Last month, I began a series of posts on the power of food and community formation. Throughout Scripture, shared meals around a shared table become the primary vehicle through which God shares and invites His people into the redemption of His kingdom. Not only did God use the table to invite us into redemption, but he also knew that the table is one of the best means to invite others to share life with others.
To say we are a culture driven and shaped by technology goes without saying. In his new book, The Tech-Wise Family (which I highly recommend), Andy Crouch talks about how technology promises easy everywhere. The allure and temptation of technology is that it falsely promises to make our lives easier. To make work easier, to make hobbies easier, to make family life easier, to make relationships easier. All of life is supposed to be easier because of technology.
But as small group point people, you and I know that technology cannot deliver on the good life, on a life well-lived. You and I know that as great as technology is, it can never take the place for face-to-face, where we unplug, unwind, and slow down long enough to shape and be shaped by others.
And so we come to the table.
As we sit around a shared table with shared food, we recognize the power and the beauty of the other in flesh and blood. As we welcome others around our table, we say to them, “You matter not as you should be but as you are.” And thereby we model Jesus as he was constantly welcoming sinners and tax-collectors to his table.
Technology has made the sharing of ideas a lot easier, for which I am incredibly thankful for, but it seems that too often we share our ideas not to create space for other people, but to draw lines—to divide, instead of welcoming. But in welcoming people into our home and around our table, through the Spirit, we create a space where the lines hopefully cease to matter as much. In Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen describes hospitality in this manner:
Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.
And isn’t this why you and I originally felt called into small group ministry? We wanted to help others create a space where enemies can become friends, but not just friends, but to experience the freedom of Christ, and so become brothers and sisters in Christ. And in a world that in many ways has succumbed to the allure of easy everywhere technology, and yet still cries out for connection and freedom, we can offer that to others through the sacred space around the table.