Reflections on eating with ‘the other’ – themes from Acts 11

With whom do you most want to sit down and share a meal? And with whom would you prefer not to eat? What do you experience when you eat with ‘others’ … with strangers or people considered ‘unacceptable’ … until love recognizes them? What do you receive and what do you give away? — Rev Gail

Bowls of Food (excerpt) — Rumi

Moon and evening star
do their slow tambourine dance
to praise this universe.
The purpose of every gathering is discovered:
to recognize beauty and love what’s beautiful.
“Once it was like that, now it’s like this,”
the saying goes around town,
and serious consequences too. …
Go outside to the orchard.
These visitors came a long way,
past all the houses of the zodiac,
learning something new at each stop.
And they’re here for such a short time,
sitting at these tables set on the prow of the wind.
Bowls of food are brought out as answers,
but still no one knows the answer.
Food for the soul stays secret.
Body food gets put out in the open like us.
Those who work at a bakery don’t know the taste of bread
like the hungry beggars do.
Because the beloved wants to know,
unseen things become manifest …

Invite a few friends and perhaps even strangers to join you in sharing a feast of love. You might prepare a simple meal or invite each person to bring a dish. The focus is not on the food itself, but the act of sharing that food in the presence of each other. Eat mindfully, slowly, with plenty of time for conversation, listening, and laughter. You might also sing songs or read poetry of gratitude or talk about how you are experiencing God in your lives. However you practice an agape feast, let it flow as naturally as your very hunger and fulfillment. Be aware of God’s presence within each person and be thankful for the food that makes life possible and the love that makes life meaningful. — Richard Rohr

Eating Together: Acts of Community

We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. To eat and drink without a friend is to devour like the lion and the wolf. ― Epicurus

Cumulatively, the work of food memoirists, bloggers, investigative journalists, chefs, and film makers have made it increasingly obvious for the average American that food is a practical means through which we may interpret our world, and that it is loaded with meaning. — Cecily Hill

A successful dinner is one that lasts a while and one where everyone leaves happy. It’s a meal where we didn’t just wolf food down, rather something else happened at the table. That is the goal. — Laurie David

… in the midst of grief, all anyone can really do is be with us and make some casseroles. See my wounds. I’m here. Don’t be afraid. Let’s eat. And this is what we get to do for each other, as well. This is what we get to do for the world God loves so madly. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Sharing a meal together is not just to sustain our bodies and celebrate life’s wonders, but also to experience freedom, joy, and the happiness of brotherhood and sisterhood, during the whole time of eating. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Jesus’ most consistent social action was eating in new ways and with new people, encountering those who were oppressed or excluded from the system. A great number of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms take place while he’s entering or leaving a house for a meal. In the process he redefines power and the kingdom of God. — Richard Rohr

From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplaces. — Kevin Kniffin, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

In a big transient city … most people rent, and renting often sees a high turnover of faces, places and neighbourhoods which means that despite best efforts, it is sometimes hard to connect with the community. We all know the benefits of a strong community and friendly neighbourhood but often we don’t know how to engage or start the conversation, There’s something about the act of eating with someone, I think you can get past that basic conversation because you’re doing some kind of activity — cooking, drinking or preparing food — that allows people to open up a little more. — Bethany Jones

Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody. — Samuel Pepys

Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon. — Dalai Lama

Americans are just beginning to regard food the way the French always have. Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening. — Art Buchwald

Dinners are defined as the ultimate act of communion; men that can have communion in nothing else, can sympathetically eat together, can still rise into some glow of brotherhood over food and wine.  — Thomas Carlyle

The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling …  — Judith Martin

Rules about food consumption are an important means through which humans construct reality. They are an allegory of social concerns, a way in which people give order to the physical, social, and symbolic world around them. — Carole Counihan

Being Present to the Other

If [we are] to survive, [we] will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between [us] and between cultures. [We] will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear. — Gene Roddenberry

[The one] who is different from me does not impoverish me – [but] enriches me. Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves – in [humankind] … For no [one] seeks to hear [one’s] own echo, or to find [one’s] reflection in the glass. — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

I remember one night at Muzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land–every color, and class, and rank; high officials and the beggar alike–all snored in the same language. — Malcolm X

It is never too late to give up your prejudices. — Henry David Thoreau

Oh God, the terrible tyranny of the majority. We all have our harps to play. And it’s up to you to know with which ear you’ll listen. — Ray Bradbury

Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged. — Rumi


Plum Village ‘Eating Together’ —Thich Nhat Hanh

Eating a meal together is a meditative practice. We should try to offer our presence for every meal. As we serve our food we can already begin practicing. Serving ourselves, we realize that many elements, such as the rain, sunshine, earth, air and love, have all come together to form this wonderful meal. In fact, through this food we see that the entire universe is supporting our existence.
We are aware of the whole sangha as we serve ourselves and we should take an amount of food that is good for us. Before eating, the bell will be invited for three sounds and we can enjoy breathing in and out while practicing the five contemplations.

  1. This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
  2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food.
  3. May we recognise and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation
  4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
  5. We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.

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