This Sunday afternoon we will be having our annual church-wide picnic at the home of Matt and Amelia Kelly. I am looking forward to it and I hope you are also for a better reason than the first two items in the title. I am sure we will have great food (Kevin Hammond the Grill Master will be cooking the burgers and the dogs). And I am sure Matt will be driving the kids around his tractor for hayrides. But the primary feature of the picnic is our opportunity to fellowship.
Recently, I have been studying the concept of common meals in the early church. The church considered sharing food as vital to experiencing fellowship. Consider these examples:
Acts 2:46-47 (ESV) And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 20:7 (ESV) On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
And consider this example with the church at Corinth- 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 (ESV) But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
In Corinth the issue was not that the church had gathered together for a meal- but that some had been excluded, some refused to share and others got carried away in their indulgence. Paul said with such a display, the church would have been better served not to eat together.
But when we do eat together, what does it communicate? It shows that we include everyone in the body. (Consider Paul’s rebuke of Peter when he refused to eat with the gentile Christians in Galatians 2:11-14). It shows that everyone is on equal statues with one another. The rich eat with the poor, the children eat with the adults, the elderly eat with the young. There is NO division in the body of Christ. And finally, it allows us to express Christian love as we give what food we have to another and accept their gift of food in return.
So it is important that we gather to eat together. On a personal level, it gives me an opportunity to have a real conversation with you. You can see me for who I am- a normal guy living by faith in Christ and not some personality in the pulpit. And I can form the bonds of friendship with you. I hope you will come this Sunday. Together we can experience food, fun and fellowship in the Lord.