Shared Meals are an important expression of the gospel-community life of C3! We gather in our homes through the week to center our lives around the gospel by praying, eating, playing and talking where we live. The significance of Shared Meals is worth exploring because they are a core part of the identity of Christ Community Church. We will detail the “how” of Shared Meals in another post.
The reason Shared Meals are at the heart of the life of C3 is because they were at the heart of not only what Jesus was doing in the NT, but what God was up to all along in the Scriptures.
In the ancient cultures of the Scriptures, sharing a meal together was a sign of acceptance and friendship. Hospitality was one of the most important virtues. These meals would also symbolize a deeper covenant (meaning two people or groups giving themselves to one another) between two individuals, their families and even entire nations. A meal could literally recreate the political and social landscape of entire countries.
Over and over in the Scriptures when God wanted the Israelites to remember how he had rescued them in one way or another he would institute feasts to commemorate. For thousands of years Jewish people have celebrate Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah and many other feasts to remind them that God has and was working to create a new world in and through them.
In Jesus’ time meals shared in communities represented the patriarchal or “top-down” structure of the culture where male leaders of importance and influence ate while others of lesser status served. JD Crossan, one of the world’s leading scholars on Jesus, has written that one aspect of Jesus’ work which would have been controversial was participating in shared meals that were open to all and did not discriminate. Scandalous! Jesus would go so far as to serve the food himself at the meal, which was a job meant for women and servants! He was using the meals to turn the culture up on its head and display a new kingdom where even the last in line became first.
Of course, when Jesus wanted to leave his first friends with an understanding of what he was doing, he didn’t leave them a theory, formula or creed. He left them a shared meal where the drink and food represented what God was doing. Jesus taught that the wine and bread of that meal represented his blood and body that would be spilt and broken in order to absorb the brokenness of all humanity and creation! Jesus instructed that whenever we eat or drink we should remember the work he was undertaking in order to fulfill God’s purpose for humanity and the world. If you turn to either the beginning or the end of the Scriptures you can read what that purpose is – we are meant to reign with God in his new creation!
Shared Meal at Christ Community Church doesn’t mean one or another of these things. It means them all! As we eat in our homes we know our Father in heaven has shown us unimaginable hospitality and opened his world to us! As we feast we are made to remember all that God has done to bring us into the life he means for us to possess! When we invite others into our homes that are not like us we are participating in creating a new social ethic where it doesn’t matter where you come from to partake in God’s kingdom! And, most importantly, as our bodies are nourished by the food provided by others, we are awakened to the reality that Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf is the provision that nourishes our souls!