I grew up going to a church that had services on Sunday evenings. Looking back, I don’t have many memories from those Sunday evening services. What I remember the most was when I found out that either my parents had invited friends over to our house or friends had invited us over to their house. Either way, Sunday nights just got whipped cream and a cherry on top!!
My friends, my brother, and I would enjoy this moment of grace as we embraced the next few hours and all the magic it held. You see, typically by the time church was over and my parents finally got tired of talking (or the youth pastor was threatening to lock them inside if they didn’t leave), we would arrive home, get something quick to eat, do last-minute homework for Monday morning, and go to bed.
But on these wonderful occasions, we would get to laugh with friends, eat lots of good food that was spread across the kitchen counters for us to pick and choose, and we would play the night away, getting quieter as it got later, as to not distract the grownups from realising how late it really was! Looking back, I bet they knew 😉
As a kid, you don’t really think about the other side, but my parents must have enjoyed these times as well—after all, it was their friends too! I remember hearing the sounds of talking and laughing as they sat around the Table or formed a circle in the living room. And as the night got later, the Table would get cleaned off, coffee would be made and the sound of dice, dominoes, or cards being shuffled usually told us kids that our fun just got extended!
As we got older, these nights became less common. My generation became involved in various activities like sports, band, and driving, not to mention college was just around the corner for us. Maybe the adults were busier working to pay for these activities and didn’t have a lot of free time. Whatever it was, the Sunday evening encore slowly became a thing of the past.
Now I’m not bashing my parents or their friends, because eventually I became an adult with a house, a kitchen, and a Table, and having people over for a meal was not very common. Ironically, my new wife and I were busy juggling several church ministries and the spare time we had, we wanted to spend on us.
It was actually back then when we came so close to realising the importance of the Table, but we were so distracted and so busy that we missed it…even though we were literally sitting down at one.
We had friends of ours that agreed to go through a Bible Study with us. Each week, after their kids were in bed, we’d come over (because we didn’t have kids then!) and go through a workbook together. The four of us would sit at their dining room Table, our workbooks and Bibles out, and we would discuss the chapter.
It was an 18-week course. Over the next 18 weeks, we had become really close. A lot of this had to do with the fact that we spent several hours discussing God’s Word, memorising it, and praying together. In fact, the wife discovered that she had never really trusted Jesus as her Saviour during this time and she gave her life to Jesus!
But on that last week, there was a bittersweet tone to that night. I know I really enjoyed those nights together. Most of our week was spent with teenagers. We loved the teenagers. In fact, we still felt like teenagers ourselves! But these nights, hanging out with our adult friends, were different. It was special. And we should have noticed God tugging on our hearts to point out that we were close. But we didn’t.
And we didn’t have a lot of free time as it was, our friends were busy with a farm and a family, and looking back, it was as if we felt like the Bible study was over, so our time together had to be over too.
We were so close to discovering the Table. But, like my parents and their friends years ago, we stopped meeting together and we lost something very valuable.
I remember years ago staying in Fort Worth, Texas. We were raising support for a ministry and we found out that some other couples in our mission organisation were also in the area. It would be a stretch to say that we were friends. We only knew each other through our organisation. We had a few experiences in the past together so there was a common bond. Then there was the fact that we were all away from our homes and close enough to meet up. So we made plans and met up together at a local IHOP.
That night, our friendship with one of those couples truly began. Because of our life, we have only seen each other about 4 times over the past 6 years, but we have the kind of friendship where we can meet up years later and pick up right where we left off.
That night in Fort Worth, I don’t remember what I ordered to eat, I don’t remember what we discussed for those 4 hours that seemed to go by so quickly…actually, he mentioned exactly how much debt they owed, to which she replied, “Great, NOW we’re friends!” (And we have been ever since!)
But the point is, there was a Table involved. And where there’s a Table, there’s a relationship growing.
When I refer to The Table, I am referring to a literal piece of furniture that you probably have in your home. More than likely, it has a flat top and legs to support it (If my description is scaring you so far, if you’re wondering, ‘How does he know this?! Has he been in my house?!’ I can neither confirm nor deny this fact. I’m just that good 😉 )
But getting less broad, your table might be in the kitchen or in a separate dining area. It might be a coffee table in the living room or even disguised as a blanket on the beach or in the park.
But the Table is so much less about the furniture itself and more about the company and activity around it.
Your Table has probably hosted countless meals on it around the clock, whether you gave it much thought or not. Maybe you’ve even had the privilege of playing board games on it with dinner guests or set a cake on it and watched your kids blow out candles on their birthdays. Maybe you’ve even stubbed your toe on a leg as you raced to the window to watch fireworks bursting from your front lawn (Wait…was that last one just me?)
Our Table happened to come with our Flat so our memories of it only goes back a few years. But I remember one of my earliest memories at this particular Table was a time we invited the teenagers over to our house after church.
We had been teaching about learning Bible verses, and we decided to take the Old Testament command to ‘Write them on your door frames’ to a creative level. We bought lots of canvases, paints, and brushes, and we let them paint their favourite verse on a canvas.
We hadn’t lived there long, this took all afternoon, and it became an awesome way of getting to know these teens as they talked about life and painted away. We had some incredible artists that afternoon—a few whose masterpieces spilled over. But what an incredible memory at our Table!
About 15 years ago, a certain leader told me,
“People bond together best over three circumstances: Road trips, Crises, and eating together at a Table.”
The statement stuck in my brain, but it took me forever to catch the vision in this statement.
I can’t organise a road trip every time I want to build a relationship with someone. And crises will happen, but I certainly don’t want to orchestrate one for the sake of connecting with people.
However, providing good food and inviting others to join me at the Table is something I can do! It’s not only something I can do, it’s something I enjoy! I have a passion for cooking and I am energised by sitting and talking with old and new friends.
But as much as I enjoy connecting with people and as passionate as I am about food, I’m more passionate about Jesus and I want to connect others to him.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking”
— Levi, Matthew 11:19
I said before, where there’s a Table, there’s a relationship growing.
My goal each meal is that that relationship is with Jesus. The Table, the food, the drinks, the environment, the laughter, the conversations—it all points to Jesus!
His power gives us the ability to connect with God.
His Word feeds our soul.
His grace is overflowing.
His joy creates a warmth in our souls.
And he is the answer to all our problems!
In Meals With Jesus, Tim Chester writes:
We can make community and mission sound like specialized activities that belong to experts. Some people have a vested interest in doing this, because it makes them feel ‘extraordinary’. Or we focus on dynamic personalities who can hold an audience and lead a movement. Some push mission beyond the scope of ‘ordinary’ Christians. But the Son of Man came eating and drinking. It’s not complicated. True, it’s not always easy—it involves people invading your space or going to places where you don’t feel comfortable. But it’s not complicated. If you share a meal three or four times a week and you have a passion for Jesus, then you will be building up the Christian community and reaching out in mission.”
The Table is a tool to bring people together and to share in God’s grace.
Without much thought, I will probably eat at least 21 meals over this next week. Rather than see the Table as a place to put my plate down and put fuel in my body, I want to see it as a place where people unite together and celebrate God’s love—and I want to be a part of initiating this!
But if I’m not intentional, I will eat many of these meals alone.
Yes, I have a wife and children, but there is much research that shows that most families today eat sitting in front of the TV, in their bedrooms, or on the way to practice or a game. This could easily be my family. And I refuse to let my family become one of those statistics!
If I’m not intentional, I will miss out on friendships like I have in the past.
I wish I could go back to our friends Table and say, “See you next week!” I wish I could say, “Bring your family to our Table this weekend!” I can’t. But I still have a Table, friends, food, and a continuing relationship with Jesus. And I have been given Today.
If I’m not intentional, I won’t get to experience what my parents had years ago.
My parents had a community of friends laughing, sharing food together, and discussing life.
No one looks back at their life and wishes they had been busier. They look back and wish they had spent more time with people. And I don’t want to look back and see all the missed moments I didn’t point people to Jesus, especially when it’s a piece of cake…split between friends enjoying life together at the Table!
So grab a fork and let’s talk!
Don’t make yourself feel guilty for how you’ve spent your meals in the past. But look over your following week of meals. Challenge yourself to spend more of those with your family at the Table, consider inviting friends to join a few of them, and comment below and let me know your plans. Friends and Family are worth celebrating and so are you!