The Beauty of the Community Dinner

I’ve been pondering our “Community Dinner” lately.  What is the Community Dinner?  Is it just another church program?  A free meal?  An evening without having to prepare a meal at home?  Or is it something more?  My reflection has led me to conclude that the Community Dinner is much more than any of those things.

To make my point, I’ll take a look at the two words we’ve joined together to describe this special event.  Let’s look at the second word first:  “Dinner.”

In its most basic sense, dinner is simply a chance to satisfy one’s hunger, but in scripture; meals were a nexus – a hub around which connections were made.  Consider Jesus’ experiences for instance.  Dining was a crucial element in Jesus’ ministry…

  • Jesus demonstrated his love of all by dining with sinners and tax collectors.
  • Jesus instructed his disciples around the meal table in Mary & Martha’s home in Bethany. 
  • Jesus performed miracles around the mealtime, feeding thousands by multiplying a few loaves and fishes.
  • Jesus left his believers with a sacramental model of his life and ministry…
    expressed in the elements of a common meal:  Bread & Wine.  Food & Drink.

After his resurrection, Jesus used shared meals to demonstrate his victory over death.

  • He ate fish amongst his disciples Luk 24:36–43
  • He broke the bread in Emmaus  Luke 24:30–32
  • He cooked fish along the lakeshore for Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, et al John 21:1-20
  • The Early Church made a practice of dining together (my paraphrase of Acts 2:46-47)  “Day by day, spending much time together in the temple, and breaking bread at home and eating their food together with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.  As they did, day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

Dining is, and always has been, a key part of our communal life.

Speaking of Communal, let’s now turn to the first word in “Community Dinner.”  

“Community” sounds like an obvious choice of a word to describe the bi-monthly meal we serve at Poolesville Memorial.  After all; that’s who it’s for: The “Community.”   Any and all who wish to come.

But “community” represents more than the scope of invitees.  Community is what we create as we gather.  When we gather around the table, regardless of who we are, or whatever communities we come from, we become a unique new community, gathered around a common table, sharing a meal, and our lives, together.

When we gather in the kitchen to prepare, serve, and clean up the meal, we become a unique community, gathered around a common goal of feeding God’s people; both body and spirit, and serving up an example of a community united in love to serve others.

Let’s not overlook the fact that at the center of the word “community” is another important word: “commUNITY.”  We are called in scripture to be ONE body of many uniquely gifted parts, UNITED together in love for the edification (building up) of one another.  The Great Commandment Jesus left his followers was to love God by loving our neighbors as ourselves; to create a “beloved commUNITY.”  Jesus told his disciples, “This is how they will know you are my disciples; that you love one another.”

So:  The Community Dinner is much more than just another church “program.”  “Programs” are activities instituted by institutions to satisfy the desires of the patrons.  Churches often fall into the trap of acting like institutions.  The church is MORE than an institution, and the Community Dinner is MORE than an institutional program.  The church is a Body:  The Body of Christ:  The assembly of the uniquely gifted members of the body, coming together to demonstrate the uniting love of God pouring out the grace of God to the world around.  A living and breathing witness – expression of God’s love for the COMMUNITY of creation, the  Community Dinner is where the COMMUNITY of Christ comes together to demonstrate (and experience) the uniting love of God being poured out before their very eyes.  For these reasons and more, the Community Dinner is precious to me.  I invite and encourage you to be a part of it in any way you able.

May God continue to bless the Community Dinner and receive it as a blessing as we humbly give our best to faithfully make it happen.