Bedridden, her body and mind faded by dementia, my grandmother’s eyes flickered over the faces in her room. I was sitting by her side. She did not recognise me. With a sense of urgency, however, she whispered to me, enquiring if the visitors had been fed. Dementia could not erase the identity and purpose she had in Christ. She remembered her calling to serve. Her last words to me, an apparent stranger to her by then, were to hold on to God and to read His Word.

I treasure this memory. In her weakest, I witnessed my grandmother mustering strength to showcase Christ through hospitality. The hold of disease was diminished in that moment; the Spirit triumphed.

And He continues to triumph with that seed sown in my heart.

While the offering and sharing of a meal may not seem like much in a world of greater sacrifices, I have been learning that it can help join the dots between deeply loving God and loving others earnestly.

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At the Table, We Gather

The dining table in my home is more than just a pitstop. At different times of the day, you will find different permutations and combinations at the table: homework scattered religiously for some hours; bouquets flowering to the rhythm of celebrations; books and electronic devices competing relentlessly. But this table knows it has only two regulars: people and food.

It is at this table that we have had family, friends, and some near-strangers join us to share a meal. It is over food that we have had a chance to connect, even if only for that season in our lives.

In addition to breaking bread with our family in Christ, we can open our doors to people whom God places in our path.

In Matthew 9, just after Jesus calls Matthew to follow Him, “many tax collectors and sinners” sit together with Jesus at Matthew’s table (vv. 9–10). This sight rouses the indignation of the Pharisees. When the religious leaders mock His choice of companions, Jesus replies:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (vv. 11–13)

With Christ at the helm, our gatherings, too, should not be restrictive. In addition to breaking bread with our family in Christ, we can open our doors to people whom God places in our path, asking the Spirit to guide us. Remembering how I, too, was once alienated from God because of my sin, before my reconciliation by Christ, encourages these interactions (Colossians 1:21–22).

Once, a lady stopped at my table in a restaurant to play with my baby boy. She was a single mother living away from her son. This encounter could have ended with smiles and polite conversation. But God be thanked, it did not. Today, despite us not sharing cultural or other seeming commonalities, God is purposing a relationship where she is receptive to me praying with her when invited over for tea.

Our God can use anything, even the mundane, to disarm the hurting. What if our table could be part of the trail that leads them to Him?

Across the Table, We Give

Hosting requires some delicacy rooted in the Spirit of God. Our words and actions need to be hedged by Him such that, even with cultural missteps, godly love is gleaned. And while it is seemingly for food that we come together at the table, there is much more at stake—the offering of ourselves.

We meet a fine example of this in the very first book of the Bible. In Genesis 18, while he is sitting by the entrance to his tent, Abraham is visited by God. Then, seeing three men, Abraham rushes to greet them, bows himself to the ground, and beseeches them to stay:

“Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” (vv. 4–5)

God honours his request, and Abraham serves them a freshly prepared meal, standing beside them as they ate.

Hundreds of years later, the very same God, incarnate as Jesus, arises from the Last Supper, and bends down to wash the feet of His disciples, instructing them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:15)

While the washing of feet was the cultural norm during the time, it was, when afforded, the lowly job of the servant. Jesus, in demonstrating love so tenderly and humbly, reveals not only the heart of God, but the cost for the follower pursuing His heart.

Have you wondered what washing another’s feet and refreshing their heart might look like today? Having someone over is akin to pressing the pause button on our calendar and agenda. Could it include tending to another’s needs and preferences, even if only for a meal, just because they are God’s image-bearers like us? Could it involve not looking at our phone for a few hours? Might we ask after others, because we genuinely want to listen? And wouldn’t such conversation culminate in prayer for them?

In the many meals I have prepared over the years, however, I have often forfeited this pleasure of really listening to others and praying with them. I have been like Martha, hurrying and worrying (Luke 10:38–42). Undoubtedly, our fellowship begs for intentional presence.

Have you wondered what washing another’s feet and refreshing their heart might look like today? Could it include tending to another’s needs and preferences, even if only for a meal?

At the moment, with a baby at home, I find having a friend or two over for lunch the most conducive to this. Sure, the meal may be interrupted by babbles and messes, and the food may often be basic fare, but I thank God for the invitation it presents to wash and refresh another, even as we lean into Him.

Around the Table, We Glorify

My husband and I have prayed many a prayer seated at our 13-year-old dining table. God has graciously answered those prayers in His way and in His time. To then recount the taste of God’s goodness in our lives with others at this same table is an indescribable privilege.

Yet, I am prone to forgetfulness. I can obsess over how my cooking went awry. I can get disgruntled with myself and others. I can ruminate post-meal all that should have been and wasn’t. I am, however, realising that I cannot stew in such thoughts as they come at the cost of casting God aside.

I remember the first time I hosted as a new bride. Given my limited cooking experience and lack of help, I was overly ambitious. I couldn’t save the main dish, which seemed to determinedly hold on to the bottom of the pan. Also, dessert could have twinned with baby food. When our guests arrived for lunch, I humbly told them that they could help themselves to food from the nearby takeout on one side of the table—and to whatever survived my kitchen misadventures on the other.

In the years since, I try to extend that same level of candid transparency to our interactions. Sharing our failures and frailties, vulnerabilities and victories, and deliverances and discoveries, requires an openness that reveals the weakness in us. When it is done so in Christ and for Christ, He is exalted.

We may or may not have a pretty table set. Our table may or may not be overflowing with food. And the probability of a picture-perfect family seated around the table may be quite low. But these are not the essentials on which our hospitality is hinged. At its core, breaking bread at our table should translate the love of God in our lives to others.

In being hospitable, may we delight in spotlighting Christ, and not obsess over perfection on our plates.

Like Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, we have undeservedly received not only the gaze of Christ, but the promise of Immanuel’s presence—God with us (Luke 19:1–10). And, like Zacchaeus, who was called to host Jesus upon his salvation (v. 5, 9), we too have been freed to confess our sins, correct our wrong, and, above all else, credit our God—especially in our hospitality.

Knowing this unshackles us. As we share a meal, let us share snippets—or more—of our brokenness, and testify of His restorative power. In being hospitable, may we delight in spotlighting Christ, and not obsess over perfection on our plates.

What I find helpful in my hosting is to keep the meals simple, to have some go-to “menus” that I am confident of serving to guests, and to always have some extra? meats marinated and frozen in my freezer.

Our tables, like everything else, is a tool that God can use to touch another through us. May we not shy away from inviting others to feast on Him who truly fills.

Veena enjoys many labels but above all, rejoices in being amongst the last, the lost and the least, treasured by the good Shepherd.
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