At times, a good meal in this broken world will take the form of fasting in solidarity with or materially for the sake of those who hunger for what we so readily waste. In attending to our interrelatedness with the people and the places God has created, we begin to understand what it is also to attend to our relatedness to God at the table. Each of us—human, plant, animal, field, river, sea—we become most what we are when we become more than just ourselves. We become most ourselves when we attend to our relatedness to one another, when we attend to the God who created us for mutual flourishing.
It is in these complex webs of interrelationship that what we are begins to suggest to us who we are: we are sharers of God’s home, members of God’s family, citizens, as Jesus put it, of God’s kingdom. The Kingdom of God is just this: all things flourishing in right relationship with one another and with God their creator. One of Jesus’s favorite metaphors for the Kingdom was that of a heavenly banquet. Seated at God’s table, our citizenship, our kinship, our mutual interdependence is plain.
And yet we are not all flourishing. When I visited last year’s Serpentine Pavilion, Hyde Park was bleached from drought and heat. The would-be lawns felt like deserted wastelands; it was disorienting. Such sights testify to our profound interrelatedness, though against our flourishing. On the Black Sea, wheat that may never become bread, because it is trapped by war offers an analogous testimony. Our lives are deeply intertwined; just so, we are not flourishing. In days like ours, our tables are sites of mutual encounter, but the encounter is not nourishing to all involved.
If all Jesus offered were a vision of the table as it could be—as it should be—our reflection would have to end here. “Look at what our meals might be,” we might say. “Let us make them so! Let us build the Kingdom of God.” War and climate catastrophe, beware!
But Jesus never instructed his followers to build the Kingdom. Rather, he invited them to receive it, and in so doing, participate in its coming.
One of Jesus’ most common ways of inviting people to receive the Kingdom was by inviting them to a meal. These were meals in all our ordinary senses. They were sites of relationship. Particularly as Luke, one of the four gospel writers, tells it, Jesus was constantly offering advice about who to invite to the table. He warned about which absences revealed life-denying alienation. He convened and commended gatherings of rich and poor, religious and irreligious, nevertheless gathered for nourishing mutual encounter.
These meals are not only revolutionary social projects (though they were and can still be exactly that). In the ministry of Jesus, meals become announcements and enactments of the Kingdom of God. Meals become invitations to and demonstrations of the ultimate Home that God is making for God and God’s creation to flourish together. It is this Home that Jesus invites us to inhabit with him. When we share meals that are more than mere meals, when we allow God to transform our relationships with one another and within the natural world, our meals, too, can become sites of God’s transforming presence—the Home of God coming to be among mortals.
So, when we come to the table—whether Ghotmeh’s table or the table in our homes—let’s be aware of the opportunity presented to us. At the table, we are invited to know bread that is more than mere bread, even as we are more than merely ourselves. At the table, we are invited into mutually nourishing encounter with one another, within the natural world, and with the God who created it all. At the table, we are invited to be at home with one another in the presence of God in whom all things are finding their Home.