A Conversation for the Maundy Thursday Scripture
Scripture Lesson: John 13:1-20
Perhaps there is nothing more important in life than how we eat. What we eat is important; the ingredients of our meals determine our physical health. However, who we eat with and how we eat with those people may just be the most significant ingredient in our mental health. That is one of the core messages Jesus is offering in our scripture selection today.
To explain, let me offer a story. I have two dear friends who developed very successful businesses from scratch. We would often get together for dinners and these two would refuse to let the other person pay the bill. They would make a game out of trying to pay the waiter when the other was in the bathroom, or otherwise occupied. This went on for many years, and I never once saw either one accept the other’s offer to pay the bill.
These two gentlemen also each tried to one up each other’s stories. As soon as one would finish talking, the other would immediately counter the story with their own example. Each meal was a show and they both were on stage.
These guys remind me of Peter in our scripture story. They have been invited to the table, but they are not going to humble themselves in any way. They would never let the other “wash their feet.” Each gathering was a new opportunity for them to reinforce their Alpha status. Perhaps they needed to remind themselves of their own importance.
We all need to eat several times a day. With whom do you share these meals? Do you eat most of your meals alone, or do you go out of your way to share as many meals as possible with another person? When eating with another person, what efforts do you make to “wash their feet.” In other words, at the meal, how do you deeply listen to who they are and what is important to them? How is your friendship deepened during the meal?
These are life altering questions.
“C’mon Eric! Life altering questions? Are you serious? How could my conversations at the dinner table alter my life?”
That is an excellent question. Thank you for asking! Check out this study from Medical News Today:
“Studies have shown that those who enjoy close friendships over their teenage years aren’t just happy as adolescents; they also have a lower rate of depression or anxiety later in life.
Similar trends have been observed in the case of older adults. Research published in 2016 revealed that seniors who “live a socially active life and prioritize social goals have higher late-life satisfaction.”
Interestingly, researchers who have studied the inhabitants of so-called Blue Zones around the world — places with a high number of SuperAgers who live to ripe old age while maintaining good health and cognitive function — have noted that while other elements related to diet and lifestyle varied widely, they all appeared to be dedicated to being highly socially active.
Dr. Archelle Georgiou, who studied SuperAgers on the isolated island of Ikaria in Greece, saw that they were constantly surrounded by family, neighbors, and other members of their community, and that they all actively supported each other.”
Jesus formed a community who did life together. He had many disciples, but he poured himself into twelve of them. He gave them a model for a way of life that he called abundant. It was a way of life he described as the Kingdom of God. It was a way of life that today we call radical hospitality. It is the way of life that seems to be practiced on the island of Ikaria. Jesus tells his disciples, “I have set for you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you…If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Jesus does not just preach, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He models it!
An aspect of hospitality that Jesus modeled over and over again was how to behave at a meal. He was the one who people called Lord, yet it was Jesus who deeply listened to his dinner partner’s needs. He let them speak, and then cared for them. In other words, he ‘received” them. Jesus “received” strangers. He “received” friends. He “received” the people no one else would receive. He did so to teach us table manners. Because Jesus knew through many experiences, “Whoever receives the one whom God sends, receives God.”
May you be filled with the love and peace of Christ as you give yourself in fellowship around meals this Easter season.