Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dining with Diety

With The Early American Tradition of a Thanksgiving meal upon us, I thought taking a look at Eastern Customs might be a beautiful and thoughtful reminder of why we gather at table to give thanks. 
The following, unless otherwise noted, was taken from the book, Sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus. 1

Nowadays we tend to think of meals merely as times for refueling our bodies.  Breakfast is an Egg McMuffin behind the steering wheel...lunch a vending machine candy bar...dinner a lean cuisine. In our rush-rush world, many of us dine alone or while doing something else. 

However, in ancient eastern tradition this isn't so. The dinner table was considered the family altar.

The home itself is considered a little sanctuary where God can dwell.
Within the home, the mother and father function as priests, bearing witness of God's presence to their children.

Every Jewish meal is supposed to be a time for discussing the scriptures.
When three eat at one table and bring up words of [scripture], it is as if they ate from the table of God, blessed be He!

Perhaps that was why Jesus was invited to dinner so often--he could always be counted on for a fascinating discussion.

At one point in the evening, the father reads proverbs 31 to his wife, to extol her virtues and then prays for her and blesses her.

Joachim Jeremias notes an additional observation to the significance of the Shabat meal.
"In the east, even today, to invite someone to a meal was to extend an honor, an offering of peace, trust, and forgiveness. Jesus' meals with sinners weren't merely social events or just signs of his empathy for the lowly, though he was compassionate. 'The inclusion of sinners in the community of salvation, achieved in table-fellowship, is the most meaningful expression of the message of the redeeming love of God".  2

Each time Jesus ate with sinners, he was revealing the kingdom of God.

You prepare a table before me...
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup over flows.
Psalm 23:

Baruhk atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam,
ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.

Blessed are you, LORD, our God
King of the universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.
 Jewish Shabat prayer.

Food for thought:
* Jesus said, I was a stranger and you invited me in. 4
It isn't too late, ask God to show you who he might have placed before you, even at this very hour, that could be blessed by the sharing of your holiday gathering.
* During the meal, go around the table and take turns having everyone affirm each individual with an attribute they admire.
* Consider adding a Sulha 5 component to the meal.
* Read some of your favorite bible stories or verses.

1. SITTING AT THE FEET OF RABBI JESUS, How the Jewishness of Jesus can transform your faith,
Ann spangler, Lois Tverberg,  Chapter 10, At table with the Rabbi

2.  Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology (London:SCM, 1971), 115-16

3.  Shabat;  Hebrew for Sabbath, meaning to 'cease'. A time of ceasing from labor, according to the Bible. Jews observe Shabbat from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset.

4.  Matthew 25:35

5. Sulha, a meal of reconciliation. Take time to offer a long overdue apology before the meal. According to the tradition of a Sulha meal, once the first bite is taken, the offense can never be brought up again.