As I consider phasing out guest posts at Texas Schmexas all together–because, quite frankly, it’s just too much headache trying to convince you all to write something down even though you tell me stories about community all the time–there has been one person who consistently has been willing to churn something out in response to my desperate pleas. That, friends, would be my dad.
When my friend Ed and his wife renewed their wedding vows, they invited my wife Gail and me to join them. I didn’t realize at the time that the event would be held in a very plush location, The Hershey Resort, and we would not only be their guests but they paid for everything. From the check-in where we were given a gift bag of goodies including, of course, lots of Hershey’s chocolate, to our final walk through The Hershey Gardens, we were treated as royalty.
During this weekend, Gail and I had a lot of time with Ed and Anne’s children and extended families. It was really good to see the personal side of our friends through our interaction with their family as well as get to know them both better.
At the time, I didn’t realize how much the invitation meant to me and how it really cemented our relationship.
Later I read a section in Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out, that caught me by surprise. In discussing Luke 17, when Jesus invited unacceptable people to have dinner with him, Manning writes,
“It would be impossible to overestimate the impact these meals must have had upon the poor and the sinners. By accepting them as friends and equals Jesus had taken away their shame, humiliation, and guilt. By showing them that they mattered to him as people he gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their captivity. … Moreover, because Jesus was looked upon as a man of God and a prophet, they would have interpreted his gesture of friendship as God’s approval on them.” (p. 60)
I started to wonder why a meal meant so much, so as usual I turned to the internet. After many false threads, I Googled “meal together act of covenant” and found some great information.
Historically, as it turns out, after an agreement (or, covenant) was reached, participants sat down and ate a meal together. Many times others were invited to witness and celebrate with them.
It follows then that when you invite someone into your home for a meal, which is different than going to a restaurant, you are essentially asking that person to be your friend, and the meal is the celebration of the event.
Have you ever not been invited to someone’s party? Did you think that maybe you weren’t really friends after all?
Our modern society discounts covenants to the extent that we think ‘contracts are made to be broken.’ Not so when Jesus taught these lessons.
What does any of this have to do with community?
It has dawned on me that without the covenant of friendship and the celebration of spending time with people by inviting them into my home, there is no real community. All you’ve got are people just pretending to commune.