There is power in gathering around the table together. Everyday we must take time to eat. Often it can turn into a drive through, a tupperware of leftovers, protein bars, or standing in the kitchen amidst the chaos of family life. Our phones buzz, the TV may be on in the back ground, or we could be frantically finishing work/school while mindlessly eating. But there is power in lingering around the table together.
To sit and eat is to acknowledge our human weakness and need to slow down. To sit and eat with others is to acknowledge collectively we are weak. The table is where we come with our different stories and lives but the common need of food. The table is always a good place to start, because no matter the gravity of a situation or intensity of life, anyone can relate to food.
I began to really embrace the beauty of eating together when I lived in South Africa. Every day, three times a day, I would sit and eat with others. Often my life before was hurried lunches or solo dinners trying to find some silence. Then in South Africa I had one option: eat with others. The dining room I always ate in had lots of circle tables with white table cloths. There was a wall of glass paned windows with latches for easy opening to let in the crisp morning air. At breakfast, we would go through a line to fill our plates with food, getting fried eggs, toast, muesli with granola, fruit, and instant coffee. After the typical ups and downs of getting all we needed to eat, we would sit, and when we would all sit at the same time we would join hands and pray a prayer of thanks.
Some mornings we would sit and lazily wake up, having soft and slow conversations with elbow partners. Lunches were often a rapturous affair after having completed a large chunk of class in the morning, eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches when the food was just too questionable. Dinners were the moments in South Africa the people I sat with became people I knew. Being with others leads to knowing, especially with all the time spent at the table together talking and living in each others ways of living. I couldn’t tell you every conversation I had. But I know I laughed a lot. I know there were moments of tears at the picnic tables outside over cold plates of food. I know more often than not after dinner plates had been cleared and our cups emptied, we would still be sitting around the table, talking, become a family.
I think Jesus likes when we come together at the table. To welcome others to our table is to acknowledge our common humanity despite differences. Welcoming others to our table breaks down walls, churning fertile soil for the possibility of something new and beautiful to emerge. Jesus ate with sinners and the outcast more often than not. In Luke 14:13-14 Jesus said, “‘But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”’ At the table we can meet a need with the simplest thing, food. We may not have all the answers, we may not have a common ground, we may have nothing in common. When we gather around a meal, slow down, and listen, we can find restoration and comfort at the table.