would not be anywhere near as high on the list as it is for Renew. One of our distinctives is that we have made eating together a very regular practice. I don’t need to persuade you as to its benefits, but we can explore why it’s such a potent practice for Christians, and perhaps look at some ways that we can make it even more our own and an even more powerful way for sharing the grace of God.
But first, let’s read the passage I’ve chosen as the primary passage for today.


Matthew 22:1–14 NLT
1 Jesus also told them other parables. He said, 2 “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. 3 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come! 4 “So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ 5 But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. 6 Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. 7 “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. 8 And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. 9 Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ 10 So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to meet the guests, he noticed a man who wasn’t wearing the proper clothes for a wedding. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how is it that you are here without wedding clothes?’ But the man had no reply. 13 Then the king said to his aides, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The challenge of the parable

This is a challenging parable. Anyone who thinks that Jesus is all sweetness and light has obviously never read this parable, which starts with a declaration that the kingdom of heaven is like this, and finishes with the bleak despair of hell and the stark proclamation that “many are called, but few are chosen.”
It is no coincidence that there is a feast at the centre of this story. As the story makes clear, feasts cannot be dismissed as inconsequential, whether you feel entitled to them, or have them unexpected foisted on you. In the story, the feast is clearly a great symbol and practice of unity, and when such unity is rejected, there are costs.
Even today, we can understand the social costs of despoiling a wedding party. At the very least, you are most likely to permanently loose friends over such an action, if not worse.
How did feasts come to have this key place in society? More central than dance or debate? More unifying than trade or travel?
To understand that, we must look to the core building blocks of feasts, of shared meals: food and those who eat it. And to understand those things, we must travel back to the beginning of time.

What is food?

Food is a gift from God. In the very beginning he gave food to humanity.
Genesis 1:29 NLT
29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.
Later, after the flood, God extended the range of things that human beings could eat:
Genesis 9:2–3 NLT
2 All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. 3 I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.
In the Judea-Christian worldview, food is, and has always been, a generous gift from God.

How do other faiths view food?

This is in great contrast to all other worldviews.
In many traditional religions, food is central to human existence, but not because of our consumption, but because it is the role of human beings to produce food for the Gods. It is human toil that produces food, and the primary recipients of that food are not the humans themselves, but the hungry Gods. This was explicitly taught in ancient Mesopotamian myths, and is implicit in almost all world religions. You are reminded of this constantly in Asian societies, with their ubiquitous shrines, constantly restocked with fresh food.
In contrast, the Jewish rituals of sacrifice were not to feed God, but rather to atone for their sins and to purify both them and the temple. The Jewish sacrifices assured God’s ongoing presence with his people, while the pagan sacrifices appeased their Gods and kept them docile.
Even in our modern mythology, the theory of evolution, food represents something radically different. In the theory of evolution, food is the domain of the brutal, fatal competition between individuals which leads to the survival only of the fittest. Food is not a gift from a generous God, but a hard-won necessity that demonstrates my superiority to those less fit than me.

What does this do to the diners?

What do these different views of food do to we who eat it?
For those who hold to an evolutionary view, it is clear that extravagant diners are extravagant winners. If we share food, it is most likely an indication that those we share with belong to our biological family—they carry our genes into the future. Of course, since we humans are rational creatures, and not merely animals, we can use generosity to demonstrate our superiority. For the evolutionist, there is no opportunity for humble gratitude at the meal table.
For those holding to traditional religions, diners have succeeded so greatly in their labours that they can eat from what is left over from the Gods. Sharing food is, for them, an indication of wealth, wisdom, or great industry, and the sharer is right to be proud. In fact, by partaking in another’s generosity, it is likely that you will then be obligated to them, and so they can build their power base even further by sharing their food.
For Jews and Christians, though, food is a gift, and so the appropriate response is gratitude. Sharing food with others is then a natural outpouring of generosity from a grateful heart. the one who shares is only passing on what was shared with them. There is no way that an obligation can be due.


This, of course, is why we say grace before we eat. We remind ourselves that the food we eat is not something we can take credit for. Even if we have grown it ourselves (which in my childhood was often true in our family), or prepared it ourselves. The source of our food is always God, and it is important to remind ourselves to be grateful for that.
When I was a child, we had two versions of grace in our house, and at every meal one or another of these would be said, depending on whose turn it was to say grace (we always sat at the same place, and grace rotated around the table clockwise, so everyone had a turn, once every two days).
When it was my parents’ turn, they would say:
For what we are about to receive,
May the Lord make us truly grateful.
And when it was our turn, us children would say:
Thank you God for happy hearts,
Rain and sunny weather.
Thank you God for this good food,
and that we are together.
I really like this prayer. Yes, it is childlike. But its list of simple gratitudes is so spot-on.
What forms of grace have you used?

How Jesus ate with others

Now Jesus was, of course, aware of the gracious nature of food, and exhibited that grace in the way he shared his presence with others at feasts.
Luke 19:5–7 NLT
5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” 6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.
Jesus recognised that by coming into fellowship with others, he was lifting them up. The Jews were accustomed to thinking that associating with dogs made you more dog-like.
Who is right?
Well, in a way, both are right. What makes the difference is that Jesus is not just any Jew. He is the son of God. He is God himself. And because Jesus is God, his presence makes others holy.
So it would seem to be unwise for us to eat with people who are of doubtful moral character, wouldn’t it? And yet Jesus tells us to welcome strangers.
How can we eat with those who might be immoral if we can be made immoral by associating with them?
This conundrum is resolved by another act of eating. One so important we have a whole sermon in this series devoted to it. So I will only make one brief comment on this key act.
John 6:54–56 NLT
54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.
When Jesus told his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he revealed the answer to our spiritual death. Just as God gives us physical food to sustain our physical lives, he gives us spiritual food—Jesus—to sustain our spiritual lives. When we share in this food, which we act out physically every time we take communion, we share in the spiritual life of Jesus. Like any food, this transforms us—we become a part of God’s family.
When we share in the spiritual life of Jesus, we don’t need to worry about being made immoral by any association with others—Jesus’ blood not only protects us from corruption, it makes us contagiously holy, spreading holiness to those around us. And so we are free to do as Jesus did, and go out into all the world, sharing the good news.

How we can eat with others

How then can we eat with others, and so share some part of Jesus’ love with them?
The first, and most obvious method, is to actually eat with others. Share meals with workmates. Have a coffee with an acquaintance. Have lunch with a customer. If someone asks for a few dollars for a meal, buy two meals and join them. Invite people to your home and cook for them.
Despite being sick this week I have been treated to a variety of meals by family and friends. I wish I had been healthier, so I could have enjoyed the food more, but the fellowship was enjoyable even while constantly blowing my nose and sneezing. I just hope I didn’t infect anyone.
At home, sit down together and share a meal instead of eating separately. Join us here at church when we have our fellowship dinner each week. Remember that the meal at a birthday party, graduation celebration, wedding, or whatever is not just a tiresome ritual—it is the heart of the event.
Take every opportunity that you have to share fellowship, to share Christ’s love, over food or drink. It’s one of the joys that angels can only very rarely share, and we should never take it for granted. Don’t overindulge, but we should be grateful of the plentiful food we have in this nation.
Remember that we look forward to a great feast together at the end of time, celebrating the wedding of Jesus and us, the church. This feast is so important that saying “no” to the invitation is fatal. Each of our little meals is a foretaste of that great feast, an opportunity to say “yes” to Jesus.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more