I have had the privilege to experience the hospitality from a few different cultures.
In Zambia , I sat cross-legged on the dusty ground and ate with my fingers a meal of ground cabbage and mielie meal ( a thick porridge made from ground maize) ; in Taiwan I ate a selection of fish and noodles with chop sticks , plus a delicious turtle jelly( a delicacy I understand ); in Palestine it was falafel wrap standing outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem ; and in Jamaica it was a goat curry with mannish water( a so called’ soup’ which accompanies goat curry , made up from the carcass, tongue and eyes of the goat); and finally experienced the wonderful hospitality of a Sikh temple in Manchester , where tens of people sat and ate the food made by the women of the Sikh community .
With all these encounters and many more, food always provides a space for ‘conversation’, whether it is spoken or silent. Let me explain …
Spoken conversation can be discussing Theology; the meaning of Life; cajoling children to eat the food you have provided; catching up with friends, or even a meeting with new colleagues to explore new ways of working (I have had a few working lunches in recent weeks with my new move). Jesus experienced many meals like this, excited chatter, intense questions and food was central to the openness and inclusive nature of this meal.
Silent conversation can be different; silence can mean you are undertaking silent retreat discovering the stillness of God and savouring the food as you eat it; silence can mean you are alone; Silence can mean you are struggling with an eating disorder; silence can mean you are eating the scraps left over from someone else’s meal; silence can mean there is no food. Jesus experienced many difficult mealtimes none more so than one night in an upper room.
There are times in our life, when eating a meal can be a wonderful experience. or it can be challenging and painful.
Let us never expect food to be provided for us,…. yet when it is,… let us give thanks to God,… and welcome the conversation as it enfolds ….whether spoken or silent…. Let us make the experience Quality time with God
God who provides our food,
Help us to appreciate the many experiences to lay before us .
A coffee and buttered tea cake with the lonely,
A picnic in the park with family and friends
A biscuit and water with the hurting
A piece of bread with those who feel marginalized
The spoken conversation of creativity
The silent conversation of anguish
Bless us as we eat the bread and drink the wine
that sustains our faith