Food and Fellowship

I recently downloaded Shauna Niequist’s new book called Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table. I’d heard Shauna’s name in Christian circles, particularly as a conference speaker, but I’d never really read any of her writing. However, the other day I came across a podcast by Tsh Oxenreider in which she interviewed Shauna, and I was so struck by her use of food as a vehicle for friendship and grace and love that I wanted to hear more. I love it that her “thing” that she uses to connect with God is food and gathering people around her table. She says,” My friend Nancy is a nature person. To know her is to know that the created world — mountains, wildflowers, sunshine — is the tie that binds her to God, that demonstrates His presence to her in the deepest ways. For my dad, it’s the water. The sounds and smells and rituals of life on the water bind him to GOd in ways that nothing else does. For my husband, Aaron, it’s music. And for me, it’s the table.

“What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and Spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table. I believe it’s the way I was made, and I believe it matters. For many years, I didn’t let it matter, for a whole constellation of reasons, but part of becoming yourself, in a deeply spiritual way, is finding the words to tell the truth about what you really love.”

I’m still reading the book, so I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on that later, but one of the questions Tsh asked had to do with what I consider genuine biblical hospitality, that virtue that welcomes people into your home and your life though you might not be prepared or have everything perfect. The question that Tsh asked was, “If someone stopped by your home unexpectedly just before dinner, and you just had to pull things from your pantry that you had on hand, what would you serve while you pulled together a dinner?”

Shauna’s answer surprised me because many of the things she’d consider an adequate offering are thing I usually have on hand, too. Her list included a tray of grapes, cheeses, crackers, cashews, fig jam, dark chocolate, and a bottle of wine.

Appetizer tray

The tray I put out for my family earlier in the day included crackers, cheeses (white cheddar and lightning jack), grapes, mandarin oranges, Conecuh sausage (which I usually have on hand in the fridge), BBQ sauce, cashews, and raspberry fruit spread. If we are serving guests, I will sometimes also include kalamata olives, pepperoncini peppers, chicken salad, or hummus and chips.

It’s not the food that matters as much as the gathering of hearts and minds and connecting with each other in a way that advances the gospel and shares the love of Christ. It’s about encouraging and being encouraged. But the food is the vehicle that we gather around, as Jesus often gathered with His followers over fish and bread.

When entertaining friends and family, what would you offer to them as an appetizer? What foods do you use to gather your people together? And what are your thoughts on true, biblical hospitality?

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