Americans today work longer hours than at anytime on record, and we work more on average than any other place in the industrialized world. Add to this soccer practices, social events, routine errands, and religious services, and one might ask, “Who has time for a sit down meal anymore?”
But such behavioral patterns may be robbing us of spiritual vitality, says theologian and author Leonard Sweet. In his book, “From Tablet to Table,” he argues that meal-sharing is central to the story of God found in the Bible and critical to a healthy communal life. Sweet’s advice is practical–he suggests substituting “family breakfast” for dinner–and his words are provocative–he calls the table a bed “where ideas have sex”. Here we discuss the importance of the table and how he believes we can rediscover its benefit.
RNS: Some might say that eating a meal is just a necessary part of survival, nothing more. How does sitting at a table connect us to God’s story?
LS: The lure of a pot of beans and bread is why Jews became descendants of Jacob rather than Esau. “Eat freely” are the first words out of God’s mouth in our oldest creation account (Genesis 2), and food rituals are key to what it means to be a Jew, as well as what it means to be a human. The Jesus story begins with a table in a city whose name means “House of Bread.” There is a table in the stable, for the Savior’s manger-crib was nothing but a food trough for animals. And the table is the primary metaphor for Jesus’ relational and communal feast of salvation.
The best way to look at the Bible is not as a tablet of ink but as a table of food.
RNS: And the table is a more special place to learn the Jesus stories in your view?