The truth is, we find getting together at the table (even just getting the food into the house) a practical challenge in a today’s world. In Eden, God invited Adam and Eve to eat all sorts of plant life. God fed them well. There was, of course, that one forbidden food. Now, forbidden foods have a way of not being good for us. A diabetic must avoid sweets. Walnuts or shrimp are life threatening for people with a nut or seafood allergy. But, Adam and Eve, driven by what Griffiths calls the vice of curiosity, made a fatal mistake for all of Creation. The intimacy we had with God was broken, and not until Jesus came- eating and drinking, suffering, dying, rising, forgiving our sins, and inviting us to the feast of the Lamb-did we have any hope for restored relationship with God.
The table, then, at home and at church (table and Table) is the place of invitation, nourishment, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, learning, growing, and going. It is as much about relationship building and disciple-making as it is about food. In both instances, we come hungry for food and companionship with one another and with God. In both instances, we are invited and fed by something or Someone who had to die for us to live. God’s Word fills us. In both instances, we leave with a co-mission to go and do likewise for our neighbor. And, in both instances, we can stand with Jesus and proclaim “that we live by ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God,’ because that word has everything to do good things, with real nourishment for body and soul. With the eyes of faith, Christ comes to be known as that word, incarnate, embodied, the Word of God, present then and now. Christ is then the invitation, the way we have of re-creating that living relationship of intimacy with God that the original humans knew in the garden.”
Rethinking the Practice of a Shared Evening Meal
I believe we need to be at the table each night, fully present and alive to the invitation, provision, and gratitude a meal together involves, with a keen insight that compels us to keep families knit together and to regularly weave strangers into our midst. In our homes and churches, the time spent at the table, especially in the evening, is never wasted. It slows time down, it reconnects us with those we love as well as with the guest, it provides a shared training ground for life’s challenges, and it generatively introduces the next generation to the saving ways and nourishment of a life in Christ. Perhaps most importantly, I suggest that it affords us the time for opening a new day together because the rhythms and predictability and rightness of the Christian practices transform the way we view the world and time.
Dorothy Bass considers how attending to the practices shapes a day in her book Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time. This book unlocked for me an entirely new perspective on how a regular “day” could flow. Our modern notion is that each day starts at sunrise and continues until bedtime. However, a careful study of the creation story in Genesis 1 literally flips a day on its head; God created, there was night, then day. In practice, then, a new day actually begins in the evening. Can you believe it?
After Adam and Eve sinned, God was strolling in the garden in the cool of the day looking for them. Evening was a time for walking with God. Imagine the implications of making it a regular faith practice to restructure your “day” so that a new day begins as you get home from work or school. Then you can consider the place of the evening meal as a shared practice from the ancient Jewish custom of beginning the new day in the evening.
Gathering family, friends, and strangers around the table for supper might actually be considered a corporate event for greeting the new day. In other words, the evening meal is a threshold we cross together, a natural transition from the work and school day that is behind us to the new day ahead, filled with all of God’s creative possibilities. At the evening meal, we gather together to be nourished, but not just with food. We prepare to spend the evening walking and resting with God as Adam and Eve did, putting aside a day in which we may have done or said something we should not have, or failed to do or say something we should have. God intends for the day to be done. And at the table, together, we transition to a new day in Christ that is immediately ahead of us.
I don’t know about you, but this was a revolutionary idea for me, that nighttime be less a time of recovery and more about active preparation. For me, getting home from work was always about wrapping myself in the comforting insulation of house and family. It was a way to hibernate and shield myself from the outside world, to recover from this day, and to literally shed this day’s responsibilities. In doing so, getting a nightly meal on the table always seemed just one more obligation in a long day’s to-do list that included work, laundry, packing lunches, helping with homework, paying bills, and church committee meetings. Next time we will dig into this idea of new day like hungry teens into a pizza!
Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.
LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THIS! IT HELPS AS I W RITE AND REVISE 🙂
Featured Image credit: K.Richardson, 2016
 Paul J. Griffiths, The Vice of Curiosity: An Essay on Intellectual Appetite (Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2006). In this short treatise, Griffiths discusses the darker nature of curiosity as a means to owning and controlling knowledge for power, the same kind of appetite Adam and Eve gave into.
 Cathy C. Campbell, Stations of the Banquet (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2003), p. 13.
 Dorothy C. Bass, Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000).