It was 9:45 when I finally looked at a clock and it utterly shocked me! Our friends had been in our home for almost 5 hours! Not to mention it was 45 minutes past my bedtime and I was still going strong. The evening had been so joyful, so needed, so life-giving, that no one had wanted to call it a night, not even me, "sleepy Annie".
Earlier that same weekend I had finally painted and hung the sign Matthew had asked me to make for our dining room when we first moved into our house. A simple sign with one word on it: Fellowship. Matthew chose the word because it embodies most everything we hope our home will become.
When I think of great fellowship over a shared meal, I think of Jesus. Are you aware of just how much of the Gospels are made up of the times Jesus ate with people? Here are some examples:
- Feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15)
- Dinner with Levi the tax collector (Luke 5:27-32)
- Dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42)
- A meal shared with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
- Two meals had at the houses of some Pharisees (Luke 11:37-54; 14:1-24)
- Feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-8)
- Fish dinner with His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:40-43)
- The Last Supper (Matthew. 26:17-30, Mark. 14:12-26, Luke. 22:7-39 and John. 13:1-17:26)
- And that's not all of them!
Sharing a meal with people is quite personal. You invite them into your home, prepare them food you hope they will like, and sit across from one another, face to face, sharing about your thoughts, feelings, and day to day life. That's what Jesus did with people. He went to them, met them where they were, invested in their lives, and spend quality time with them having real conversations.
Checkout what Vancouver pastor, Mark Glanville pointed out about the importance Jesus placed on fellowship and community:
"The relational richness of Jesus’ ministry contrasts with the isolation of suburban life today...Jesus’ fellowship meals speak into our culture of individualism and isolation. They show us the shape of life and flourishing. They display the beauty, feasting and joy of the new creation – that is secured in Christ’s resurrection. There seems to be something about the bare sharing of a meal that reveals the kingdom of God. In light of Jesus’ fellowship meals, it is no surprise that the second coming of Christ is also conceived as a meal – the ‘wedding supper of the lamb’ (Rev 19)...We Christians must learn from these meals, to bring Christ’s joy to our neighborhoods and workplaces...Jesus’ fellowship meals teach that we Christians ought to be hubs of relationship and celebration in our communities."
Jesus wasn't sharing meals with people in order to delight His taste-buds or avoid cooking for Himself. He was doing it because He knew it was a great way to create community. Our world is starving for community, for real relationships that last, and for genuine friends that stick around when the going gets tough. To create and maintain those kinds of relationships, we have to get involved in real fellowship. That means putting down the phone, getting off the computer, and maybe even unplugging the TV. These devices only mimic real community and the more time and energy that we give them, the more starved we become for the real stuff.
Relishing in fellowship and creating a hardy community doesn't have to be fancy or difficult. In fact, when Matthew and I host others in our home, I'm often trying to find a recipe to make that requires the least amount of prep, cleanup, and money! We have a dining room table that someone may come to retrieve and take back to their own house any day, surrounded by 6 mismatched chairs that we collected from around the house or borrowed from my parents. The night our friends stayed for 5 hours we hadn't had the chance to mow or weed the yard before they arrived. I also got so behind on cooking that upon walking into my kitchen, one friend ended up throwing the dessert together like she was the one who had planned it out and prepared for it. Then we sat down together and began building upon friendships that we hope will stand the test of time. And five hours later, we begrudgingly called it a night.
I cannot urge you enough to fight for real community. Make fellowship with friends and family a priority on your calendar. Not only is it just plain fun, it is a task that brings glory to God and heaven to Earth. I agree with Pastor Glanville when he says that as Christians we ought to be the most community centered people in the places that we live, work, and play. There are some really hard parts of our calling as followers of Christ, but dinner parties aren't one of them!
I'm so thankful that our God created us to need one another and to benefit from earthly relationships. Aren't you?