Thankful to break bread together

Photo: Jude Infantini, Unsplash. Photo: Jude Infantini, Unsplash.

The global pandemic makes us realize we live in a fragile world that can be shaken. Yet, this Thanksgiving, I am grateful: The church stands firm. I’m thankful we are still ­worshiping together in the name of Jesus.

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

Sometimes we forget one thing that is crucial in our worship: sharing a meal. Jesus said, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Eating together is an important part of our worship.

There is a debate in Philadelphia, where I live, about who serves the best cheesesteak. Among loyal customers of two neighboring stores, a rivalry is heating up. But in the end, a cheese­steak is a cheesesteak. Once we have one in front of us, the debate stops, because we can’t eat and argue at the same time. At least, I don’t think we should! Maybe the reason we had the debate in the first place was that we were just hungry, after all.

Among Christians, there are much more important points of dispute than food. Often we struggle to find unity in Christ. But I believe that as long as we can have a decent conversation over a good meal, nothing is impossible — even unity among Christians who disagree.

At Thanksgiving, food is the main attraction. I think that is a good thing, because there is no better way to be thankful than to have a feast together and be grateful for each other.

In Indonesian culture, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But whenever someone is celebrating, a feast is to be expected. Whether it’s a birthday, graduation, getting a driver’s license, a first paycheck, a job promotion — you name it — we celebrate with food.

Sometimes we joke that even the smallest thing is enough to make us demand a feast. But that’s just the way we give thanks together. We believe there is no self-made man or woman. We achieve everything together as a community.

I think any important matter should be discussed over a meal. I’m not against connecting with technology — phone, Zoom, email or text. But there is something spiritual at work when we get together in person — and even more so when we eat together. Saying grace, enjoying the food, the conversation and each other’s company puts us at ease and reduces the urge to push an agenda.
I remember when I received my calling to serve in the United States. It was not over the phone or by email. My pastor invited us for lunch on a Sunday afternoon after church. After we finished eating, he gave us the news. I’ll never forget that moment. The good meal and good news complemented each other.

If there had been no meal at that meeting, would I have said yes? Probably, but I also know the food contributed to the sense of satisfaction, fulfillment and well-being I felt at that time.
Paul wrote to Timothy that “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6). My interpretation of contentment is enjoying good companionship and not having an empty stomach.

It is hard to be grateful if one is lonely and hungry. Do you see opportunities to make others grateful by meeting their needs for food and companionship?

I’m grateful to have a Savior who loved to eat with others. He broke bread with groups large and small, with friends and strangers, with the popular and the outcast. He fed thousands of people. He liked to have dinner even with tax collectors, whom people hated. With his closest friends, he said farewell over supper. After his resurrection, he showed himself to his disciples over dinner.

“People who love to eat are always the best people,” said Julia Child, the famous chef. I couldn’t agree more. But I would add “together” after “eat.” I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by people who love to eat together.

Let’s build our appetite to worship God by developing the spiritual practice of sharing a meal. I believe this will open the door for us to share the gospel of the eternal kingdom.
Enjoy your meal! And remember: Jesus is with you.

Hendy Matahelemual

Hendy Stevan Matahelemual is an ordained minister in Mosaic Mennonite Conference and lives in Philadelphia. Read More

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