Looking Up – Sacred Gatherings

Anna Otto   -  

Dear Hope Church, 

Some of the kids at church refer to me as “Kitchen Anna” and you have probably noticed that so many of the events I help put on involve food; that is partially because – since we want our many young families to be able to come – the timing usually falls over dinner time. Predominantly, though, it is because I think there is something sacred and, dare I say, holy about sharing a meal with others. My love for sharing a meal with others is a direct result of my mom’s impact on my life.

My mom grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines, a highly relational culture, where you always gather over food and the way you make people feel welcome is by offering food in abundance, even if it will cost you later. It is hospitality without worry for self. This was the first lesson my mom taught me about gathering: always offer food in abundance so your guests feel welcome. (Running out of food is like a passive aggressive way of asking your guests to leave… never fear, that is not the intended message when we run out of treats at Hope Cafe on Sunday mornings. It’s simply the result of Lisa and Olivia’s thriving children’s ministry being released from Sunday School).

The second lesson I learned from my mom about gathering was that it doesn’t matter the time, as long as you are together. People come first; food is simply a conduit for relationships to be formed. Growing up in my family meant that Wednesday evenings were spent at Redeemer Church’s Wednesday night dinner (which inspired our own First Wednesday Fellowship meals) and the events that followed (kids choir, catechism class, etc.). If at all possible, we ate dinner as a family every night (… as my brothers and I got older that meant dinner was anytime between 4-8pm). This could be chaotic but it taught me the importance of prioritizing relationships (especially family) and that very little can ever be more important than taking the time to sit with others. This is something I believe Jesus demonstrated for us.

I am continually struck by the number of times that Jesus was invited for a meal or invited Himself (and others) over for a meal or He provided wine for a wedding feast. Not to mention that, throughout the Old Testament, feasts were used to celebrate and remember what God had done for the Jewish people. Perhaps what strikes me the most is that, in the hours leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus chose to do two things: pray and share a meal with his dear friends. I wonder what we can learn from His example? What would it look like to be a family that is intentional about sharing meals around the table, intentionally inviting friends to gather for a supper-club, and being a church known for generous hospitality? I invite you (challenge, even?) to find out.

Anna Otto