“A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission around the Table” by Tim Chester serves as much needed reminder that Jesus’ kingdom mission was centered around a meal with the socially marginalized and religious outcasts where the realities of God’s grace, hope, and salvation were both created and symbolized. He highlights the bitter pill that the same circles that have championed “justification by faith” actually practice a form of “justification by works” wherever individuals are ostracized from the meal life of the church for reasons of class, race, and status. The book likewise observes that mission has largely lost this meal aspect of the early church in regards to hospitality and rightly recalls that Jesus was made “known in the breaking of bread” and not so much in the pithy one-liner “Do you know Jesus”. Point well taken. In the end, we must realize that the Spirited communal meal with Jesus the Older Brother and God the Father was the very reason he paid the price at Calvary, that is, that we might “recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God”. And the wonderful truth is we don’t have to wait for that day to begin enjoying the new creation party for it has started wherever sinners sit down prepare a meal and eat with Jesus!
Tim Chester’s book “A meal with Jesus” was an incredible read, that focused on the table meal as a strong sign of togetherness and community, reconciling and strengthening the the people of God. The section where he spoke of his home being a place of welcome to hangout, share their problems and where a outstreched hand was there willing to help. Academia in my opinion is on another level when it comes to gettinng together to break bread andhow should I say it “Parlay”! Great book really brought back thoughts of “a community called atonement” by Scot Mcknight.
“A Meal With Jesus” opened my eyes to the importance of table fellowship and it’s centrality in the Gospel accounts. As Chester notes, in the Gospels Jesus is either eating, just finished eating, or going to a meal. He also points out that the Gospels record the Son of Man coming to do three things: “not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mk. 10.45), “seek and save the lost” (Lk. 19.10), and “eating and drinking” with tax collectors and sinners (Lk. 7.34). The first two point out what the Son of Man does while the third points out HOW those goals are accomplished.
Much of Jesus’ ministry took place around the table as he foreshadowed the Messianic Banquet which will certainly be around a table as well. Time and time again, Jesus flips the cultural norms upside down and shocks those observing his every action, and his conduct around the table is no different! Chester highlights the importance of the meal within the community of believers but also as a missiological “tool” so to speak. Wonderful little read, highly recommended!
A quick and semi-enlightening read, producing a few thought-provoking moments. His over-use of “party” when making oblique references to the Messianic Banquet (and Jesus’ constant presentation and advanced enactment of that banquet) are a bit un-nerving. In that, it is similar to Will Willimon’s treatment in “Why Jesus,” painting Jesus as a “party animal,” which is fraught with anachronistic danger, especially amongst a generalized Christian community that is not overtly missional-minded nor trained to connect “Jesus” and “party” with the Messianic banquet that proclaims God’s rule, and certainly are not accustomed to linking the great feasts, such as Passover, with the story of God’s actions to liberate His people from Egypt and set them on His course of mission for them. One senses that Chester realizes this, as he tones down such usage as the book progresses. The real-life examples of Christian communities that are formed first on the basis of meals, in an attempt to emulate Jesus’ routine and real meal practice, can be quite moving. I have come away from this book, with a greater sense of my own responsibility to replicate the example that Jesus provides us, especially as presented within Luke’s Gospel, to actively engage in hospitality, and was consistently reminded of my shortcomings in this area. It definitely serves as a wake-up call, especially in my daily contemplation of how to go about building up the congregation of which I am a part, and inviting people to share in the missions that are so very close to my own heart. There is a reminder that we tend to make things a bit more complicated than they need to be, as we go about attempting to “do church.” First and foremost, we must “be church,” which needs to be about reaching out and going to, rather than inviting people, unless we are talking about opening up our homes and therefore our lives, to come to where we gather. Though I find points of disagreement here and there, I would recommend this book to anybody that is desirous of introducing a mission mentality into their lives and into their churches.
Tim Chester wrote a great little book on how we should all open are homes up and invite people in to eat with us. A Meal With Jesus shows how our Lord Jesus communicated with his followers through a meal shared with everybody. This included rich, poor, dirty, clean and even prostitutes. Jesus was involved with all of society through food. Tim Chester started from the beginning of the bible on how Adam and Eve got kicked out of eden for eating the forbidden fruit all the way to the end with the Last Meal with Jesus, with other stories of food in between. The book also points out that we should not live like hermit crabs, basically living within our shell, in our own world. But that we should open up to everybody that is willing to share their time with us, with some good food, good drinks, over conversation about the gospels and how to make the world a better place to live. I would recommend this book to be read and if there was a description to describe Academia Church, than this book would basically describe what Academia is all about.
A Meal with Jesus
By Tim Chester
Let’s just clarify first that I come to the table (no pun…) as a novice Christian. So, no comments on scripture or theology, most of which are filed somewhere in my brain under “Things that make you go huh?” At least, until Larry and/ or Nathan enlighten me (even then sometimes).
As silly as it sounds, the Betty Crocker knock-off cover gave me a cozy feeling reminiscent of warm cookies on a rainy day. I felt strangely comforted by its innocuous familiarity—and yes I was judging a book by its cover despite the cliché. So I was expecting the usual Christian rhetoric. No offense, but esoteric scriptural quotes backed by circular logic and blind-faith is what I’ve come to expect from most Christian literature—garbage in, garbage out—need I say more.
Hard to admit, but I was actually wrong—happens about 20 percent of the time, which I believe gives me a 10 percent edge over Larry Garcia and Tom Wright—just saying! Anyway, Chester’s cover-choice was masterfully backed by a pitch that starts off more like a dinner conversation with an old friend. He borders on folksy at times and gets a little preachy towards the end—forgivable since I like the guy. Although, I was wondering if he could pull off an entire book based on meals without resorting to a lot of verbose filler, but it was about so much more than food.
In one example, Chester was able to demonstrate through scripture how Jesus defied the Pharisees, basically committing social suicide by dining with tax collectors and sinners. He starts with this premise and then patiently peels away the layers, comparing the rigid social order of first century Rome with his own experiences in the obfuscated caste systems of the 21st century; and let’s be honest there is a caste system, even here in the good old USA; perish the thought of inviting a homeless person to dinner or worse yet to a dinner party with all of your seemingly “normal” friends. Even if they generously excused it as one of your altruistic indulgences they wouldn’t be likely to socialize with this person beyond the obligatory greeting, let alone see him/her as an equal. In this regard it seems we are more like the Pharisees than Jesus, choosing those we deem as worthy over homeless people, who obviously must be sinners to have fallen so low that no one will help them.
Chester challenges us to re-examine the core spiritual values of our own little bubbles. As I said I like the guy and I agree with his politics. I could’ve done without the preachy bits, but I would highly recommend this book. That being said, I’m fairly sure that even most of my Christian friends wouldn’t read it. As much as I agree with him, I hate to go there, but the religious ideology he proposes is utopic; not that church communities don’t feed the homeless, but is it heartfelt or more of a corporate sense of Christian duty? Don’t get me wrong, it paints a lovely picture much like a Hallmark greeting card, but is it truly what Jesus had in mind? I have to applaud Chester for challenging us to re-evaluate ourselves in the form of sharing grace and community through food. For me it comes down to one question—Hallmark or Jesus—which kind of Christian am I?
A Meal With Jesus is a nice read about discovering Grace, Community and Mission. He describes for us a simple and yet compelling way to enter into relationships beyond “our four and no more” with those outside and beyond our ” inner circles” touching community and mission all just by sharing a meal with someone as a way of reaching people for Christ along with opening our mouths we should open up our hearts and homes as well. This is challenging to say the least, but rewarding. I love getting around the table its achromatic a place where hearts are knitted together, laugher is released, problems are solved and the days activities are discussed. Spiritually it speaks something much granduer. I really enjoyed the book, and I love the cover who doesn’t love a picnic ants and all!
Tim Chester’s book does what it intends to do, namely it presents the centrality of table fellowship to the mission of Jesus. He colorfully illustrates experiences from his own personal life wherein sharing a meal at table with someone has served to strenghten bonds between himself and someone on the other side of a social divide, and how meals help to familiarize himself with people from other cultures. However, I thinks book suffers from a perceived ignorance on the way in which meals functioned in the Greco-Roman era, approaching the topic from a first-century sociological perspective, then attempting to understand how the meal might function in our modern society. In my opinion, such an approach serves to bridge the gap between the meals that characterized Jesus’ Palestinian mission, and the way in which Jesus was remembered and celebrated after his resurrection and ascension by devoted followers in regions of the world outside of Palestine. I believe there is a gap, far from insurmountable, but a gap nonetheless between Jesus breaking bread with his disciples, and Jesus being remembered after his departure in the breaking of bread by his disciples. It must be said that the latter is deeply dependent on the former, yet I’m convinced insight in this area would undoubtedly assist Jesus’ modern-day followers in their approach to remembering Jesus at table as well.
That said, Chester’s fourth chapter- “Meals as Enacted Mission”- moved me to the core, inspired me to share God’s table with others, and view that table-fellowship as an opportunity to involve myself in God’s mission of restoring his broken world. He emphasizes the difference between giving food TO people in need, which can often come off as a patronizing act, and eating foood WITH people, which can be empowering and create lasting relationships. He cites Christine Pohl whose book “Friendship at the Margins” was the first to illuminate me to this reality at a very practical, missional level (future book of the month perhaps?). I’ll end by quoting a couple of paragraphs from Chester’s fourth chapter:
“We think we’re enacting grace if we provide for the poor. But we’re only halfway there. We’ve missed the social dynamics. What we communicate is that we’re able and you’re unable. ‘I can do something for you, but you can do nothing for me. I’m superior to you.’ We cloak our superiority in compassion, but superirority cloaked in compassion is patronizing.
Think how different the dynamic is when we sit and eat with someone. We meet as equals. We share together. We affirm one another and enjoy one another. A woman once told me: ‘I know people do a lot to help me. But what I want is for someone to be my friend.’ People don’t wand to be projects. The poor need a welcome to replace their marginalizations, inclusion to replace their exclusion, a place where they matter to replace their powerlessness. They need community. They need the Christian community.”
Hello. Tim Chester here.
Thanks for all the comments.
The comments about the use of the term ‘party’ are interesting. It seems the term has negative or immoral connotations to you which it does not have in the UK.
Thank you Mr. Chester for taking the time out to read the comments above. Your book was just a down-right great read, and I plan on using it as a sort of covenant-charter for how we do “church”. It is an honor to have you participate in our discussion.
in response to Tim Chester’s very welcome post, i would say that one would be hard-pressed to find a suggestion of possible immorality or negativity in the statement that “painting Jesus as a ‘party animal,’ which is fraught with anachronistic danger, especially amongst a generalized Christian community that is not overtly missional-minded nor trained to connect ‘Jesus’ and ‘party’ with the Messianic banquet that proclaims God’s rule, and certainly are not accustomed to linking the great feasts, such as Passover, with the story of God’s actions to liberate His people from Egypt and set them on His course of mission for them. ” rather, it has much more to do with a need to nuance the usage of “party” along the lines of the messianic banquet over/undertones of Jesus’ meal activities, simply because of the fact that, worldwide, the notion of what constitutes a “party,” with this being a wildly divergent term, could cloud what it is that is being communicated.
A meal with Jesus is an amazing read to say the very least, set in first century historical context the book is not only good for the soul but historically accurate aswell. So often in our culture as Christians we search for this ambiguous prestigious purpose for our lives only to be left empty and searching for meaning. Well a meal with Jesus shows how something as small as a meal can have huge impact on mission, culture and society . The author does an amazing job in helping to show how much a meal can echo gods in breaking and fourth coming kingdom todays day and age. This book is profound in its simplicity . A must read for all Christians !
Academia Church © 2013