Gather ‘Round

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Jer. 16:10-21; Rom. 7:1-12; John 6:1-15

If you who know me well, you know I like to eat.  I spend a fair amount of my free time in fellowship with friends and family.  From perfecting the best baby back rib recipe to baking pies or cookies, I love cooking almost as much as I love eating!  I simply love the togetherness that goes with eating around a table.

Just yesterday I participated in OCU’s World Religion Expo.  Naturally I was stationed at the Presbyterian table.  Right across the way was the Conservative Jewish table and the Reformed Jewish table.  All three of us had food.  Of course!  They had challah bread.  We had bowls of candy and goodies – representing the grace and abundance God offers.  It is hard to talk about religion without talking about food.

Table fellowship is a central part of so many religions.  Eating is not only important, but sacred to many.  Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Christians especially know the power of food.  From the Passover to the Lord’s Supper, there is a common thread of food throughout the New Testament.  One of the central feasts we see is the feeding of the five thousand.

Jesus says to Philip to test him, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  Six months wages wouldn’t cover it, Philip responds.  Andrew brings forth a boy with five barley loaves and two fish.  After all are satisfied, twelve baskets of fragments are collected.

Some folks like to focus on the “magical” elements of this, attempting to describe or explain how this all happened.  I am much more interested in the eating itself.  What is happening?  In many ways eating is power.  These folks sit down to share a meal – sharing being the operative word – and bonds are built.  For Ancient Israel, to invite in a stranger to eat meant lasting bonds of friendship.

Jesus is gathering 5000 strangers.  That’s power.  There is a signal that his following is growing, and with it his power.

John is a series of I AM statements.  While there is not an explicit I AM statement here, if I were to come up with one it would be: I AM THE ONE WHO BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER.

These are fighting words to the Roman authority.  Togetherness is power.  It is one of the reasons I worry about America.  We seem very lax in our table fellowship, and I fear the day we wake up and discover we have nothing in common with our neighborhood, our church, or even our own family.

Where are the neighborhood block parties?  Where are the children who used to play outside?  Are the sequestered off by themselves playing their never-ending online game?  Or are they at the table with everyone else, experiencing that we are all in this together?  Does your family eat alone?

I invite you to the power that Christ offers us.  It is a power of togetherness and comradery that cannot be broken.  It is a world where differences melt before our eyes, and the unity of Christ prevails once more.

-Matt

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