Meeting or Meating?

The idea of church services - where Christians gather to worship or hear the word - is so entrenched in people's minds that the idea that a church might meet to eat is difficult for the religious mind to embrace. This, however, was a common practice within the early church.

The Jerusalem church, for instance, "broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts" as well as gathering together in the temple area for prayer and teaching.

The church in Corinth, furthermore, seems to have had a meal together as often as they met. This is implied in Paul's admonition to them in his first letter to them (chapter 11). Interestingly, Paul does not criticise them for eating when they meet: he does, however, rebuke them for tolerating economic and social divisions when they gather:

"for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.... Do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!"

Anthropologists have discovered that people in all cultures tend to eat meals with those they regard as their social equals. If true, that provides a remarkable insight into the nature of the fellowship meal between Christians as well as Paul's concern that it should not be undermined through class division.

Evidently, it was as part of this meal - consisting of real food in a real house - that the Corinthian believers ate bread and drank wine to remember the Lord's death. This is consistent with the original Supper, when Jesus and his disciples ate a full meal together on the eve of his death during which the Lord told them to remember him through eating bread and drinking wine.

It is also instructive to see that the church in Corinth not only ate together, breaking bread and drinking wine in memory of Christ, they also taught one another, prophesied, prayed and spoke in tongues - all within the contest of a fellowship meal.

The church of my dreams? Meeting to eat, affirming and celebrating our fellowship in Christ, remembering the Lord's death, praying and building each other up through using the gifts the Spirit gives.

How does that sound?

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