2 Down: Eat

5:30 Worship on April 17, 2016 by Justin Cox 🌮

Tonight we’re going to talk about one of my favorite things to do, which is exciting because the last time I was up here we were talking about torture and humiliation. The definition in our crossword puzzle tonight is to graze with another. That’s right, tonight our word is eat!

Like I said, eating is one of my favorite things to do — it probably explains why I’ve gained 10 pounds in the last six months. But food is just so good! Carla and I are going to New York this week for a quick vacation and our list of things to do includes about 25 restaurants — we’ll be in the city for 3 days. But that’s what we like to do. And can you blame us? Food is awesome!

But we’re not just talking about eating tonight. Our definition is to graze with another. We’re talking about the act of eating a meal with other people. And while food is delicious, the act of eating a meal with others is a lot of fun. While we’re in the city next week, one of the meals will be shared with my handful of cousins that live there. That restaurant isn’t even on our list, because I don’t know where we’re going yet. But that one will be a lot of fun because we’ll share a table with people we don’t see often. And that’s really what we’re talking about tonight — sharing a meal with other people.

All throughout the Gospels Jesus shares a meal with people. He eats with “tax collectors and sinners,” he eats with disciples, he eats with important people, he shares a meal with a lot of people. In fact, he’s consistently criticized for sharing a table with people whom the leaders feel he shouldn’t.

But Jesus sees the power of sharing a meal with someone. When you share a meal, barriers are dropped. People converse over a meal. Ideas are shared. Memories are made.

I enjoy eating, but more importantly I enjoy the act of sharing a meal with others. Its fun to meet friends or family at a restaurant and laugh and tell jokes and to talk about life. That’s what grazing with another is all about — it’s about sharing life together over one of life’s necessitates.

Throughout this series, we’re looking at the resurrection appearances of Jesus. He was crucified and three days later Easter Sunday occurred and Jesus conquered death. Before completely returning to God, he appeared to his disciples to make sure they continued on their mission of living the life he taught.

Before they were Jesus’ disciples, the men that followed Jesus around were of low status. At the time, students at a young age were tested and those with the chops went into the synagog to study under a rabbi. These students were the best and had the means to continue in their education. The rest, the ones without the academic chops, went to learn a trade or to work the trade of their family. These were the people that Jesus asked to follow him.

After Jesus was crucified, the disciples no longer had a rabbi to study under and since they weren’t part of the synagog crew, they went back to the lives they knew. In the case of our scripture tonight, a number of the disciples went back to fishing. This is where our resurrection appearance occurs this evening, coming from the book of John.

A number of the disciples were fishing. They had been fishing all night and had not yet caught anything. Jesus was standing on the shore, but no one could recognize Jesus. He called out to them and told them to cast their nets on the opposite side of the boat and when the disciples did, their nets were filled. At that point one of the disciples recognized Jesus and proclaimed, “It’s the Lord!” Peter jumped in the water to swim to shore while the rest of the disciples hauled the catch in.

When they reached the shore, Jesus had a fire going with some bread and they all sat down and shared a meal together. Jesus, post resurrection, appears to his disciples — the friends he has shared life with for the past three years — to share one more meal.

At the end of the meal, Jesus turns to Peter, the rock, and directly with him. Jesus has already told Peter that the church will be built upon him. As brazen and as quick to act as Peter was — I mean, he jumped out of the boat to swim to shore — Jesus had high plans for Peter. Yet when Jesus was crucified, Peter denied Jesus three separate times. And so after sharing this meal, Jesus turns to Peter and asks:

When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.” He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. I assure you that when you were younger you tied your own belt and walked around wherever you wanted. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and another will tie your belt and lead you where you don’t want to go.” He said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. After saying this, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”

This conversation makes Peter sad because Jesus asks the same question three times — “do you love me.” Yet Jesus asks the same question three times to drive home the point. Jesus is staying to Peter, and he is saying to all of us, “don’t just say you love me, feed my sheep.” Care for people in need — feed the hungry, clothe the naked — feed the sheep.

And Jesus does this while sharing a meal.

Jesus is showing the disciples, as he is showing us, that sharing a meal with others is central to the Christian faith. The disciples take the lesson to heart and it becomes a part of their way of life. One of my favorite scriptures in the entire Bible contains this idea of sharing a meal.

Acts is the book that tells about the creation of the early church. It’s the disciples trying to do the things that Jesus instructed and lead others in his teachings. Acts 2:42–47 talks about how they lived as a Christian community:

The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those were were being saved.

The believers, the newly formed Christian community, met together to share meals daily. They prayed together daily. They were awe-struck by God daily. They sold things they didn’t need in order to take care of others. They met in the temples and they ate in homes. They shared food daily. And the numbers of people in the community grew daily.

Daily.

I love this vision of the church. The community coming together daily to share a meal together. My guess is that there was a lot of fun and energy and excitement at these meals. We can tell by the scripture that all were welcome to the table and as a result their numbers grew daily.

Jesus is adamant throughout his ministry that we, as his followers, are called to invite all to the table. Remember how he was criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners? People thought to be below his station? Jesus ate with them anyway because all are welcome. Jesus is pretty clear that no one is above or below anyone else — we’re all equal in the eyes of God.

Last week I was with Boone FCA. We had just eaten dinner with some of high schoolers and were having a bible study. The scripture we were looking at was Jesus reminding his disciples to love others as his single commandment. He explains that we will recognize Jesus by the way we love other people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the disciples recognized Jesus on shore when he called out to them. He was there to share a meal in love, and they’re eyes were opened and they saw Jesus. We are called to do the same for everyone we encounter.

If we welcome others to the table to share a meal, and we do it out of love, then Jesus can be recognized in our actions. And, as we learned in Acts, if we do this daily, then our community will grow and more and more will enter into relationship with Jesus. This is why it is important to share a meal with others.

Last week Pastor Tom gave everyone homework. He asked you to bless three people throughout the week. This week you have similar homework. Share a meal with three people, one of whom would be someone you wouldn’t normally share a meal with. For some of you who eat lunch at large tables, this might not be difficult. But invite someone to the table that normally wouldn’t be there and welcome them with the love of Jesus. And see what happens.

Sharing a meal with others is central to our faith. Welcoming people to the table to sit, to eat, to converse, to belong. Every week in this service we share a meal together in the manner that Jesus taught us. And it’s from this table, the communion table, that Jesus set the example that all are welcome to eat and to belong.

So let this meal be the example. Let this meal guide us to welcome others to our table so that the homework of eating with three people is accomplished not over the course of the week but as often as possible. Remember what it said in Acts:

Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those were were being saved.