Say Grace

Beautiful Giant Meringues with chocolate bottoms…cheeky!
Cake display and a well stocked larder

Roast Vegetable tarts….
A few weeks ago a good friend and I strapped our collective little people into her people mover and went on a short road trip. All in aid of finding time to talk and share a coffee. We ended up in a little town 45 minutes from home and a simply gorgeous cafe, Penny Carson’s Say Grace. Lovely food, great coffee and an ambient, inviting space. We loved it and so did the little people. I did wonder about the origins of the cafe’s name – does the owner the love Jesus and say grace  before each meal. Was it simply a play on words, a nice one at that?
I did leave Say Grace thinking that few of us who do say grace probably need to take time to reflect on what we are doing and why. It is a good thing to do, a tradition that speaks volumes to those we share our food with.
In the book “ A Meal with Jesus” Tim Chester writes the following:
“We need to rediscover the rhythm of “saying grace” before meals. Perhaps some of us need to discover this for the first time; others may need to refresh what has become a stale habit. What do we express when we say grace?
  • Our daily dependence of God as creatures and sinners.
  • Our dependence on others as we give thanks for those who grew, processed, bought, and cooked our food.
  • The goodness of food, thereby transforming our food from fuel to a gift to be relished.
  • Our gratitude to God, thereby reorienting ourselves away from self and back to God.
  • Our gratitude for community as we ask God’s blessing on our fellowship over the meal.
How important it is to be reminded of these wonderful truths. What a difference they make to our enjoyment of God and food and each other. If only we had three opportunities each day to remember and enact these truths!” (Page 73)

Making room

The list of excuses I creatively came up with may have hit a nerve with you, I am not sure. I thought I was imagining excuses you may use not to demonstrate hospitality, but on reflection I have been challenged to see that those excuses are me. And those statements are often replayed in my head even when we do have people over. Why is that? 
We are all able to do things with our head, be led by a good idea to serve and give, but our heart can be a long way from the notion of generosity and grace that comes from an honest adoption of hospitality. Like you, I become disheartened when an invitation is refused, when people always seem to be unable to come. When you host often and never get a return invitation. Or when a guest is critical in some way of their experience in your home.
The bottom line is that making room for people, even nice, ‘respectable’ people whom you and I would love to share time with, is hard work. It will always be hard to make room at the table for the homeless, the addicted and the broken. But I guess I have been forced to see that it can be hard to invite the ‘right’ people too. If our motives for making room in our home for others stems from pride or a need for approval then we will fail.
At the meal table we are exposed for who we are. A fraud, a fake, a hoarder, a gossip, a tyrant, a victim, an addict, a hypocrite. Making room for others forces us to be real with ourselves, if we are to intentionally build relationships over a shared meal and not polish our own egos.
Tim Chester says in his book A Meal with Jesus:
Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, providing. Meals slow things down. Some of us don’t like that. We like to get things done. But meals force you to be people-oriented instead of task oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way of building relationships, but it is number one on the list.
It’s possible to remain at a distance from someone in public gatherings…..Meals bring you close. You see people in situ, in life, as they are. You connect and communicate. Novelist Barbara Kingsolver describes dinnertime as “the cornerstone of our family’s mental health.” “If I had to quantify it,” she says, “I’d say 75 percent of my crucial parenting effort has taken place during or surrounding the time our family convenes for our evening meal.”1
Generous hospitality leads to reconciliation. It expresses forgiveness. Unresolved conflict can’t be ignored when we gather round the meal table: you can’t eat in silence without realizing there’s an issue to address. Paul uses hospitality as a metaphor for reconciliation when he says to the Corinthians: “Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no-one.” (2 Corinthians 7:2) Hospitality can be a kind of sacrament of forgiveness.

In a world where fewer families eat together, we have a real opportunity to offer grace and community to those people we are connected to in some way. There are people of peace, people we share a link to, however tentative. The new mum at the kindergarten, the check out chick who is always super nice to your kids in the supermarket, the guy you buy your take away coffee from before work. These people are people you and I need to make room for at our table.
Some practical ideas for making this happen soon…..