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Keith's sermon on Eating Together

5th September 2023: WMC
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Keith launched Holy Habits (lite) #3 "Eating Together" on Sunday 3rd September following on from a fabulous Church breakfast that morning

You can find his sermon below

I still remember how exotic and ground breaking the introduction of Ski Swiss-style yoghurt was back in the day, (introduced into the UK in 1963, by Express Dairies, with production based in Haywards Heath in Sussex.)

I also recall how around the same time Pizza became more readily available and that
a) I loved it and
b) my maternal grandmother could never pronounce it correctly.

During the 1970's we thought ourselves very grown up and sophisticated eating spaghetti bolognaise, or trying a dish from the Hamyln, All colour Cookbook, in which all the photographs of the meals seemed to be either brown or orange.

Our culinary preferences and tastes have become more exotic, more far ranging and more international – we have been exposed to the foods of those who have migrated here, bringing with them their food from home alongside the ability for so many more people to travel on a regular basis has opened our eyes, and our stomachs to new and inviting experiences.

Today's choices and offerings seem like light years away from the blandness of the food I remember growing up with as a child now a distant memory – minced beef sitting in watery gravy alongside boiled potatoes and cabbage – no thank you!

What with Master Chef, Master Chef the professionals, celebrity Master Chef, the great British menu, bake off and every other cookery and food programme going, there has been a total revolution and reformation when it comes to food these past 50-60 years or so.

What hasn't changed though is the importance of eating together, of sharing food and conversation.

Eating together is a social activity, an intimate act, and occasion to build and develop relationships.

The tradition of people eating together being a sign of God's reign or kingdom goes way back into Judaeo-Christian history. It is a picture painted by the prophets and celebrated in the psalms:

'On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.'
Isaiah 25:6

'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.'
Psalm 23:5

Both of these passages speak about a generous God who provides the finest of foods.

Jesus was rooted in and lived this tradition.

Jesus was so often criticised for eating with and sharing in table fellowship with all sorts of people as a sign of the inclusivity of God's kingdom.

So too the early church.

The gatherings to eat together were earthly representations of the heavenly banquet imagery that had been reinforced by Jesus through his teaching as well as his actions.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus, the table fellowship of the early Christians was warm and accepting.

They refused to discriminate against those who for whatever reason found themselves marginalised.

All were welcome to partake of this basic human and yet deeply sacred activity.

The joy of eating together, the value of table fellowship for deepening relationships, the missional fruitfulness of shared meals and the opportunities for sharing faith, biblical study, prayer and worship around the meal table have all been rediscovered many times by both new and ancient forms of church.

Our venture into Holy Habits is a timely reminder of this.

At first glance, the Holy Habit of Eating Together seems like an easy one.

Many of us enjoy eating together with family and friends and eating together is often a regular feature of church life. But this holy habit invites us to do more than simply consume food.

It invites us to explore how we eat together and with whom.

Jesus was often criticised for who he chose to eat with. The feeding of the 5,000 in John's gospel (John 6:1-14) starts with a boy and his little picnic of five loaves and two fishes and ends with a meal for 5,000 people.

This story reminds us of the generous love of God and invites us to share what we have with gladness and generosity – building on the Holy Habit we have been looking at these past three months.

So some simple points for us to ponder as we begin to explore together this new Holy Habit

It's easy to eat with friends and family, but what eating and sharing meals with those we don't know? Or those we find it difficult to like?

How can we share food with those who use our premises and as well as with the wider community?

How often do we eat with our neighbours or those in our street?

How can we be inclusive of those who are unable to eat freely for health reasons, those with diabetes, allergies or food intolerances, those with eating disorders?

Can we share those aspects of eating together which do not involve food?

As we consider the importance of eating together, could we be people who EAT with Equality, Affirmation and togetherness in true fellowship with all?

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