A community that eats

I heard recently that the ‘magic’ of Jesus was ‘meals and miracles’. And yesterday I gave a cursory glance at the 72 being sent out – meals and miracles were to go hand in hand. Today this text:

For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here in a good place, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor person. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into the courts? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

What comes to mind? If you are like me then for many years I kinda imagined a ‘church’ setting with formal or even informal seating but that a notable person comes in and everyone makes sure that they have a decent seat. However… that necessitates a building of some sort and fails to grasp that the context of the meal was huge in the first Century. Huge in both the Graeco-Roman and the Jewish world, and where people were seated at the meals was a big deal, based on a hierarchy. Maybe the nearest we have in our culture is something like a wedding reception – to some extent where people are seated is important. In the culture we are engaging with in the New Testament hierarchy was ever-so-present in these settings. Think about the words of Jesus:

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host, and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Lk. 14:7-11).

The banquet is set out hierarchically – the place of honour. Jesus then follows this on to describe how meals were to operate with his followers:

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers and sisters or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk. 14:12-14).

In the world of that day the concept was to invite those who were important then give them a place of honour and guess what – they would repay you the honour. The instructions of Jesus over meal invitations was nothing short of a political resistance to the status quo and a turning of the world upside down! The meal table, and for sure Jesus was as much in trouble for his meal table practice as he was for his teaching. The whole aspect played out in the wider non-Jewish world with meals that honoured Caesar and the gods, look after those who carried power and influence and you too could climb the ladder socially and be successful.

This again plays out in the meal that honoured the Lord. I appreciate that there are now traditions such as mass, eucharist, or more lower church terminology such as communion, but the NT setting (‘tradition’ could be a Pauline word for this) was of a meal. It might be termed the agape meal, it was based on the Passover meal, but also sat totally within the wider meal context of that era. At the Lord’s table no place of honour was to be reserved for the rich and famous, everything was equalised. In that setting each person brought what they could for the communal meal and of course the wealthy could bring the wine and finer cuts, the poorer among them (many from the slave class) by contrast could not bring too much. But it was all presented and declared to be the ‘Lord’s table’ then all were invited to eat and drink. In Corinthians this demonstration of equality was not present, so he simply said that ‘when you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper’. The old divisions were maintained, those who had much consumed much while ignoring the others – and surely this must division, this failure to see the wonderful equalisation through the cross, has to be at the heart of ‘whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner’.

What a community Jesus imagined. This is the gift to the world. Meals, or whatever might carry a similar meaning in our setting, being the gift. And miracles – for in the absence of this egalitarian demonstration in Corinth Paul indicated that ‘for this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died’. Sobering words, and the opposite would bring words of hope and healing.

The magic of Jesus – meals and miracles. The lamb with the wolf. The gift to society – a Jesus’ people who do not offer the best seat to the one who is categorised as important; a people who live in a new creation and see no one according to any category, other than the creational / new creational description of ‘image and likeness’. A Jesus people who might not rise to the places of influence, but as our first quoted Scripture above says ‘Is it not the rich who oppress you?’ Not simply the individual rich person, but the system that rewards a pattern of living and that is not the pattern that is to be among us.

Wolves and lambs

Not exactly friends together… an invitation to partake in a picnic given to both of these animals would probably leave the lamb a little nervous – certainly if the lamb asked ‘who else is invited?’. Yet… Jesus said to his followers:

The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way; I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves (Lk. 10:2,3).

Quite an instruction!!! I wonder if the two animals that Jesus chose was based on his meditations in Isaiah:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together (Is. 65:25)

The context of Isaiah is of a vision of the Messianic / eschatological age when shalom will be the environment that pervades, all things brought to a place of relational wholeness, which will include all of creation. Jesus is certainly highlighting the age-old prophetic critique of not trusting God for protection (hence why are you relying on Egypt etc. OT type critique) but perhaps he is also pushing those he sends out to be consciously living out the reality of the coming Messianic age – I think that when he goes on to speak about eating together (‘eating and drinking whatever they provide’) further suggests this is in Jesus’ mind when he gives the instructions. Those sent out are not hoping for a new age, they are living in it, an age when lambs and wolves do picnic together!

Maybe the ‘other’ remains a wolf, but our vision changes. We can eat with them and as we go in carrying shalom that shalom will rest on them:

And if a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on that person, but if not, it will return to you.

We have experienced shalom, that has to be what we carry self-consciously, we can meet those who are (perhaps) not as far along the journey but are already people of peace / shalom – they are ready to welcome a new environment, a new reality. We (lambs) eat with those who could turn out to be wolves, but as we find those who long for a new reality of extensive shalom the context of eating together (initiative taken by the lambs, the risk of vulnerability being their challenge, the provision for the picnic coming from the wolves…) the signs that the kingdom has indeed come near is manifest with ‘and cure the sick who are there’.

The instruction to those sent out has far reaching effects socially. It has to, for essentially we have all been formerly wolves, the mark of which is we ‘devour one another’ to satisfy our own appetites.

A reminder… Zoom tonight

There is an open zoom – all welcome. It is the second Zoom on eschatology, with a focus on Matthew 24 (Luke 21; Mark 13 parallels). It will be helpful if you plan on coming if you have either read a pdf that I wrote covering this chapter with also Paul’s cryptic comment on ‘the man of lawlessness’:

The pdf is here:

The Second Horizon

or watch a video (interview):

The Zoom link is:


ID: 572 803 9267
Passcode: 5GkMTA

And the time is 7:30 UK time.

Posse non or non posse

Nothing to do with cowboys and sherrifs with their gathered together posse, but a bit of Latin: posse non pecare or non posse pecare – mainly a question regarding the human life of Jesus: able not to sin or not able to sin. If Jesus was not able to sin then in what sense did he willingly submit to the divine purposes? Anyway quite a discussion back in the day and one that extended to the four states of humanity. Ah well!!

So what about me? By that I don’t mean something like ‘can I make sinless perfection?’ but what about the REAL me? 1 John can make a seemingly set of contrasting statements:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin (2:1).
No one who abides in him sins (3:6).
Those who have been born of God do not sin because God’s seed abides in them (3:9).
We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them (5:18).

So which is it? ‘I do not sin’ is my statement (the hypothetical ‘me’, just for clarification) and I am deceived; or I read this letter so that I may not sin and if (and only ‘if’) I sin I can at least get back on course. And of course claiming to be born of God it is self evident that I do not sin!!!

I am sure the writer is making a few points considerably deeper than I can grasp but I think at the heart of it is what (who) I can see. In the midst of the letter we read:

What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (3:2).

‘See him as he is’. I am sure that when I claim ‘I know God’ it is in part true, and in part carries a little bit of self deception. Maybe that is why Paul corrects himself in Gal. 4:9:

Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God

Do I really ‘know’ God; do I truly see God as s/he is? And as Jesus is the revelation of God (see me, see the Father) if I see Jesus as he is then I can truly claim to know God, and if I truly see Jesus then I will be like him. In truth non posse pecare, not able to sin. Not because of some pre-ordained inner nature but because of being captivated and thus motivated by love. I think Jesus was posse non pecare (not to sin being a choice, otherwise he was not like us in every way) and also non posse pecare (not able to sin) as the choice was made. Love, eternal love, permeated his being, reflected through him to us so in that sense he was not able to sin – the love makes no room for sin.

Anyway, some of all this Latin can swing around speculative discussions but what remains is my sight of Jesus, not my trying harder will help me keep on course. We see in part… one day we will see him as he is.

2020 – the year of sight

I do realise that today’s date is 16 February 2024 and I have not made a mistake in the title.

I was talking to someone recently who reflected that 2020 (perfect vision) was to be the year of sight and that perhaps we were only entering that this year. My response is 2020 was indeed the year of sight – maybe there is grace to re-enter the grace of sight this year.

Jesus spoke about ears and eyes:

The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand’… But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

So we can have eyes (and ears) and yet not see (nor hear). Sight is a strange thing, what we see depends on what we are looking at, and two people can even look at the same thing and see something very different. Take those who are asking the hard questions that will take them to a deeper place of faith; they might be nervous and unsure about their journey but they are pursuing a future that they see can take them beyond where they are; to others who are observing the journey they see someone who is on a journey to ‘lose their faith’.

When reflecting back on 2020 and the severity of the lockdown, the controversy over vaccines, and the devastation brought about through COVID seldom has there been something that has affected life globally at that level. Surely it was there to be SEEN. But did we have eyes to see what was ‘blidingly obvious’ or did we see it as an incovenience and we had to get back to normal asap.

Gayle and I have just returned from an extended time in the UK, beyond what we anticipated. We arrived home on Tuesday after 2 days of driving. As we drove home we passed numerous vehicles on a 15 kilometer stretch all with the sign on them ‘Overcoming Obstacles’. Then we hit the farmer’s strike with tractors blocking the main highway. Detour through single track roads and dirt tracks and meeting trucks coming the other way. Not the fastest drive and highly inconvenient. Can you read the signs?

We get home Tuesday and Gayle has to get a visa for China, leaving next Friday, a week today. Visa? That took a day to fill in the forms, get all the documents ready followed by a 7:00am train and a journey to Madrid (round trip of some 8 hours today) and the Chinese embassy, to discover that the letter of invite was in English and not acceptable. Chinese office is 8 hours ahead, those who can send the invite in Chinese are out of the office… Overcoming obstacles. Just a few minutes ago all submitted successfully, for a return trip to be made next Tuesday – another 8 hours – overcoming obstacles. Two words: obstacles which we all hate!! and overcoming – a good promise there if we have ears to hear and eyes to see.

So I consider 2020 was the year of global sight, and sight that will frame the following 20 years.

Maybe we are in a year where we can see what was there to be seen in 2020… It is certainly going to be a pivotal year, and seemingly a year when obstacles will be many, and grace to overcome will be abundant, if we engage with the obstacles.

A video on the ‘Second Horizon’

I recorded an interview that Steve Watters did with me a few days back and it is now uploaded to YouTube. I have also an expanded written piece (10000 words) that go with it. The pdf article is in more detail, the video picks up why I believe Matt. 24 (maybe famous for such statements as ‘wars and rumours of wars’) is not written addressing our future but the future of those who were the immediate recipients of the words of Jesus. He made it clear that all the signs he gave would be fulfilled within the lifetime of ‘this generation’. In the pdf I also give my take on Paul’s rather cryptic reference to ‘the man of lawlessness’, again a fulfilment in the period 66-70AD seems to fit this best. The pdf is found here – read or download:

Eschatology: The Second Horizon

I will set some dates soon when for those interested I will give a short reflection on the material related to Matt. 24 and then – well who knows where the discussion will go – hopefully not to ‘wars and rumours of wars’!!!