Having been in hospital for 14 of the last 21 days, I think I know the menu quite well. The breakfast is basic but filling with plenty of Weetabix to go around. The lunch is really quite good: with options from a Roast Chicken Dinner to an All Day Breakfast. Yesterday’s featured this tasty and aromatic Sweet & Sour Chicken. It’s really quite tasty. Supper though is a bit dire. Rather evil-tasting sandwiches and not enough to go round.
That’s why we have elicit food supplies. Some are healthy, others a bit dodgy, a few downright dangerous. I’m blessed with lots of fruit: grapes, blueberries, raspberries, apples. Though I’ve not tried them yet, I’ve even got some kiwis stashed away. When the tea comes around I’ve a good supply of digestives ready for dunking.
Michael, opposite me in the bay, stacks up on crisps. Ilya (from Romania) seems to have a never ending supply of boiled sweets & Douglas has home made cookies, baked for him by loving grand-daughters. I’m not sure much of its healthy for folk with dodgy tickers, but tasty food can cheer you up during the long waits for treatment. And it’s good to share. When we mix up all those treats, our bay has quite a varied feast. It’s a friendly bay and you can see trust growing between a diverse group of men as we eat and share together.
So my mind turns to the Last Supper and the final meal that Jesus shared with a group of men. We think of Communion, Mass, the Lord’s Supper. Whatever we call it, the first disciples saw it as a party, a celebration. It was more like Christmas Dinner than a religious ritual. Friends eating together, celebrating God’s deliverance in the land of Egypt with a party.
We’re told the upper room was furnished and ready, that Jesus was looking forward to it. I’m imagining Christmas trees and fairy lights. But maybe something more first century and middle eastern. A few cushions maybe? Some roast lamb with ‘all the trimmings’. And here round the table they’re reclining, relaxing as they enjoy the food and each other’s company.
And it’s in this context of food and fellowship that Jesus gets down to the serious business of preparing the disciples for the next few days. Indeed, for the epoch-changing days to come.
As they eat, he shows in broken bread and poured out wine, the symbols of his own suffering and death. He prays for them to have strength to face the persecution to come, he washes their feet as a symbol of servanthood.
I bet they got more than they bargained for from that celebratory meal. More than a remembrance of the past. More even than a great meal in a private function room.
They ate not just the bread but they participated in his suffering. They drank not just the wine but were strengthened for battle by talk of the coming Holy Spirit.
Eating together is so important. Often we connect together on a deeper level as we share a meal. I’m sure that is why things like the Alpha Course work. As we eat together we relax around each other and are open to discussing the really important things of life.
Despite social media being awash with pictures of what we’re all having for dinner, a new survey has found that nearly half of all meals eaten in the UK are eaten alone. And 34 per cent of us can go a whole week without eating a meal alongside someone else. That kind of isolation cannot be good for us, either as individuals or as a society.
As Jesus approached his final hours he wanted time with his closest followers, to eat with them, to encourage them. Maybe he also wanted to be strengthened by that time spent together around the table. Certainly as he steps into the garden he had hoped that those who ate with him would also pray with him. But eventually he would have to walk the path alone.
So why not find someone to eat with? I’m eating with five other guys every day for who knows how long! We may only be temporary sojourners but still we are built up by the common meal. If you are eating alone, I know there’s a good hot meal at 12 noon at FBC every Thursday. Or why not just invite someone over to dinner? If Jesus desired the company of friends then we shouldn’t shy back from this.
If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me too. Believe it or not, I haven’t tried the All Day Breakfast yet. I might try it tomorrow. (Don’t worry, it’s grilled sausage and an omelette).
I’m sure to share the experience with my friends…