Some of my best memories involve food. I grew up in a large family where it was common for major celebrations to include in excess of 40 people. Coming from an Egyptian background, celebrations involved tables groaning with food (you needed to have enough of every dish for each guest), loud music, laughter, and my grandfather sitting on the deck in the backyard smoking a Shisha. My summer's were filled with time on the beach or in the pool and I am definitely blessed to have olive skin because I never burnt, just turned a very dark colour. Although I personally did not like all the food served, the meals had to include at least two forms of meat, seafood, rice, potato salad and Lebanese bread. This was all on top of the mezza (nuts, more bread, dip) and the dessert (another full table of different dishes).
In my families mind, food was synonymous with hosting. I remember going to Egypt with my family and visiting every family (which was a lot because mum had 25 cousins) with each family member providing a full meal. At one point we were seeing a family for lunch and then another one for dinner. Even more importantly, it was vital that you ate and it was an insult if you didn't have a full meal with your hosts.
Showing love to someone means hospitality
Why am I telling you this? Because for my family - and for me - showing you love someone and that they are accepted and welcome was linked directly to feeding them. It was our primary mode of connection and celebration. It was ingrained in me from day one, and even today, it is a strong part of who I am. I am fortunate to have a husband who feels the same.
When we bought our house, we intentionally chose a home which had space to host with the desire to use it to connect people with God. One of the main focuses of our wedding was that the reception be a great time for our guests (i.e. great food, great entertainment and great dancing). And when Rob asked me to start planning our community outreach barbecues when we launched C3 Church Wentworthville, my response was not, "ummm... you sure?" but "definitely. How many people do you want me to cater for?" It is also why I am passionate about having a friendly, welcoming face at our Sunday service morning tea - with good coffee and tea and delicious food. It is a very important part of our weekly church service.
Eating and Drinking
The bible tells us:
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ - Luke 7:34 NIV
I heard somewhere that Jesus literally ate His way through the gospel. He told stories over food, connected with people over drinks and even celebrated His last supper with His disciples (now communion for us) with food and drink. And He didn't limit this time to His disciples, or the Jewish, or the "acceptable" people. Jesus explicitly chose to eat dinner with Zacchaeus, a tax collector (Luke 19:1-10), even such actions were quite scandalous in His day.
In those days, Tax Collectors were hated. Unlike today, where taxes are clearly controlled by government; during the time of Jesus it was common for the tax collectors to add a little for their own pocket when collecting the money. Frankly, they were loathed. And what was the consequence of Jesus' action - Zacchaeus completely changed; he gave half his money to the poor and said that anyone he cheated he would repay four times over. Something as small as having a meal had a major impact in this one man's life.
Similar to this, our church services and Life Groups are partially a place to draw people in. And not just the Christians, but the lost, the wounded and the lonely. The service (or study) itself is a place to feed them spiritually, to introduce them and connect them with God, but the morning tea (or dinner) is an opportunity to connect with them. To understand their story and to demonstrate the love of God.
And that is why it is important to continue to provide these opportunities. It doesn't need to be something major like hosting a party for 50. It can be something as simple as buying a stranger a coffee, or having a picnic with your mothers group. But it provides an opportunity to connect, to relate and to show your love and acceptance - and much like how Jesus was able to draw people to God through this, we too can demonstrate Jesus' love in this action.
- Written by Ashleigh Crosilla.