Thursday, 13 January 2011

A shared meal

It's always a problem, the post-Christmas/ New Year period - certainly for me. I've probably over-done it a bit over the festive season, and I've made that resolution to get the weight down, and then I notice the piles of biscuits & chocolates that I still haven't got through that were sent as well-meaning presents. It's a shame - almost a sin - to waste them, so I usually end up 'waist-ing' them instead.

Then, when I've managed to polish off most of the Yuletide goodies, I'm back into the routine of life. That, for me as a Methodist Minister, means that Lunch Clubs come round again, with their good, honest, home-cooked fayre, produced by people who are, quite frankly, the salt of the earth. It's difficult to refuse, and so run the risk of offending these wonderful people: what is a man to do?

There are three responses that I can think of: 1) I can dive right in, with the excuse that 'I don't want to upset them'; 2) I can ask for a smaller portion; or 3) I can make an excuse and find something else to do (Ministers can always find something else to do). To do the first would only add to my already bad weight problem, so that's out; to do the third would be disingenuous; so I'm left with the second option - eat less, but be there and share with them. So that's what I've ended up doing these last two lunchtimes.

Sharing a meal together is a basic human desire. We have, throughout our history, sat around a fire, or a table, or (increasingly these days) a TV set, and shared a common meal. One of the main focuses of our Christmas celebrations - whether or not we place any religious or spiritual connotations to the event - is to share a meal with family and friends, eating a turkey that's usually two sizes too big. For the Christian community this has taken on a greater significance in the shared meal of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, but within our tradition we find Jesus frequently sharing meals with people: usually (though not always) with the less reputable members of society - tax collectors & 'sinners'.

There is something about the meal table that brings out a fellowship among us. I've noticed this at the Lunch Clubs that run in the churches, and a shared meal is at the heart of the Alpha course. But God desires (requires?) us to be generous in this way: "Share your food with the hungry" he says in Isaiah 58:7.

Who might you share a meal with today? It may be someone familiar, or it may be a stranger. Whoever it is, may it be a means of cementing our common humanity, and maybe a means of releasing the grace of God, whose image we all bear.

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