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Jesus, Food, Mission and Learning

16 September, 2004 10:36 AM

Last night at LivingRoom we took a look at the topic of Jesus and Food (as mentioned a couple of posts ago). I ended up going with the messy/chaotic/overwhelming approach of tackling 25 passages of Gospel Scripture on the topic rather than just picking out one or two to examine. The way we did was to divide into groups of three and to divide the following list of passages up. Each group read their passages and spent a few minutes on each teasing out the implications/meaning/themes as a group. The groups then came back together to share their musings which we noted on a big sheet of paper or two. The passages we looked at were:

Jesus and Food
- Temptation Story – Matthew 4:1-4
- Salt of the Earth – Matthew 5:13
- Do not worry – Matthew 6:25-27
- Jesus Questioned about Fasting – Matthew 9:14-17
- Parable of the Yeast – Matthew 13:33
- Feeding 5000 – Matthew 14:13, Mark 6:30-44
- Yeast of the Pharisees – Matthew 16:5-12
- Wedding Feast Parable – Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24
- Sheep and Goats – Matthew 25:31-46
- Lords Supper – Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23
- Matthews Party – Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27-32
- Lord of the Sabbath – Mark 2:23-27
- Unclean Hands – Mark 7:1-23 - Feeding 4000 – Mark 8:1-13
- Jesus Anointed at Bethany – Luke 7:36-50 - Beatitudes – Luke – 6:20-26
- Fasting – Luke 6:33-39 - Glutton and Drunk – Luke 7:33-35
- Jesus at a Pharisee’s House – Luke14:1-14
- Parable of the Lost Son – Luke 15:11-32
- Zacchaeus – Luke 19:1-10
- Jesus Turns Water into Wine – John 2:1-10
- Samaritan Woman at the Well – John 4:1-26
- I am the Bread of Life – John 6:25-59
- Jesus feeds his Disciples Breakfast – John 21:1-14

I was interested to see the discussion that unfolded after our time in smaller groups. I won't attempt to summarize it here (do the exercise with a group and see where it leads you) but a couple of things stick in my mind today...they are related to one another...

1. Food and Mission - A number of times last night I found myself marveling at how Jesus used food/eating in his interactions with people. From feeding the 4000/5000 and turning water into wine (no wonder people followed him - free food and drink!) through to his interaction with Zacchaeus who turns his whole life around in a pretty staggering way simply because Jesus invited himself to dinner (we noted there is no recorded 'preaching' advice from Jesus to Zacchaeus to do what he did - just a meal. I've always known the power of eating with and providing food and hospitality to others - but I wonder if we're just scratching the surface - especially in the area where we live which is one of the foodie centers of our city.

2. Food and Learning - One of the things that I read someone yesterday in my preparation for last night (it might have been in the article below) was the way in which in New Testament times the meal/table was often a place of learning. A dinner party was not always just a social get together but a time for sharing of ideas. Jesus would have been invited to many of the meals we see him at not just to be polite to him but as something resembling our modern day 'guest speaker'. It was the done thing to have a rabbi or expert in some field to come and espouse their latest ideas/theories etc.

We got talking a little about this last night and realized that in different settings this is still a relevant thing in today's culture. Apart from bible college most of the learning sessions I go to these days (whether for church or business) incorporate food and drink in some form or another. Most of the meetings I go to happen over a meal - a cup of coffee at the least. The way we do church is around a meal and I always find it to be a great environment to explore ideas and learn.

We didn't really flesh this out last night in terms of implications or ways forward but I think I sensed that some in the group were interested in exploring ways in which we could have times of more public/outward focused learning over food. I've often toyed with running a series workshops in a local cafe - not overtly Christian in their nature but rather focussing upon some kingdom values that connect with issues that our immediate context is grappling with. Issues like organic food, justice issues (refugees/environment), creative arts and even on meditative techniques and nights on spirituality.

I guess I've avoided these sorts of 'events' to this point because we've been much more focused upon our established networks and relationships in terms of mission - but perhaps we're moving towards exploring something along these lines.

Anyway - the night last night has continued to stimulate my thinking in a number of directions Jesus' eating transgressions and social impropriety in the gospel of Mark: a social scientific approach is a good online essay on Jesus and Food in the book of Mark that was good background reading for the night. I read a couple of paragraphs from it as an introduction to the discussion.



i lived in texas for a stretch, and they have a great expression... "if there ain't food, it ain't christian..." :-)

thanks for the interesting blog.

ob1 » 19 September, 2004 6:45 PM

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