The last few weeks, months even, have held a lot of talk about community. It’s certainly a buzz word around Christian circles. More specifically, a lot is being talked about community around the table. Shauna Niequiest certainly opened the door wide with her book Bread & Wine. Anyone who has read can tell you it strikes a cord in you. You know there is community when people sit around a table eat together.
During our small group this week, we talked about the difference between the American church and the church at large. We are lucky enough to have a missionary in our group who is able to compare and contrast the church at large and insists that the American church culture is a very small subculture of the Christian church.
He described how community is much different in other parts of the world. Members stay and talk with each other after services. It’s not a race for home or the buffet. Visitors are often invited to meals at homes. Meals are shared throughout the week. His wife told us at one time, at least one meal was shared per day with another family.
When they asked if we often ate with our friends, or even acquaintances, I had to say no. Sure, we have people over sometimes but it’s certainly not regular and it’s always planned in advance. We’re all so busy. There’s no concept of meeting someone new at church and saying, “Come to my house for dinner today.” And that’s sad to me because it sounds just like something Jesus would do.
Two of our friends that moved this year to Charleston invited us down this past weekend. When we arrived, they had a meal waiting for us. They joyfully dragged us around Saturday to antique shops and the farmer’s market and art galleries and peanut shops and the beach and back to their house for another meal. We woke up Sunday and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast before we left.
My heart left full, thinking about this idea of community and sharing the table. I was challenged to stay later and invite in and buy extra. I’m already a believer but when someone sacrifices and shares their table there is something that rings true in my spirit.
Jesus talks about his kingdom being like a marriage feast. He offers an invitation. Some will make excuses and not come but others will accept. And so I realize that when friends invite us in and offer a meal, it is nothing less than them being Jesus to us.
When we say yes and indeed sacrifice our own time, money and efforts to sit and commune, we are a picture of the sinner saying yes to Jesus again. Certainly I don’t mean this literally but just like a baptism moves me to tears every time, this sitting down to a meal with friends nearly breaks me as well. It moves me because it reminds me of Jesus.
Yesterday after church I didn’t run for the car. I introduced myself to the couple in front of us and invited them to our small group. It just happened that they lived a few miles from us. I introduced myself to our new pastors. I stayed and made small talk with a new friend. My heart was again full when I left.
May I challenge us all to buy into the hype and intentionally chase this community? Because this thing called community—it is nothing less than an invitation from Jesus to know him more. For others to know him through you.