“Table fellowship is of great importance to the early Christian church and to us today. Eating and food is a theme throughout the Bible, and is often used as a reflection of some divine truth. The stories of God’s prophets often involve eating (either food provided from the Lord or by some miracle with other people), Jesus performed miracles to multiply food, the Last Supper points to Christ’s sacrifice for our life, and a Great Banquet will be held in the honor of Christ’s wedding. The early Church in Acts ate together every day, and the Lord added to their numbers. Bonhoeffer recognizes the importance of table fellowship because Christ’s presence there blesses His disciples. Christ’s presence at the table means that we as Christians recognize that God is the giver of all good things, including the food we eat. It also means that we recognize the gift of food comes through Jesus, our mediator, and for His sake, that we might see Him as the true gift, as our “true bread of life.” Finally, when Christians eat together, they welcome the Lord’s presence. When in the presence of the Lord, we are joyful and can celebrate the gift of food, the gift of Christ’s sacrifice, and the promise of His presence both now and in the future when we enter fully into the Kingdom of God. In light of all of this, the table fellowship helps us to recognize the sacrifice required for life to be sustained (through both food and Christ). It also draws us closer to Christ, and as a result, to each other. Bonhoeffer says, “The table fellowship of Christians implies obligation.” This is because it is not my food, but our food, and we are sustained both by the same Lord and the same food. Christians ought to live in a way that we share our food so that none among Christ’s body is hungry (Paul addresses this). The table fellowship acknowledges our Lord as provider, His sacrifice, and our unity as Christians in body in Spirit.
Wilson-Hartgrove also discusses the importance of table fellowship, describing that it is meant to counter the status quo of our consumer culture. “We’re used to grabbing fast food when we’re in a hurry, fine foods when we can afford them, lite foods when we want to be healthy, and cheap food when we’re broke. But whatever our preferences, food choices are almost always about ‘me,’ not ‘we.’ We eat as individual consumers, not members of a body.” When we stop our individual day to eat together as a community, we are recognizing before God an aspect of who we are created to be—as beings intrinsically tied to one another. We are both dependent upon one another for our food, as well as the soil from which it grows. Wilson-Hartgrove points out this crucial reminder, that our eating together should remind us collectively that we depend on God’s gift of the creation to sustain us, and in recognizing that, we should be mindful to protect that good, life-giving gift. Finally, Wilson-Hratgrove asserts that eating together not only connects us to each other and the soil, but to the Trinity. God is in perfect relationship, and He desires that we are too. God’s desire for His people is this table fellowship, that all would be able to take communion together at the Lord’s Table (Paul brings up this as an issue of justice). All of these relationships, with God, others, and creation, are reflected in eating a meal together. These relationships are made to be marked with love, and eating is to be a time of celebration of God’s goodness. Eating together presents us with a more complete picture of what the image of God truly is, as we together enter into His presence and recognize how deeply connected we are made to be.
Overall, I think these two authors are pointing to the central image of eating together throughout the Bible. This image is both a physical and spiritual reality that points to Christ and to who we are. We are fully dependent upon God, upon each other, and in creation. That dependency is not meant to be negative—it is beautiful and intimate. Together we give and receive, from God, from creation, and from each other, and recognize our communal identity in Christ and as image bearers reflecting God’s desire for deep relationships filled with love and service.”