“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Rev 3:20 NIV)
Repeatedly from Genesis to Revelation, Scripture depicts God inviting people to a meal. A meal is an intimate event, one which we tend to share only with those with whom we have a relationship and/or are seeking a deeper connection. This upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is a chance for us to extend the table to those in our oikos, that is, our networks of friends, family, and neighbors with whom God desires us to share His love.
In the Ancient Near East, meals were also signs of social approval. It was a great honor to be invited to eat with someone ‘higher’ up the scale than you. Conversely, to condescend to eat with someone lower, at their house, was a sign of shame. In this light, Jesus’ choice of dining guests begins to make sense, along with the reaction of the Pharisees. Likewise, we are invited to God’s own table every Sunday to eat a meal at His expense.
The emphasis on hospitality extended through church history. A favorite evangelistic model for us at Holy Spirit Church is provided by Celtic monasteries. In order to share the gospel, these monasteries would regularly invite passing weary travelers to come and join them in a meal. Through that meal the traveler would begin to know the monks, who would then invite him or her to worship. As the person felt the love of the community, they tended to stick around in the community and convert gradually to faith in Jesus Christ.
As we have said, our small groups and homes are like those monasteries. Thanksgiving provides a ready-made opportunity to extend that invitation for someone to join us at the table. As we share a meal, our relationship deepens and, perhaps, we can grow to a point where an invitation to small group or church is the next step. Either way, our tables become holy places where God is present through His people to share a meal and to bless those who are His people and those who are not yet with His extravagant love.
So I encourage you to think through your oikos and ask: who can I invite to my/our table for this Thanksgiving?