As we talk about religious feasts, it’s also helpful to keep in mind the concept of hospitality in the times and cultures of the Bible. In the nomadic environment of the patriarchs, guests were received almost without question. You took them in, fed them, and made them a part of your household while they were there. They were cared for and protected as family members were. Failure to offer hospitality or betrayal of the trust given through hospitality were serious offenses.
It’s natural that some of that would have changed as the world of the Israelites became more urbanized. But a few things remained down through the years. Someone who ate in your house was to shown honor. They were to be protected. And they were to respond with a degree of loyalty. (You see the betrayal of table fellowship described in Psalm 41:9; that’s also emphasized in the story of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus)
In the modern world, we often eat in the company of people we don’t know. We go to restaurants and have no relationship with other diners. The restaurant doesn’t extend any special status to diners; in most cases, it’s a business transaction. (This does change somewhat with “regulars”) And the patrons owe no particular loyalty to the restaurant.
That’s a normal part of Western society. It shouldn’t be a normal part of our churches. As we share meals, be it the pinch and sip that is our modern Lord’s Supper or a full fellowship meal, we create bonds between us. We declare a family relationship. We establish interdependency.
Or as Paul said it:
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17)
Image courtesy of MorgueFile.com